All too often I hear comments made about poor parenting or good parenting, but rarely do I hear someone ask the question “What is the job of parenting?” However, this is a question that I do ask and I am always surprised to hear some of the answers. As with most things in our society we have taken a situational attitude towards even this most serious subject.
Twenty-seven years ago I became a parent and 25-years ago I began mentoring at-risk youth. Working with children and families is and has been my life’s work. The job of parenting is simple to define and difficult to execute. The definition is simple – It is not the job of the parent to make their child happy, it is their job to raise their child to be a productive citizen.
Parenting is a lifelong job, it will not last a season but the rest of your life. It will be a journey with trials, tribulations and adventure. But it will not happen accidentally and it should never be approached in a lackadaisical manner. Parenting is premeditated.
First let us define the term “good parent.” There are no perfect parents, but the “good parent” is that person who everyday seeks to do the job better, that person plans what they will teach their child and how. The “good parent” is constantly learning and seeking ways to improve.
It must begin with self-evaluation. One must make an honest assessment of our qualities as a parent, the good the bad and the ugly. Strengths and weakness must be identified in great clarity. The evaluation must be brutally honest and it must include the opinion of at least one trusted confidant. It must be this painful simply because there is no greater endeavor on the face of the earth than the raising of the young.
The most important facet of parenting is not what is said, but what the parent models. Teenagers hate hypocrisy and will rebel with great passion at the first hint of hypocrisy from their parents which will affect them. We must model the behavior that we wish our children to embrace. If the notion of being a better parent doesn’t make you want to be a better person, then don’t have children. Why run the risk of bringing a child into this world who will be set up for failure?
Unfortunately my experience has been with youth (not all of them) who have been raised by one of two types of parents. The over indulgent type of parent tries to protect their child from every malady and instead is teaching their child to remain a child, one who is unable to work through adversity. The second type is the parent who is non-involved, what I call non-parenting; they neither plan nor nurture nor teach. They look to someone else to do this. And in time they get their wish. The streets become the teacher and later master.