Child reaching for a donut

What’s A Parent’s Most Important Job?

What’s A Parent’s Most Important Job?

by Bill High

Have you ever listed out a parent’s fundamental responsibilities? It’s not just making sure the kids get fed and clothed.

You could imagine it as what shows up at the top of the list on a parent’s job description. Being clear about your job is a big key to success.

As a father, I’ve followed the work of Leonard Sax, M.D., PhD. Two of his books in particular I’ve found helpful—Boys Adrift and The Collapse of Parenting.

Let’s face it. Parenting is hard work and there are plenty of mistakes you can make—inconsistent discipline, conditional love, leaving conflict unresolved, to name a few.

These parenting mistakes can make a big difference in successful family legacy.

Sax says this, “We parents are spending more and more time and money on parenting, but when you look at the results, things are getting worse, not better.” The rise of ADHD, bipolar and psychiatric disorders are more prevalent today than ever before.

Why? Sax says it this way, “Over the past three decades, there has been a massive transfer of authority from parents to kids…. In many families, what kids think and what kids like and what kids want matters as much, or more than what parents think… Let kids decide has become a mantra of good parenting.”


Parent, It’s Your Job to Teach Culture

For my part, when our kids were growing up we often heard the phrase, “We need to let kids make their own mistakes.”

Sax argues about role confusion on the part of parents; kids don’t learn the rules just by making mistakes. They learn the “rules of the game” from parents, and we must be intentional about that teaching.

“For most of human history, children have learned culture from the adults.” Unfortunately, as Sax notes, many children are learning about culture from their peers—not parents. I recall a friend of mine who described her 6-year-old daughter hosting a birthday party and asking her parents to leave so she could hang out with her friends.

Instead of providing the rules of the game, and teaching culture, parents today ask their kids how they “feel” about something, notes Sax.

Our first job as parents is to teach culture. Some might translate that as teaching values. And while values are caught, they are also taught—intentionally.

And while that position of moral authority might sound scary for some, it is how we preserve culture and make the world a happier, more joyful place.

Sax sums it up this way: “Sometimes you have to wait before you eat the doughnuts. Sometimes you don’t get to eat the doughnuts at all.”

Do you want to parent toward a successful family legacy? Teach your kids about doughnuts.


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

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Published April 30, 2021

Topics: Family Legacy

ChildrenFamily LegacyParenting

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