Every parent faces these questions at some point. How can I be a good parent? What do I do to raise my children well? I’ve struggled with these and similar questions. Parenting is tough. However, parenting isn’t as scary or mysterious as we make it out to be. That is if we understand the most important responsibility of every parent.
Many parents don’t wrestle with questions of fear and uncertainty until pregnancy forces them to face reality. I, however, had to face these questions long before Jennifer and I were able to conceive. Facing my fears of being a good parent started about nineteen years ago as Jennifer and I were discussing the possibility of adoption.
As we talked through the potential of adoption, we both faced the obvious questions of loving a child that wasn’t biologically ours. Immediately after settling those adoption questions in our hearts and minds, questions regarding our qualifications to be good parents flooded our thoughts. Specifically, I asked myself this question – if I’m going to bring a child into this family, what makes me think I can be a good father to him or her?
What makes for a good parent?
In all transparency, I never really settled on a good answer to these questions before we brought our adopted son, Jacob, home. I wasn’t even able to identify what makes a good parent prior to the birth of our two biological children. However, now with three teenagers and sixteen years of parenting experience behind me, I now understand the one most important responsibility of a good parent.
To be a good parent here is your single most important responsibility. Meet your child’s needs.
That’s it! One simple responsibility. Just meet their needs.
Now, the difficult part of parenting comes in identifying their needs and determining how to best meet them. But take courage and comfort in the fact you have one responsibility as a parent.
To try to help you through the more difficult area of identifying your child’s needs, let me offer a list of items that aren’t on your child’s needs list.
Your child does not need a friend at home. Sure, friends are great at school, in church, or on the playground. But at home, your child needs a parent – not a friend. While you certainly can enjoy a relationship that is filled with joy and fun, your child needs the structure and security that is only provided by a parent.
Now I’m not railing against the American philosophy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rather, the freedom I’m speaking of is the freedom some children have to do as they please. Children need structure and discipline that doesn’t come naturally to any of us. A good parent will establish the boundaries of freedom that builds discipline that will benefit their child throughout adulthood.
Your child wants success and, even more so, you want success for them. However, your child needs failure. Failure, when experience under the supervision of a parent, builds the necessary character to persevere through life challenges. A childhood filled with participation trophies and so called success at every turn will only set a child up for harsh and potentially damaging failure as an adult when the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Finally, it all comes down to the debate between a want and a need. Here’s a little secret. Your child only knows their wants. If you find yourself in the debate of want versus need, ask yourself the question of origin. Who came up with the object of debate? If it was your child, it’s a want. Now, this isn’t to say good parents never give their child a desire they have. It’s simply to say, giving a child every desire of their little hearts is not meeting their needs.
There you have it. I hope this helps you be a great parent. Focus all of your worry and concern on the one, most important responsibility of a good parent – meeting your child’s needs. And while you focus on that, know you are not alone in your worries of inadequacy as a parent. Every single parent has felt those feelings before and will likely feel them again soon. Stay the course, engage with your children, determine and meet their needs, and parent them well.