The Good Parent
From the moment we become parents, and usually even before, we begin agonizing over the right way to do things. It’s never ending! The baby years are consumed with what and when they eat, getting them to sleep through the night, potty training, and on and on. Then, as they get older, it shifts to involvement in extracurricular activities, choosing the right school, monitoring screen time, and throwing great birthday parties. The pressure to get it right can be overwhelming. My breathing is getting shallower and my heart rate is picking up just writing about it. But what does it really mean to be a good parent? How do we measure that? (Maybe we could take the highlights we post on Instagram and Facebook and make a case for our success as parents with those!) Seriously though, I always assumed good parents would have good kids. It makes sense, right? We pour the right stuff in, and they grow the way we hope they would. I’ve always had an awareness that my kids are just like all other humans – capable of great love and beauty, but also able to bring a world of hurt and disappointment down on themselves and those who love them. Despite this understanding, I realize I’ve been operating under the deeper assumption that if I do my job right, then my children will bear the evidence of all my hard work their entire lives.
But is this how I should be measuring my success as a parent? Is it a good idea to assess how well I’ve done based on factors that are out of my control? After all, people aren’t puppets – if I wanted total control, I probably should have become a ventriloquist. My children will grow up with the ability to make their own choices and will likely make many poor decisions, just like I did.
And what about God? We are taught that He is a good Father, the only perfect parent, but how have His kids turned out? Throughout history, from the accounts of God’s people in the bible to the lives of Christians today, we see spectacular examples of imperfection – deep character flaws leading to huge disasters. Do I think that God is a failure as a parent? Well, no… When I reflect on my own life, I see how God has always loved me, despite my failures. I see that He has redeemed my mistakes, and brought about great beauty through them. I see how my life has been restored, and realize that much of what I see now would not exist if I had not made the mistakes I did. Through it all, God has remained the same: loving, merciful, gracious, forgiving, and always guiding me to what’s right and good.
So, back to my question: what does it mean to be a good parent? Is that even the right question? In “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt (on Amazon or Amazon.ca*), Leslie Leyland Fields says, “We need to quit asking, Am I parenting successfully? Instead we need to ask, Am I parenting faithfully?” Perhaps it’s not ultimately about my children’s behaviour. Maybe MY behaviour is what I should use to evaluate my performance as a parent…
We need to quit asking, Am I parenting successfully? Instead we need to ask, Am I parenting faithfully?
4 Questions To Ask Ourselves:
- Am I working to reflect the love and character of God to my children?
- Do I respond to their mistakes and failures with grace and forgiveness?
- Do I humbly ask for their forgiveness when I make mistakes?
- Do I value our relationship above their performance?
I suspect these are much better measures of my performance than whether or not they remember their manners or use respectful voices every time they speak to me.
And, deeper than all of this, I need to remember that my worth is not determined by my behaviour. My ‘success’ as a parent does not make me good or bad. Miraculously, Jesus took all my failures, nailed them to the cross, and covered me with His righteousness. He loves me that much, and He loves my kids that much too. Resting in this love, this knowledge of His goodness to me, gives me freedom. I don’t have to perform a certain way to be valued, and neither do my children.
What are your thoughts? How do you measure success as a parent? Has your thinking shifted over time? This is a complex, multi-layered conversation and we’d love to hear from you!
*Denotes Affiliate Link – see Disclosures page