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The Most Important Task For Parents

When The most important task of parenting is often the most neglected. You have not succeeded as a parent until you complete this task. Today, too many parents for too many reasons neglect this task, but ultimately the reason is that parenting is hard work, and completing the task of parenting can be very challenging.

The purpose of having children is not to create human beings who will take care of you when you are old. Nor is it to produce offspring that can fulfill your personal fantasies. Most parents would like to produce children who can live as they would liked to have lived, if they had had the opportunity to fulfill all their goals.

The purpose of parenting is to produce individuals who will one day leave the nest, and live independent and successful lives. It is this emphasis upon independence and self-sufficiency that is the most sacred of all parenting roles. It is the lack of independence in far too many young adults who reply upon their parents for financial support that allows me to postulate that parenting is not complete until your children are successfully autonomous.

Religions that worship ancestors may not agree with this assessment. These religions teach children to be responsible for their parents when they are old. Producing children for your own ends hardly qualifies as a sacred task. It appears a selfish task disguised as religion. Is it generated from the fear of old age?

When I, as the oldest son, left Australia at 19 and went to a foreign country to study and experience life, my mother expressed that her ‘empire began to crumble’. She later told me that this began for her a long dark period where she had to reassess her life, her purpose and her future, as one by one her children left the nest. My mother’s life purpose appeared to be finished in her forties, as she had no other career. She had to rediscover herself and create a new purpose.

Today many children never leave the nest. In Italy, many traditional mothers try to keep their sons children forever, and the world romanticizes it as a delightful attitude. Many Asian parents guilt trip their children into caring for them as they grow old, and use the tradition of ancestry worship to enable the guilt to take hold. Both cultures place a premium on male babies over female babies because male babies can be of more financial help to parents when they are old.

Parenting is not just about watching Johnny play soccer on Saturday morning; it is also about getting Johnny ready to make his way in the world. This teaching of independence is often the missing piece in parenting today. Many parents attempt to take upon themselves the burden of providing financial support for their adult children. This can produce feelings of entitlement and expectations on the adult child’s part that such support is always forthcoming and is to be expected.

Nature is very cruel in teaching independence. For example, eagles birth their young high up in nests on top of mountains away from predators. And one day, when the mother decides the time is right; she instinctively nudges the baby out of the nest. Down it falls until it opens its wings and flies. If, however, it fails to fly, it dies. Not romantic, but realistic in a cruel and challenging world.

Have we created a generation of entitled young people who believe the world owes them everything? Have we crippled our young people by robbing them of the lessons of self-sufficiency and autonomy? Parenting requires the lessons of self-sufficiency be taught from the very beginning of life. Parents who do not teach independence will cripple their children’s emotional development.

If you have taught your children well, they will love you forever. If you have failed, you will not have a relationship with your grown children. Either way, the loving family bond is produced in childhood and solidified after they leave the nest. If, after leaving, they love you for your participation in their lives you are blessed. If they never leave the nest, parents may have failed in their primary task of producing independent healthy offspring.

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