what is the goal of parenting?

ImagesWhitney Johnson tweeted "What is the Goal of Parenting" from the Aspen Ideas Festival.  It totally piqued my interest so I watched the panel.  It is about an hour long.

The panel was really interesting and quite good.  Everyone on it was involved in some way with childhood education and also had children so a double whammy.  The chatter was interesting.  Of course we want our kids to be happy but most parents want to make their childrens lives better than theirs.

Years ago the main goal was to raise your children to survive.  The information age was not upon that generation.  They did not have the ability to know what is good parenting and perhaps what is bad parenting.  Nobody had time to pay attention.  Survival was key.  Nobody had the luxury of being ridiculously involved or anxious about their children, aka the hovering helicopter parents. 

Perhaps because my parents were focused more on themselves than us particularly after my parents got divorced.  My Mom was definitely about making sure we knew how to survive.  She taught us how to fend for ourselves aka do our own laundry and make dins for the family as the instructions were on the kitchen table many a night.  If we fell off the ladder she was there to prop us back up but quickly and efficiently.  She had no time to obsess about our own personal successes as she was focused on her own stuff. 

Part of me wonders how much influence do we really have over our kids?  I remember when we lived in the suburbs there was this one mother who wanted her son to be a sports kid but he wasn't.  He was happy hanging out in the corner and strumming a guitar or drawing.  She continued to push him into activities he really didn't enjoy.  I have not seen the kids in ages or the mother but I bet you that the kid did not end up being an athlete but returned to his own personal dna of what he enjoyed doing.  So in that case I do believe if a parent pays attention to who their kid is and nurtures that then the outcome will be more positive for everyone.

This past weekend we had to sit shiva as an old and good friends father died. We had not seen their kids since they were quite young.  At one point Fred and I were sitting around the table just talking to their kids.  Such wonderful young adults.  It was a pleasure to see how independent, personal, and charming each of them were individually and of course how different they each were too.  Do I credit the parents, absolutely.  Was it all them, not so sure.  There is certainly something to be said for nature vs nurture.

So back to the question, what is the goal of parenting?  I still believe that the goal of parenting is to let your kids be kids.  Let them learn through play not constant structured activities.  Teach them to succeed in life by allowing them to make mistakes and fail.  Teach them to be motivated individuals who are motivated by challenge not by taking the easy way out.  Let them make their own decisions so they can learn how to navigate their own lives.  You can give advice and guidance but in the end if they don't make their own decisions they will fail miserably as adults. 

As our kids are pretty much young adults, it is great to see them go to work and learn the realities of the world.  At the end of the day, I just hope that they find happiness in whatever they choose to do.  That whatever it is they choose that they do the best job they possibly can and find ways to constantly challenge themselves intellectually.  The most important is that they are good people from being a good friend who is respectful with good manners to someone who gives back to their community…and that they feel good about who they are. 

Parents forget that they are not raising children they are raising adults.  That thought has always stayed with me and has definitely been part of how we raised our kids.  I hope the next generation of parents are little more hands off but only time will tell. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. kirklove

    My parenting theory remains: Minimize the mistakes I will surely make and get the F out of the way as much as possible. We’ll see.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I love it. Minimizing risks is still very tough and so is getting out of their way

  2. rachel

    My goal is to raise children that people love to spend time with. Good manners, good conversation skills, kindness goes along way in my book. (Need to watch the video)

    1. Gotham Gal

      Good conversational skills are the key to life

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Hmmm – I’d like to debate that 🙂

  3. falicon

    As my kids are still pretty young (6 and almost 9) I think about this all the time…mostly as a parent, but also a lot as a coach/leader for kids activities in general…if I have boil it down to one specific thing I’m after for my kids (and the kids involved in the activities I’m involved in), it’s experiences.As a parent, I want to expose them to all that life has to offer…I want them to understand and experience the ups and downs that will come (and that both are simply passing moments)…I want them to get excited about the fact that tomorrow is coming and no one knows what it will bring (that they can make it whatever they want, and that the real key is in figuring out what you really want)…I want them to fail (but only a little) so that they learn how it feels and how to deal with it…I want them to win for the same reasons…I want them to learn to notice the little moments, where we are all gathered around the table laughing and playing a board game, and to cherish those moments as real goal (so that they are the moments they will put all the hard work in for)…In the end, I guess my real goal is that I want them to be able to look back on all the little moments of their own life and be able to smile contently that the journey was worth the work that they put in…that they have made more people happy than they have sad…that they have given more than they have taken…

    1. Gotham Gal

      I love that.

    2. rachel

      good stuff.

  4. amy cross

    I think your mother’s way–not to obsess about her kids own personal successes is a better path. What will come of this generation of kids who are driven and coached and tutored to death–yet not made to do chores or make the dinner. You are proof of that pudding. Yes, raise adults-independents–not DEPENDENTS.

  5. awaldstein

    in retrospect, my parents did a great job. Each of grew up very different. Each of my brothers looks back and sees a real family dynamic and a childhood that was really happy. A win.Raising my son, mostly on my own when he was a teenager was a challenge. But as an adult we are the best of friends. He’s done his own thing and is doing great. We talk and support each other. A win for both of us.

  6. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I would expand this from parents, to include mentors, guides, teachers and role-models. Think of the society we would have if we saw the following in our politicians and rock-stars, our football players and our parents.A set of values and beliefs is the best inheritance you can hope for:1) To know that they are loved.2) To learn from mistakes and admit them. To know that they can be forgiven, but must also forgive.3) To understand good fortune and understand others have less and try to fix it while accepting life is not ‘fair’.4) To have the confidence to stand up and be counted and the humility to accept defeat, but the tenacity to fight on if it is wise.To want to share these or a some similar set of values !In my book these things can make winners of us all.

    1. Gotham Gal

      admitting your mistakes soars in my book. i could really care about the mistake but not admitting it truly upsets me.

  7. walker

    I think the things you cite are the defaults of parenting, not goals. The challenge of parenting is to be loving enough to make sure your kids understand that nobody can intervene and make their lives right and nobody will protect them from their suffering. They can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or cut it away or punch it away or drug it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and they have to survive it. They have to endure it. When it comes they have to live though it and be better for it and run as far as they can in the direction of a bridge to healing that only they can build. To understand that healing—the genuine healing, the actual real deal down-on-your-knees-in-the-mud change—is entirely and absolutely up to them. That is what adults know and the goal of parenting is to raise adults.

  8. JLM

    .Mine are raised and either out of the nest or just leaving. I am very proud of how they turned out. They are both better than me. I married well and the gene pool was deepened.Follow your and their instincts. Never, ever stop talking.Love them as hard as you can.Laugh together about everything.Give them space to develop. Let them be kids.Beware these comments are being made by someone whose wife repeatedly tells him he should write a book about parenting — What Not To Do.Everybody, have a great weekend and do something totally unexpected and nice to or for someone. It will drive them nuts..

  9. hellolovely

    I just try to raise my child to be courteous, be sociable, and try new things, and to do her best, but to realize that sometimes, you’re going to fail (and to learn from that). I always want her to feel secure that she is loved and supported. As a girl, I want her to feel it’s cool to do well academically.I notice people respond very positively to her and I think it’s because she puts out a positive vibe–but not sure I can take credit for that.

  10. pointsnfigures

    Someone told me once, “draw a line close to the edge of the cliff. you know that they will cross that line, but when they do you want to make sure they are still on the cliff and not falling off of it.”nice post.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i like that.

  11. Mark Gavagan

    Terrific post – thanks!