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.