To state the obvious, parents play a crucial role in their children’s lives. They serve their children as teachers, chefs, administrative assistants, launderer, house cleaner, transportation manager, moral conscience, landscaper, mentor, and trainer of all these areas as well. I’m sure we could add to this list of parenting jobs. However, we can reduce many parenting roles into two jobs: meeting our children’s needs and allowing them to take risks. Let me explain a little more.
Parents strive to meet their children’s every need—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Notice, though, that parents meet their children’s needs, not their every want and desire. For example, these items are wants and desires, not needs (children can live without them):
· A cell phone
· A TV in the bedroom
· The most recent fad in tennis shoes, hairstyles, or clothing
· A Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Gameboy, or any other hand-held gaming device
· An Xbox, Wii, or other TV game device
· Their favorite snack everyday
· Rides everywhere and unearned cash in their pockets
· To be constantly entertained
What does a child need? Children need parents to provide for their physical needs like food, shelter, and clothing. Parents may have to work long hours to provide for these physical needs; and, they probably spend many hours maintaining the home, shopping for food and clothes, repairing clothes, washing clothes, preparing food, and storing food. But, parents do not stop there. They also provide for their children’s emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. They invest in making a strong emotional connection with their children by spending time with them, playing with them, enjoying activities together, talking with them, etc. They also become a student of their children—learning about their interests, sensitivities, fears, and dreams. By learning about their children, parents build a stronger relationship with them. They also gain the knowledge necessary to effectively teach and discipline their children. This knowledge allows a parent to guide their children in values and beliefs that promote a healthy lifestyle. And, children respond best to discipline from a parent who knows them, has invested time in them, and has developed a strong relationship with them. Meeting our children’s needs builds trust, relationship, and security.
Parents also allow their children to take risks. When children have parents who meet their needs, they are free to explore the world around them. They trust that their parents will protect them. They have a sense that the world is a safe place. They want to explore and learn more about their world. Sometimes this exploration will create risk—risks like crossing the street for the first time, driving across the state alone, climbing up one branch higher in the tree, or deciding whether to study abroad for a semester in college. Sometimes, parents rush to protect their children from the possible threat or harm of exploration and risk. In this rush to protect, parents prevent exploration. By discouraging exploration and risk, they nurture fear and timidity. They rob their children of the opportunity to learn from their decisions and the consequences of those decisions. They stunt their children’s growing ability to make thinking ahead to consider the consequences, problem-solve, and make wise choices. They encourage children who “play it safe” rather than children who “step out in faith” and “enjoy the adventure.”
Parents who encourage curious exploration and risk, on the other hand, nurture children who think ahead, consider the consequences of their actions, make better decisions, and practice effective problem-solving skills. These children become more mature, have a healthy sense of independence, and a greater willingness to seek out help when needed. So, go ahead…take the risk of letting your children take a risk.