Why are you a parent?
I don't mean in a practical A led to B and suddenly "Ta Da!"
you're a parent sense. That may very well be the case, but
that is only the beginning of a life-long journey. I'm asking
a more philosophical question. Why are you a parent?
As a father of 5 children, I have thought about this question a
lot. And to be fair, there is a lot wrapped up in this
question. Why do children need parents? Why am I a
parent? For what purpose do I make the decisions that I do as
parenting? How can I improve my parenting?
To share with you my thoughts on parenting, I'm starting this
ongoing series of blogs about Practical Parenting to share some of
the convictions which I hold about the great responsibility of
parenting and some advice on how to approach many of the
Today I'll focus on one of the fundamental questions: Why do
children need parents? I won't try to fully answer this
question, but rather give some food for thought.
Why do children need parents?
To consider the big picture of why you are a parent it is
helpful to dig deeper and try to come to an understanding of why
children need parents in the first place. In fact, if you
haven't given if much thought, striving to understand this question
will go a long way in helping you make decisions as a parent.
So lets consider some facts.
Children have physical needs
It is an easily discernable fact that children have physical
needs which they lack the skill, knowledge or resources to meet
themselves. From food to clothing to shelter to
transportation, this fact makes up a larger portion of your duties
as a parent while the child is younger. Even as a child gains
the skills and knowledge, they often lack sufficient resources to
fully provide for their own needs into their late teens and early
While this may seem like a purely practical side to parenting,
please be aware that whether or not you meet a child's physical
needs will often have a bearing on how effectively you can meet a
child's intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs. In fact
many discipline issues with our children have actually been
mitigated by proper nutrition. Judge for yourself whether you
tend to handle situations better when you are hungry or when you
are satisfied. But that's a topic for another day.
Children have emotional needs
Children are emotional beings from infancy and need not only
food and shelter but also comfort and love to thrive.
Throughout childhood, as children emotionally mature, they
experience new facets of their emotions that, although adding to
the richness of human existence, can be scary. Having a
parent there to comfort and share during this process can help a
child keep their balance. Emotions are also a large factor in
discipline in that a child who has an unmet emotional need is more
likely to take action to try to meet that need, whether that action
is appropriate or not. Like physical needs, emotion needs do
not excuse incorrect behavior, but can help explain it and in
understanding it a parent can work with their child to address it
and help them control themselves.
Children have intellectual needs
Children in general are naturally curious and want to know about
the world around them. Although many of us delegate the
meeting of the majority of a child's intellectual needs to schools
and other forums, the primary responsibility still rests on us as
parents. I will discuss more about this responsibility over
time, however my main point is that delegated authority does not
absolve the one delegating it from the responsibility, it just
trusts another to act in ones stead in that task. It is still
a parent's responsibility to make sure that the delegated task is
being performed to your standards.
In the interest of full disclosure I will state that my wife and
I homeschool our kids, however I understand that this is not
practical for many parents, especially in difficult financial
Children have spiritual needs
Last, but most certainly not least, children have souls in need
of nourishing. Many of us as parents often feel the least
equipped for this task, myself included. If you are a
christian, as I am, you see your own sinfulness and compare it with
the eternal nature of the outcome and it is easy to be
daunted. If that were the sum total of the equation, there
would be ample reason to fear, however as christians we do things
not in our own strength, but in the strength of the one to whom we
belong, even Christ. The outcome of your child's spiritual
journey is not in your hands, however, in many actions and
discussion during your time with them you will influence them for
good or ill. Take the responsibility seriously, but don't
pridefully take on more than your due.
Parenthood: A delegated responsibility
I mentioned delegated responsibility previously in my discussion
on a child's intellectual needs. Just as we sometimes
delegate our responsibility to meet our child's needs to others, so
too is our responsibility a delegated one. God has given our
children to us for a season to train them and nourish them.
We have a responsibility to do the best we can with what we have
and I believe we will be held accountable for what we did with that
time. But there is also a comfort in knowing that through
prayer and the scriptures we can draw on the strength of the one
who has given this authority to us and can let Him shine through us
to our children. I believe, that as you look back you will
find that those times were the best of all.