“As parents, what’s really our role?”

I asked a group of parents during my lecture on family and emotional intelligence. Each one had an opinion about children and parenting.

“Feed them,” said one. “Clothe them,” said another. Soon, others shared their ideas.

“Love them.”

“Provide a comfortable home.”

“Discipline them.”

“Give them toys.”

“Great!” I said. “But why do you have to feed them, love them, shelter them, discipline them, and clothe them?” Then I paused and gave them some time to think.

“For what?”

Most parents knew the answer but nobody could articulate their thoughts. A long silence followed my question and that was the most deafening silence I experienced in a while. As I glanced at the audience, everyone avoided eye contact and distressed about the possibility of being called.

I love to pose this question. As you know, parents and children have different roles. On one hand, parents have the primary obligation to provide a safe, loving, and motivating environment. On the other hand, children are tasked to learn as much as possible from their parents. Unfortunately in some families, parents and children switch roles, that is, some parents act like children, and vice versa.

“Why?” I threw the question again hoping that someone would have the courage to share ideas.

After a long, uncomfortable pause, a woman in her thirties responded, “Because we want them to do the same thing to their own children.” A man in red shirt followed, “Because that’s the right thing to do.” A young parent in her twenties said, “So they can become successful.”

No question, all parents are right. But parenting is not just about leaving a legacy or doing the right thing or showering love and comfort. Sure, it’s great to do all these. But if we only focus on them, we’re missing an important point.

Our role as parents is to raise our kids so they can expand their positive influence.

In essence, we should provide the necessary environment so they can appreciate and nurture what they have, and love who they are. Our goal is to let them share their strengths to make this world a better place for others.

Indeed, our purpose is to establish the right atmosphere so they can make a difference and find their rightful place in this wonderful creation.

Perhaps you’ll question my premise and declare it as simply ramblings of a shrink. But let me ask you these:

What’s the use of having a comfortable home when kids can’t appreciate what they have, when they complain and whine as often as they blink?

What’s the use of giving them expensive toys when they can’t even lift a finger to wash the dishes and are too bored to use and share their talents and skills?

What’s the use of giving them unconditional love when they don’t share their love to others?

Parenting is a special mission, not just a chore. It is a noble undertaking, not just a mindless task. It is the only calling that consistently develops future teachers, builders, creators, innovators, discoverers, healers, caretakers, artists, ministers, and many more.

Parenting is like gardening. Like any dedicated gardeners, we ensure that plants bloom in summer and withstand the harsh winter. For plants to thrive, they need our frequent attention and focus, and require adequate supply of fertilizer, sunshine, and water. Moreover, they need protection from sneaky weeds that leisurely devour the nutrients necessary for their growth.

The Holy Creator gave us this awesome responsibility to nurture a child for His own purpose. It’s an honor to have a task of this magnitude. We’re in this earth temporarily so we should be serious about fulfilling this splendid role.

As Kahlil Gibran, a renowned philosopher, said, “Your children are not your children. . . They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. . .You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth . . .”

Yes, our children are not ours. They are God’s children with a special mission called Operation: Progress Earth. As parents, our solemn duty is to help them accomplish their divine assignment.

Author's Bio: 

Copyright © 2007. Dr. Michael G. Rayel – author (A 31-Day Series and First Aid to Mental Illness) psychiatrist, and inventor of emotional intelligence games -- The Oikos Game Series and The CEO. Since 2005, he has published Oikos’ Insights! www.oikosinsights.com as an online resource for personal development. For more information, visit http://www.oikosglobal.com.