We can all become consumed just with the 'getting by' – doing all the trivial stuff that just has to be done, like washing, homework, parties, manners, exams. But isn't parenting so much more than this?
copyright Esther Gibbons (creative commons)
For me, one of the hardest parts of being a parent has been to operate with the end in mind; to ask myself, 'What kind of adult do I want my child to be?'
The list above is dull and endless. Now I'm not saying that we, as parents, should try and second guess the future – though, at times it would be useful, especially when helping them with their options for GCSEs or A-levels or university. It would be so much easier if we had the inside track on the careers they were going to end up in.
But we don't, do we?
We have to make an educated guess and encourage them to do their best with the abilities they have been given.
We should, however, start with the end in mind when it comes to issues like honesty, integrity, compassion and kindness. Where these are concerned they are more caught than taught.
You see there is so much more to parenting than, say, potty training.
As my children grow up, I want them to understand their place in the world. I want them to know that they live in a land of privilege; that not everyone owns their own mobile phone, house, or has electricity, clothes or even food.
I listen to parents who say that they only want their children to be healthy and happy. Not me.
Of course I want them to be both of these things, but I don't believe that these are worthy goals. Neither is being wealthy. I believe that each of us and all of us are here to make a difference in the lives of those we meet.
Do you know I can honestly say that if my children's happiness means someone else's child's misery, then I don't want that for my kids. I want them to understand that justice does not mean just us! I want them to think about fair trade and trade justice. I want them to buy ethically not just cheap.
I want to paint for them, in the things I do and say, a big picture of a preferred future ... and my guess is you do, too. I want them to consider others as much as they do themselves.
I want them to give to charity from their own pocket money. I want them to give of their time to help others. I want them to be filled with compassion.
I want to help them to see that they are here to care and share; give not take; serve not simply be served; be selfless not selfish. It's important that no matter how old they are, they understand that they can make a real difference.
When Joanna, my eldest, was born, we sponsored a child in the two-thirds world as an expression of gratitude for her safe arrival. Since then we have helped five children. You can, too. By contacting World Vision, for as little as £13 a month, you and your family can sponsor a child and help a village out of poverty (www.worldvision.org.uk).
In a sense what I'm talking about here falls into the category of spiritual, moral and ethical development, and statistics say that in these areas kids take their cues from their fathers.
They learn what really matters not only from what we say but from how we act with regard to others.
When my son was six or seven, we were in town one day. As we walked along I spotted one of the alcoholics that I had met in the course of my work. You know the scene – scruffy, unkempt individuals sitting on a park bench drinking cheap booze. I led my son over and introduced him to my friend. We chatted for a while with my son hiding behind my leg.
As we walked away he asked, 'Dad, what was wrong with that man?' I said, 'Son, he drinks too much alcohol and as a consequence has lost everything.' To which my son replied, 'That's silly.' I stopped and said, 'Don't judge him too harshly because one day we could find ourselves where he is now.'
On another occasion we were walking through the park and I said hello to every person we passed. Between people David asked, 'Dad, why do you talk to everyone?' Taken aback I said, 'I guess I just like people.' To which he answered, 'No, Dad, that isn't the reason. It's because you want to show them that God loves them.'
Whether your kids grow up to be brain surgeons or council cleansing operatives (bin men), that will just be their job. Beneath the surface, what we do right now will determine what kind of person they turn out to be.
Richard Hardy is a Baptist Minister and Director of The Entheos Trust, which encourages leaders to equip their churches to engage community. Richard has spoken on issues of community engagement, marriage and parenting at a wide range of national conferences. He has also written extensively on community and family issues.
May 8th, 2012 - Posted & Written by The Editor