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What Is a Parent’s Job? Why Happiness Shouldn’t Be a Goal

what is a parent's job

What is a parent’s job? Here’s a hint: It’s not to make children happy. Read on to discover key insights about what parents should and should not attempt.

A teacher friend recently shared this story: “A little girl in my classroom never obeys me. It’s a huge problem. So I called in her parents and described her disruptive behavior. They looked at me blankly for a moment. Then they said, ‘We never tell her no. Your rules aren’t important. Our daughter’s happiness is more important than your rules.’ Then they left!”

I’ve heard similar accounts from youth pastors, teachers, and children’s ministers. And I know you have too. It’s easy to see the consequences of this incredibly short-sighted approach. Yet we all cling to some dangerous ideas about parenting.

Parenting Is Incredibly Hard

For my first 16 years as a parent, I was nearly paralyzed, though I seemed to be running marathons daily. I couldn’t believe how hard parenting was. And I couldn’t believe what a terrible mother I was! Every night, I went to bed with a videotape of all my failures and sins.

  • Why aren’t I more loving? Where is the unconditional love I expected to always feel for my children?
  • Why isn’t my home the beautiful, peaceful Christian home I’d heard so much about on Christian radio and in church? Why is there so much discord and wrangling?
  • How come my children aren’t turning out the way I hoped and planned?
  • Why do I always feel as if I I’m not doing enough for my kids?
  • Why is parenting so hard?

I thought I knew the answers: Me. It was my fault. I was a bad mother, a bad Christian, and a “bad Christian mother”! It doesn’t get any worse than that. Except yes, it did! How could my children grow up to become faithful, believing adults with such a flawed mother? Surely I was ruining their lives—for eternity!

But I realized most of my notions about parenting had come not from the brilliance, truth, and grace of God’s Word but from human reasoning. Even within the church. Parents labor under some truly dangerous myths, which I describe in this book.