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

The freedom, joy, and grace of God’s truths have completely changed my life as a mother. I must share them so you know what is a parent’s job. Let’s start with the myth of our children’s happiness.

What Is a Parent’s Job?

“I just want my kids to be happy.” How many times do we hear this? Especially now in relation to sexual identity. (Your daughter says she’s happier as a boy? Let’s start hormone therapy. Whatever it takes.) We see it on nearly every front. Kids 8 to 18 now spend an average of seven hours a day on electronic gadgets—because we let them. That, in turn, leads to obesity, mental illness, addiction, aggression, and more, according to experts.

Many of us go into debt for our children, providing lavish birthday parties and exotic vacations. We fix the foods they clamor for instead of what they need, while childhood obesity rates soar. Parents don’t allow our kids to fail. We don’t allow their sports teams to lose. We threaten their teachers with lawsuits when our (lazy) students flunk a class. Keeping our kids “happy” is exhausting—for us and them!

Truth: Our job as parents is not to make our children happy but to help them become “good”: compassionate, honest, responsible, hard-working. Trying to procure our children’s happiness is like catching a river with a sieve.

What is a parent’s job? We need to do for our children what they cannot do for themselves: distinguish between their short-term happiness and long-term good.

What is that long-term good? It’s the same as how God parents us: for our holiness rather than our immediate happiness. But of course they’re not an either/or. Ultimately, holiness is the way to happiness.

Adversity Leads to Strength

My sister-in-law planted a Japanese maple in her yard. Because she lives on a windy, stormy island, she staked it to provide full support. But it began to sag, and by the third year, it collapsed. The nursery owner told her, “The tree is too protected. It needs the wind to strengthen its fibers. It needs the wind to make it strong.”

Do any of us want our children to topple? Don’t we want them to be like the tree in Psalm 1, firmly rooted in the banks of a gushing, living stream? These gorgeous trees yield bright, bursting fruit through every season of their life.

I pray we can love our children enough to parent them toward this kind of happiness!

This article about what is a parent’s job originally appeared here.