Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Announcements

Get the support and information you need for your behavior, development and health related questions.

For more information:
Health and Parenting Health Center
Raising fit Kids

The 3 jobs of a parent !
avatar
Andrew Adesman, MD posted:
When my kids were young, I realized that my "job" as a parent was to keep them safe, healthy, and happy. When my kids got older, I shared this parenting "mission statement" with them. They were elated to hear that it was my job to keep them happy. I had to quickly point out to them -- much to their dismay -- that the 3 goals were in a specific order -- and that making them happy was the lowest of my 3 priorities. They were also dismayed to learn that sometimes keeping them safe or healthy meant I had to say "no" to some things. When they asked me about this, I explained that "healthy" extended not just to their physical health, but also to their mental health. Thus, parents sometimes have to draw a line and deny a child "happiness" in the interest of the child's mental health. The challenge of parenting is to make kids feel loved and special and to nurture them at all times, and to provide for them responsibly (i.e., trying not to spoil them in the process.). As you all know, no easy task.

I encourage all of you parents -- young an old -- to reflect on these 3 simple "jobs" and to remember the order: a child's safety and health take priority over happiness.

I welcome comments...
Reply
 
avatar
Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
Ah, that happy thing gets tough. I tend toward thinking my job as a parent is to teach them how to keep themselves as safe, healthy and happy as possible.

That feels different than what you have said here, though I am not sure that we fundamentally disagree on these ideas. Certainly sad, unhappy children break my heart. There have been days where I would have given away everything I own for my children if I thought it would have bought a smile from them.

I have a daughter having a tough time right now. She has always had a soft heart and 14 is one of the hardest years for girls I think. (Based on my childhood and the childhood of my older kids) This is the age when kids learn for good that parents can't fix everything, can't keep them from the bad and really don't know everything-so much so that they decide parents know nothing. I know I will learn a bit in the next few years and by 20 become brilliant again-but for now I can only listen, hold fast to the important rules, and let the leading strings out a bit more without letting them feel like they are on a rope with no net.
 
avatar
An_221835 responded:
what great advise. Thank you!
 
avatar
reifsnider6 responded:
I have noticed in the last few years how spoiled our kids our and it really scares me because it's a hard habit to break and an even harder habit for them to learn. My husband and I often break ourselves so our kids can have things. We do this mainly because our children do not have Grandparents to speak of. Their Grandparents are all too busy with themselves that they do not acknowledge our kids like I feel a Grandparent should, they barely paid any attention to us growing up. So my husband and I feel we need to make up for that, but in the process, I have noticed it to be almost impossible to go to the store, grocery or convenient stores, and not leave with a mad child or extra things they did not need. I have 4 kids ranging from the ages of 15-5 and when one asks for a quarter...it costs a dollar, most things are no longer a quarter. So you can imagine what it's like when it comes to a toy that actually costs dollars. My two oldest girls are my stepdaughters and they have their Mom's Mom and her husband...wonderful Grandparents, they are so good with the girls and they live close, however we do not allow them to have them very often because the girls' Mom lives with them and we have trust issues there. I feel so guilty when I can't buy my kids something they have really wanted or needed for a long time. I have also noticed that I have withdrawn myself a little from them and that really concerns me. I work nights and they are in school all day. I get to see them for maybe 2 hours after school before I am cooking dinner and getting ready for work, sometimes I don't even get to eat with them, the most important time of the day and half the time, I can't even enjoy it with them and not because I don't want to. But then when the weekend hits and I don't work, I don't get outside with them, play games with them, very rarely read to them, this is not me. In the Summertime we are always busy and in the winter time, when they need constructive things to do, I withdraw. It's been like this the last two years. Before we would make up a big thermos of hot cocoa, bring marshmallows and go sledding, have snowball fights, etc, not the last few years. My kids are all healthy and safe, but I know I am doing things the wrong way when it comes to their happiness, I feel like a terrible Mother most of the time and being a Mother is all I have ever wanted to be, and a good one! I succeed in many areas, but I need to work on utilizing my time with them so I don't feel guilted into buying them anything and everything they want to make up for my lack of proper parenting
 
avatar
pixikins replied to reifsnider6's response:
I think you need to cut yourself a break. From the corcern that you are expressing over being a "proper parent" to your kids, I can almost guarentee that you are a good parent. Think about it, would a terrible, neglectful parent spend time anguishing over the happiness and well-being of her kids? Hardly. I think that it's important that we as parents realize that no matter how much stuff we buy, kids aren't going to be happy 100% of the time. And us trying to constantly accomodate that endless desire for stuff will only make them less able to cope in the adult world when inevitable happens and they are faced with the reality that they can't always have everything that they want all of the time.
 
avatar
Andrew Adesman, MD replied to reifsnider6's response:
It sounds like you are already sacrificing a lot for your children, and I presume they recognize this now to some extent and will even more in the future. Your sacrifices are in terms of both time and money.

Many children never have enough, and you will not be doing your child a favor if you even try to give them everything they desire. Most will want more and more to keep up with their friends or to simply get the latest and greatest toy, gizmo or fashion item that they see on TV, on-line, or in print.

My contention is that it is your responsibility -- your "job" -- as a parent to sometimes say 'no' to purchases -- even if you can afford them. That's where your concern for your child's mental health trumps your concern for their happiness.

Children should not get everything just for the asking. It is probably best if they have to "work" (by this I mean "earn", I do not mean child labor) for some items, save for some items, and learn to cope with delayed gratification. In other instances, they need to learn to accept that some things may be beyond their reach -- no matter what.

Mind you, I do not deny my kids many things. I live in an upscale neighborhood where almost all of the kids (including mine) have much more than any child needs. I am not inclined -- by disposition (or budgetarily) to try to keep up with all of their peers and provide my kids with everything their friends' have.

Give your children as much time and attention as you can -- recognizing at the same time that, realistically, there are many competing demands on your time. And most importantly, give of your heart.

Remember: the most valuable things you can give as a parent do not have price tags on them!
 
avatar
Boyzmomee responded:
Yes safety and health and love are top priorities.

I really don't think it is my job to make my children "happy."

I've told both of my sons that life is not like a thrill ride at an amusement park and the main goal of life is not to seek happiness and self gratification. I want them to responsible men and that includes being good husbands, fathers and providers.

I've told them their main purpose is to be a blessing to others and how they choose to do that is up to them. I think this value system comes from my religion, Judaism. Tikuun Olam.

I think it has taken. My oldest is serving in the military and wants to be a state highway patrol officer when he gets out. The youngest wants to be a fire fighter/paramedic (or perhaps a Rabbi.)

That being said, we spend lots of time with our sons and provide them with time and experiences that make them happy. We go camping, fishing, hikes, climbing, swimming, sporting events, community fairs, water parks, BBQ's, out to eat, purchase them sports equipment, go to their games etc.

I also hope they make wonderful memories to carry them throughout life even when we are no longer here.
 
avatar
kaytag; replied to Boyzmomee's response:
There's a lot of satisfaction & happiness to be had in serving others - I can imagine being a police officer, firefighter or rabbi being a very fulfilling career.

Perhaps it's better to focus on healthy, worthwhile pursuits for the whole family than to make the kids the center of everything.

When I was a kid, we went camping, backpacking and hiking because it was what my parents wanted to do. (If it had been up to me, we would have gone shopping or played with dolls). Now, I'm so glad I had those experiences - it instilled a deep respect and love of the nature. I take my kids hiking now, even if they whine about it. :-)
 
avatar
Boyzmomee replied to kaytag;'s response:
Lol, we learned about making kids the "center" when we went to my oldest son's first parent/teacher conference in kindergarten. His teacher was trying not to laugh when she showed us a picture of his "family" that our son made. He was an only child at the time. The picture contained a very large male child that took up most of the paper with little tiny parents on both sides of him. Lol. We learned.

Our family interests mostly concern the outdoors and sporting events. I'm glad you have good memories and it was a positive experience for you. We really want to create happy family memories.
 
avatar
SoCalSuz responded:
I'm new to the WebMD community and I just LOVE this post. My 5 and 2 year olds now roll thier eyes when I say "What's mommies job?", usually in response to an unsafe behavior. Thank you for reinforcing that my mantra is right on the money!
 
avatar
Haylen_WebMD_Staff replied to SoCalSuz's response:
Me too! My kids now say "It's my job" all the time - even when I asked my toddler why she hit her big sister :)
 
avatar
melbournefreelancer replied to Andrew Adesman, MD's response:
Kids certainly do find the oddest things valuable.Ever notice how they often find the packaging more fascinating than the expensive new toy? When they are at an age where money doesn't count they most certainly value the time, affection, and security parents provide. I suppose at that stage that's what makes their world and not the stuff with price tags on. That comes later. And by then sensible parenting would have prepared them for the hard work that makes those price tags affordable.
 
avatar
kims_09 responded:
Shows you posted this 10 mths ago, but I just saw it today. The timing couldn't be better because I feel like the worst mom in the world right now. Going through a rough time, thought I was finally stabilizing all for my kids, only for it to fall apart. I now have to break it to them that my youngest child's (3 yrs old) dad is moving out & we may not see him again. I do keep them safe & healthy, but struggling with the happiness . . though they are happy most of the time (until this move happens). This helps me see, though I have a lot of work to do, I am doing my job the best I can & maybe not the worst mom in the world. THANK YOU!!!!
 
avatar
rpnewbs replied to kims_09's response:
This is a great post. I am just starting out, with a 2 and half year old and a 9 month old. Sometimes sleep is short and tempers are shorter, and it seems like everything that was one the shelves is all over the floor. It's good to read this, to remind myself that these are just stages they go through and the most important thing is that they are safe and healthy, and that they learn from me how to be happy. Boo-boos are hard to avoid with my trapeze artist of a 2 year old, but we try to remind her of the rules and the possible consequences of disobeying them, and we always are there to give kisses to make it all better.
So, like kims_09 said, there is a lot of work to do, but we're doing the best we can and that's what counts.


Helpful Tips

Help kids learn to swallow pillsExpert
I found this inexpensive but clever cup a few years ago, and it helped my kids learn to swallow pills without a fuss: ... More
Was this Helpful?
16 of 25 found this helpful

Expert Blog

Child Health 411 - Ari Brown, MD

Educated parents are empowered parents! Get clear answers to your parenting questions from Dr. Ari Brown...Read More

Related News

There was an error with this newsfeed

Related Drug Reviews

  • Drug Name User Reviews

Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.