What does a good parent look like? I’m looking at the word right now — parent — and it’s making me dizzy. Perhaps because there are so many different parenting styles and most of them are intimately grounded on both the needs of the parent and the needs of the child, even though these needs may be divergent, and even unhealthy.
When a parent, for example, does everything for the child, how will the child learn to do the things he needs to do? When the parent protects the child from unhealthy behaviors, sweeping every transgression the child may commit, how will the child learn the difference between what is right and wrong?
The naive parent believes he is helping the child when he engages in such protectionism, but he is not. When the parent prevents the child from facing and addressing the consequences of unsavory behaviors, he is hurting that child. What has this child learned? This child has learned that the parent will always be there to clean up his mess. But is this true? Is this possible? Of course, not. The parent will one day die and the child although an adult by then will still not have learned a most essential lesson: How to be an adult.
But what does it mean to be an adult?
Ideally, by the time we reach adulthood, we have learned to accept responsibility for our emotional and physical well-being. It is easy to detect the absence of this and quite common. When someone, for example, blames others for the way they feel, or what has happened to them, they are not accepting responsibility for their behaviors and relationships will be fraught with disharmony and conflict.
Although it may appear easier to blame others, it is rarely healthy, and an indication that a critical lesson has not been learned — that part would be the parent’s responsibility, to teach that lesson. Thus, assuming responsibility for your own behaviors is an essential ingredient of being an adult.
The parent who does everything for his child prevents that child from learning — anything, really. That child’s universe revolves around the parent who is forever at his service. This type of relationship smacks of parasitism, with both the parent and child feeding off of each other for their respective needs, while the rest of the world presumably operates an altogether different and unrelated scale. But does it, really? Of course, not. Such isolation is not possible. We must interact with others. Can we operate in such close proximity and thrive as humans and reach our full potential? Highly unlikely.
It is the responsibility of the parent to equip the child with all the tools necessary to reach his potential and not shield him from the lessons that are essential to get there. For if the parent does not perform this role to the best of his ability then what you have is a damaged and crippled human being.