The goal of parenting

What is the goal of parenthood?

Before we explore what it is, let’s dispel some myths of what it is not.

The goal of parenthood is not to…

  • make kids feel good about themselves
  • relive our childhood
  • fix parents mistakes
  • keep them from pain

While some of these things are otherwise good goals, they are accidental to the true goal of parenting.

Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.

Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
-Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Simply put, the goal of parenting is to produce disciples.

Disciples of what? Disciples of our lives.

I often hear secular parents (and non-parents) talk about how it is wrong in their opinions to indoctrinate children with our beliefs, especially religious beliefs. I always find this interesting because, in saying this they are actually asserting a competing worldview (most often relativism) that they think is superior to what they see as an out dated set of beliefs handed down to us by mere sheep herders. The irony is that even though such people claim that indoctrinating a child is wrong, that is exactly what they are doing.

The question is not whether we indoctrinate our children. Or teach and train them as Scripture says. The question is what we believe is the ultimate goal in life and that will determine what we deem as critically important to teach them. And what our children will learn from will not only be the words we use but the lives we, ourselves, lead.

For us, as Christian parents, the finish line is when our children leave the nest. The test of our craftsmanship will be the quality of lives they lead. Will they lead happy and fulfilled lives (happy as defined in the classical sense)? Will they build great things (including a family and a career)? Or will they crash and burn in pursuit of sensual pleasure? Yes, children have their own free will and some may rebel and go down in flames in spite of the very best upbringing. However Proverbs tells us that, as a rule, children trained properly are not likely to stray far from the path they learn in their youth.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. -Proverbs 22:6

So we plan for them to leave the nest, and our goal is to equip them well to fly and not fall.

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10 responses to “The goal of parenting

  1. Your treatment of those that think indoctrinating their kids is a bad idea is just wrong. It is possible that some parents are hypocrites in this dimension but it's a false dichotomy that they must be.

    • Two questions
      1. What is the argument against indoctrination as you see it?
      2. How is your position, itself, not a form of indoctrination?

      • 1.) It instills beliefs out of fear, authority, and mindless following. Beliefs should be built out of experience, evidence, and learning.

        2.) Because I won't hide behind a man behind the curtain that isn't here to debate the merits of his orders. What I teach my kids will be from me and I will teach my kids that they will need to think for themselves to make it in the world and not let others think for them.

        • So with 1. Are you assuming all religious training is based on "fear, authority, and mindless following"? Are you also assuming that all non-religious training isn't?

          As for 2. Are you saying that it is only wrong to teach children ideologies where deities are involved? By that token, are atheistic/secular ideologies exempt in your view?

          Underlying all of your assumptions also seems to be the notion that teaching children religious beliefs necessarily entails a lack of freedom on their part to "decide for themselves". I am curious, however, whether you see the irony of your statement. You see, even an agnostic position like the one you seem to be advocating is, itself, an indoctrination. While it is an indoctrination of no particular position, or moreover, the position that there is no definitive position, it is the indoctrination of a particular worldview nonetheless.

          "Beliefs should be built out of experience, evidence, and learning."

          Amen. So what is your opposition to parents providing the information on which beliefs may or may not be formed by the child (who, by the way, is not a mere robot but in possession of a free will of their own)?

  2. So are you equating indoctrination with brainwashing? If so, then I fail to see where our disagreement lies.

    • You painted all of those against brainwashing kids with religious beliefs as equally guilty of brainwashing their kids with some other (presuambly secularistic) dogma. I just pointed out the fallacy in that and you've apparently agreed that you were wrong to do so. Good.

      • I actually reject the notion that brainwashing is possible. You see, to sustain the notion that anyone is in danger of having their brain washed you must begin with the premise put forward by philosophers like John Locke wherein men are viewed as being "blank slates". I would argue that men are not borne in a state of tabla rasa and therefore we can never return to that state.

        What I fault secularists with is the double standard that you exhibited above wherein it is seen as perfectly acceptable to teach one's children according to one's beliefs so long as those beliefs are not religious (though one could make a case that secularism is very close to a religion).

        As such, I posit that what others like to call brainwashing simply because they do not like what it is we teach our children is simply parents doing their duty in raising their children in such a way that they are well equipped to face the world one day in their own right.

        • "What I fault secularists with is the double standard that you exhibited above wherein it is seen as perfectly acceptable to teach one's children according to one's beliefs so long as those beliefs are not religious (though one could make a case that secularism is very close to a religion)."

          There you go again, strawman maker. Show me where I exhibited this double standard.

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