What is the main objective in parenting? Is it to protect your kids from the evils of this world or is it to prepare them to live in it? I’ll admit I’m not the most qualified to answer this question because I’m young, newly married, and have no kids of my own, but I have learned a few things along the way that help me answer that question. The main objective is parenting is not protecting your kids. Before you stop reading this and claim “I don’t know what I’m talking about” let me explain.
Take a greenhouse for an example. This illustration comes from Mike Calhoun’s book The Greenhouse Project. In the book, he compares a greenhouse to how we do student ministry, but I want to compare it to parenting because it’s very similar. Mike says, “The basic purpose of a greenhouse is to prepare plants for life outside the greenhouse. Plants are given food, water, sunshine, and heat to grow enough so that they can survive and thrive outside of that environment…The greenhouse is not the end result. It is a place of growth and maturity. It is a place of safety and security. The ultimate objective of a greenhouse is for the plants to make it outside.”
Did you catch that? Plants are prepared in the greenhouse to make it outside and thrive. The whole point of the greenhouse is to prepare them to get out of the greenhouse.
I believe our parenting should be the same way. I’ll even go as far as to say that this model of parenting is Biblical. Your kids will be out of your care and protection one day. They will leave for college, get married, and have a family of their own. They will leave your “greenhouse” whether you like it or not. But here is the good news. You have the opportunity right now to prepare them for that transition out of your “greenhouse.” You have the opportunity to impart God’s Word and the Gospel to them so they are prepared to survive and thrive on their own. Stop just protecting your kids, this will not help them in the future! Do something that will help them, prepare them!
As parents, you are called to love and pursue God personally, then pass that on to your children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). You are commanded by God to teach them God’s Word and help them follow Jesus. This isn’t simply protection because following Jesus isn’t always safe. When your child tells you God has called them to go into a foreign mission field to spread the Gospel, what will you say? A parent that sees their primary objective to be protection may try to talk them out of it or find a way to make it more “safe.” A parent that sees their primary objective as preparatory will embrace it and be thankful God has chosen their child for such a noble task. There are many examples I could use here, but this is one. Parents must prepare their children to live and function with an authentic faith. This will require you to lose some control as they learn to apply their walk with Jesus to every area of their life.
So what are you doing parents? Are you protecting your kids or preparing them for a live of following Jesus?