Parenting Responsibilities: 10 Things You Are (and Aren’t) Responsible for as a Parent

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By Sara Bean, M.Ed.

Close-up of parent holding child's hand

These days, we’re bombarded with mixed messages about how to parent “the right way.” It’s easy to buy into advice from the media, relatives, and other parents and start to worry that we’re doing something wrong. We’re often comparing ourselves to others—and feeling judged and criticized by them.

One of the most important ways to clear through all the clutter of advice, guilt, and comparisons to others is to understand what you are and aren’t responsible for when it comes to raising your child.

As a parent coach with, I worked with many parents who struggled with this question:

“What am I responsible for as a parent?”

I found that most parents instinctively know the answer to this question, but just need someone to validate their instincts amidst all the social media ranting about what parents ought to be doing.

So here goes, the top 10 things you are (and are not) responsible for as a parent.

What You Are Not Responsible For:

1. Making Sure Your Kids Are Always Happy

Don’t get me wrong—it’s good for your kids to be happy overall. But there will many times, especially when you’re parenting responsibly, that your kids will be furious. When you set limits or give them a consequence, they may not like it initially. But that’s part of your job description as a parent and head of the household. You do not make decisions based on what your kids will like, tolerate, or be okay with. Instead, you make the decisions that are best for them and your family, then follow through.

In the Total Transformation Program®, James Lehman says you have to run your family like a business. You’re the chief executive officer of your “family business” and as CEO you have to learn how to set emotions aside and to parent as objectively as possible. Forget how guilty you feel. Forget that echo of your sister’s advice in the back of your head. Just remember that you need to do what is best for yourfamily. You can ask for advice, but in the end, you know your family best.

2. Getting the Approval of Others

You do not need other adults in your life to tell you that you are doing the right thing. Parenting is not a popularity contest in your family or in your community. Sure, it feels great when other adults, such as your child’s teachers, tell you your child is doing something well. But it’s not necessary in order for you to run your family well.

3. Controlling Your Children

Your children are not puppets and you are not a puppeteer. There is no possible way that you can control every move your child makes or everything your child says, especially outside of your home. Children have their own free will and will act on their own accord—and often in self-interest.

For example, it’s important to remind yourself that if your child is not doing her homework, despite your best efforts to motivate her and hold her accountable, that it’s her problem and the poor grade she earns is hers alone.

The consequence she will get from you is that you will make sure she sets aside time every evening to study. You will be in touch with her teachers more. And you will monitor her homework more thoroughly until she brings her grade up.

We can’t control our kids, but we can influence them by the limits we set and the consequences we give. As James Lehman says, “You can lead a horse to water, and you can’t make him drink—but you can make him thirsty.”

4. Doing for Your Children What They Are Capable of Doing for Themselves

Many times our children will ask us to do something for them that we know they are capable of doing on their own. You are no longer responsible for those things.

For example, your grade-schooler might not make his bed perfectly the first time, but practice (and doing it imperfectly several times) is what he needs in order to get to the point where he can do it on his own.

I’m not saying to stop preparing breakfast for your child once she’s old enough to pour her own cereal or to never do anything to help your kids out in a pinch. What I am saying is to let your kids struggle sometimes. Try your best to give them increasing levels of responsibility. And don’t type your child’s paper for him because you type faster and it’s getting close to bedtime…that is not striking a balance!

5. You do not have to be Superman, Wonder Woman, Mike Brady, or June Cleaver

These are all fictional characters that seem to do it all and do it perfectly, right? You’re not one of them, nor should you strive to be. Rather than focusing on addressing every behavior issue or adhering to a perfect schedule each day, try to hit the important targets and realize that you might have to let some smaller things go each day. We call this picking your battles.

What You Are Responsible For:

1. Making Tough Decisions That Are Not Popular

If your child doesn’t get angry with you at least once in a while, you’re not doing your job. Along with this, remember that you are not required to give lengthy explanations of your decisions. “It’s not safe” can be plenty of explanation when your teen asks why he can’t jump off the roof and onto the trampoline. “It’s your responsibility” is enough justification for telling your child it’s homework time. You don’t need to get into all the possible “what-ifs” and “if-thens.”

2. Teaching Your Child to Function Independently

One of the effective parenting roles we talk about in parent coaching and which James Lehman teaches in The Total Transformation Program® is that of trainer/coach. It is your job to teach your child age-appropriate skills in order to allow them to become more and more independent. There comes a time when your child needs to learn how to emotionally soothe himself, tie his shoes, write his name, and cope when someone teases him. Over time, he will need to develop more and more advanced skills. He needs to know how to type a paper, say no to drugs, drive a car, and fill out a job application. Indeed, he needs to learn that his level of responsibility will grow throughout his life.

3. Holding Your Child Accountable

You are responsible for holding your child accountable for his behavior and actions. At the very least, this means setting limits with your child when she behaves inappropriately. For example, when your child puts off her homework you might turn off the TV and say:

“Watching TV isn’t getting your homework done. Once your homework is done you can turn the TV back on.”

This could also be as simple as firmly saying:

“We don’t talk that way in this house.”

…and then walking away.

Or, of course, this can mean providing effective consequences for something like having missing homework assignments, such as weekend activities being placed on hold until the work is completed.

4. Going Along for the Ride

Parenting is a bit of a roller coaster ride and you’re on it whether you like it or not. There will be times when your child is doing well and times when your child is really struggling. Remind yourself that the ups and downs are not a reflection of you—it’s just the way the ride goes sometimes. So, don’t blame yourself when stuff happens. Focus on finding positive ways to cope and look for something new to try to help your child effectively. And don’t be afraid to get support, either through sites like our’s or local resources.

5. Doing Your Best

That’s really all you can do sometimes. Parenting is a perpetual balancing act—striving to find that balance between doing too much and doing too little, or giving consequences that are not too harsh but not too soft, either. Parenting can feel like a circus sometimes and there can be several balancing acts going on at one time. That’s when you have to go back to picking your battles and realizing you are not, nor will you ever be, the perfect parent. You just need to be good enough.

Above all else, remember that your child is unique and you know him better than anyone else on the planet. You will always get input, no matter how obvious or subtle, from the world around you as to how you should parent your child. You, however, are the expert on your child and get to make your own decisions about how to parent her in a way that teaches her to be independent and accountable while also being loving and respectful of your child and her needs. When you find yourself at wits’ end, remember the tips here to help you be more objective and remember what your role as a parent really is.

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The Message We Send to Our Children

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Isn’t it cute that your three-year-old wants to help out around the house? So cute that the toy industry has created toy vacuums, kitchens, etc. Or how about when your toddler daughter puts on your high heels and walks around the house so proud. We all know that when they are little, they are watching every move we make and taking every chance to copy it. Fast forward, when I catch a swear come out of my teenage son’s mouth and reprimand him, I know that it is really also my duty to reprimand myself and recheck whether or not I am using profanity too much.

With the pressures of being a parent: work, sports, activities, household, etc., it is hard to constantly keep ourselves in check, after all, we are human. However, perhaps, we as parents can not only focus on trying to keep ourselves a little more in check for the sake of the future generations, but we should also call out others’ behaviors. If we are able to point out to our kids unacceptable adult behaviors, perhaps they will grow up to respect one another, despite differences or issues they may have with others.

I promised myself a long time ago not to get into discussions with people on religion or politics. I am entitled to my opinion and like to keep it that way; saves a lot of grief and stress and maybe even relationships. However, as annoyed and frustrated and utterly disgusted I have been by our very own President of the United States “tweeting” all the time, never have I been more outraged than now when he decided to retweet himself hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton. In a time when our planet is experiencing countless major hurricanes, earthquakes, tropical storms and threat of nuclear war, don’t you think our President should be focusing on those crises? The act of retweeting something violent and inappropriate that someone made up because they have nothing better to do with their time is so utterly immature. This is a 71-year-old man who, unfortunately, somehow, holds one of the most, if not the most, powerful positions in the world. And this is the message he is sending out to our nation and our kids. “Hey, look at my amazing golf swing and, even better, look at it hit Hillary. I win!”

So, where do we draw the line? We can always hope the Russian probe entices impeachment, but until then have to take matters into our own hands. We, as parents, have to take the responsibility to call out the President, and others to our kids. Being an adult doesn’t give the right to make the same mistakes the President is making by bullying, criticizing and degrading others, but to tell our children that this behavior is irresponsible and reckless. We, as humankind, will never move forward with acceptance and respect for others if we are being led by this example and believing it is okay to hurt others and laugh about it.

A Great Mix of Tim Hawkins Parenting Songs

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If you are a current of past parent of children in the tween/teen stages, you will be able to relate to comedian Tim Hawkins and this awesome mix of his parenting songs.