Defining ‘Successful Parenting’

By Timothy L. Sanford, MA, LPC
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If every parent's job is to make sure his or her children turn out "right," it would mean God messed up.

Many people believe every parent’s job is to make sure his or her children turn out “right.” Even though most of us don’t quite know what that standard means, we feel obliged to meet it.

But if it were true, it would mean God messed up.

In Genesis we read about a place called the Garden of Eden. It was a perfect environment, a perfect “home.”

In this perfect place there were two perfect people — God’s children, Adam and Eve. Wouldn’t that be nice to have perfect children?

And there was a perfect God — the perfect parent.

There was also a rule: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

You’ve probably heard the rest of the story.

Adam and Eve chose foolishly, defying what God had told them. Our human decay and ultimate death are stark reminders of that wrong choice — made by perfect people in a perfect environment with a perfect parent.

So what did God do wrong? If He “trained them in the way they should go,” why did Adam and Eve choose the other option? If Proverbs 22:6 is a guarantee of success for parents, why wasn’t it a guarantee for the Author of the Book?

Enter free will.

I’m talking about a God-given freedom to choose — part of being created in His image. Adam and Eve exercised it, and your teenagers exercise it today.

“But I want them to turn out right,” you say.

Yes. I agree with you. But that’s not your job.

“But I want the best for them, for their sakes.”

I won’t argue with that. But it’s still not your job to make sure they do.

If controlling your teenager isn’t your job, what is?

This article series will help answer that question.

We need to figure out what your real calling is — to help you stop doing what isn’t your assignment. A blurry job description makes it easy to wander into the overcontrolling side of the delicate balance between control and influence.

Your essential task depends on whether you’re a mom or a dad. If that sounds like stereotyping, bear with me. I’m not talking about aprons and rolling pins and dragging cavewomen by the hair. I’m talking about doing what you tend to do best, and what your teen tends to need most from you.

Taken from Losing Control & Liking It, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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About the Author

Timothy L. Sanford, MA, LPC

Tim Sanford is a licensed professional counselor who works in Focus on the Family’s counseling department and in his own private practice. He is also a pastor, a public speaker and the author of two books, Losing Control and Liking It and I Have to Be Perfect. Tim and his wife, Becky, have two grown daughters and reside in Colorado.

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