Do parents 'own' their children?

We may speak in terms that sound like ownership; 'my child', 'our kids', but these words aren't meant to communicate that children are possessions or commodities. Instead, we are acknowledging a responsibility and labor of love that goes far beyond ideas like private property.

We take for granted that the most basic necessities of life should be provided by parents:

  • food
  • clothing
  • shelter
  • safety

It is important that children are in a healthy, secure environment. They need adequate rest, a balanced diet, and frequent exercise. But at this point I could still be talking about the care we show the family pooch.

Parenting goes far deeper than meeting physical needs. A parent should also provide their child with a quality education that begins with the foundational skills of reading, writing, speaking, and basic math, and goes on from there.

However, education is not just imparting facts; it is about helping our young people learn how to view the world and their place in it. They must develop executive skills, healthy coping mechanisms, and a moral compass. Parents are vital to this process.

And it doesn't stop there. For our children to become adults of intelligence and strong character, they must be taught virtues such as honesty, patience, compassion, generosity, and courage. How do parents impart these traits? The most effective way is by modeling those ideals and expecting our children to follow our example. Encourage them to look up to people of good character, who exhibit sound judgement, and not simply admire someone for their wealth or how often their face is on the cover of magazines.

  • Find service projects you can do together as a family.
  • Don't be guilty of equivocation, insincerity, and duplicity.
  • Discuss current events.
  • Watch TV and read books together so you can explore themes, and point out when a character is being disingenuous, manipulative, or conscientious and courageous.
  • Supply opportunities and challenges that inspire creativity and a spirit of giving.
  • Encourage them to express their individuality and tap into their potential.
  • Practice sharing and defending your deeply held views without being offensive and arrogant.

Young people need to learn to establish appropriate boundaries in their relationships. Just as I've already put forth that parents do not 'own' their children, neither does a school, a church, a close friend, or the state. Your children need to know when and how to walk away from an unhealthy or abusive relationship. This is also something we can model for them. We can show them how to be courteous and respectful those who believe and live differently than we do, but also how to detach when someone crosses lines of proper respect and personal space. 

This is one of the most difficult lessons for us as parents to impart, because few of us learned how to do this when we were children, and some have yet to figure this one out. But the bottom line is: When teachers, pastors, other parents, relatives, and friends consistently act in ways that are discourteous and disrespectful, we must break these ties.

Is this easy? NO. Is it sometimes ugly and painful? YES. Should we first attempt a reasonable period of discussion and try to reach some level of understanding? OF COURSE. Is compromise ever an option? SOMETIMES. At the heart of this is the fact that if we want our kids to have the ability to walk away from someone who is manipulative and abusive, we are obligated to show them by example that it can and must be done, and to begin the process at the first signs of a dysfunctional relationship.

At every stage of a child's life, we are also forming their ability to make good decisions. When they are very little, we make most of their decisions for them. They do not understand the physical, moral, and spiritual dangers of some of their actions. In essence, our children borrow our frontal lobe until they develop their own. But as they are more and more able to communicate and reason, we need to allow them to make mistakes and reap the consequences. We cannot protect them from every pain, nor should we try. We should actually take steps to prepare them for the pain they will likely experience at some point in their lives.

Dandelion Wine
By Ray Bradbury

That doesn't sound a particularly heartwarming aspect of parenting. As a matter of fact, it sounds counter-intuitive. However, there is a very simple and safe way to do this is - by exploring thoughtful and deeply meaningful literature.

Read small sections of the Bible to them every day, preferably those that tell stories. When you go to the library, don't shy away from Black Beauty,  Where the Red Fern GrowsThe Diary of Anne FrankBridge to Terabithia, The Story of My Life by Hellen Keller. As they mature, move on to novels like Lord of the Flies, Dandelion Wine, and anything by Dickens. Put a reasonable limit on fluff and nonsense.

Why books? Because stories help children develop empathy, a crucial development for mental health.

We as parents provide for our children every day, and yet, do we ever at any point 'own' them? Never. The only One who can claim ownership of any of us is our Creator. We hope to teach our children to not only acknowledge God as their Creator, but as their Savior.

I do not expect others to apologize to me for adhering to another belief system, and as a Christian, I do not owe anyone an apology for guiding our children in our firmly held Biblical beliefs. While I and my husband do not 'own' our children, we are responsible for them. We do not hold schools, churches, pastors, grandparents, government, or neighbors accountable for the health and well-being of our children. We may listen to and value the counsel of other, but their recommendations and advice only goes so far.

As parents, we understand that no one else is 'footing the bill', and no one else is going to be there to pick our kids up when they fall or gather the pieces when they do. We take our role in our children's lives very seriously, and feel grateful for the privilege. 

Psalm 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.