“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….” You most likely have heard these words before. They are found in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.
I remember as a kid that I was confused with the word “unalienable.” I thought that meant that these rights were for humans and not martians. Of course, now I know that’s ridiculous. Martians are totally included. (I’m kidding, I don’t believe in Martians.)
The phrase “unalienable rights” means that, just by nature of being born, we have specific rights that to infringe upon would go against the very essence of creation.
In today’s hyper-self-rights world, there can be a threat that creeps into our lives that we never see there. While this threat impacts every aspect of our lives, I want to narrow the focus of this conversation to parenting.
Parenting does not come with unalienable rights. It does, however, have unalienable responsibilities. We have two children, and I have no right to a relationship with them just because I’m their dad. In fact, I know far too many kids that have zero relationships with one or both of their birth parents. I bet you know kids and adults that have zero relationships with one or both of their parents. So, the future with your child has no guarantee of a relationship; you don’t have that as a right.
Rights vs. Responsibilities
Wouldn’t our kids be better off if we embraced our unalienable responsibilities? Because, like it or not, someone will step into those responsibilities.
For example, I’m hopeful my daughter will get married one day. As I write this, she’s five-and-a-half….so we have some time. But, just because I’m her dad, I don’t have the right to walk her down the aisle. I do have the responsibility, however, to model for her and her brother a healthy marriage. I don’t have the right to choose her husband (I’ve asked my attorney, however, to look for a way—he says there isn’t one.)
I don’t have the right to have influence in her life decisions when she is older. But I do have the responsibility to guide her in making decisions now. And, if I do so with love, I will earn the privilege to have influence in her life decisions later. There will be people speaking into her life in regards to the man she chooses as a husband. If I don’t earn the right to have influence someone else will….and the chances of them loving her as much as I do is very unlikely.
I don’t have the right to dictate a career path for my son. I do have the responsibility to model and guide him in developing a strong work ethic. If I forgo my responsibility, someone else will teach him his work ethic….and that could be from someone who thinks people are entitled to a paycheck just for showing up.
I don’t have the right to have a relationship with my future grandchildren. I do however have the responsibility to raise my kids to be great parents. And, if I do so by parenting with our relationship in mind, I’ll create the ability to have a relationship with my grandkids in the future.
As a pastor-dad, I don’t have the right to baptize my children; I do have the responsibility, however, to raise them to love God more than they love me.
If we want to have a meaningful relationship with our children when they are adults, we must parent today with that future relationship at the heart of our decisions.
I’m not advocating that parents should skip the first four stages of parenting (connecting, training, discipline, and coaching) and go right to the fifth stage of friendship. My three-year-old son and I are in the stage of discipline. I discipline him, so he learns cause and effect now. That way, when he’s older, and I say, “Son, when someone chooses that thing you are thinking about, this is what happens to them,” he will trust me. Not because I have the right to his trust, but because I fulfilled my responsibility; to connect with him, to discipline him, to train him, to coach him, and then finally I’ll have the responsibility (and the opportunity) to be his father, his friend, and his brother in Christ.
Question: What are you doing in your parenting today that will lead to a meaningful relationship with your kids in the future? You can leave a comment by clicking here.