Roles of a Parent in a Child's Life Story

Parents are full of love and fear, insecurity and hope. When it comes to our kids, we feel excited, vulnerable, optimistic and terrified. But when we lack confidence in our role and abilities as a parent, we give away pieces of our life story to others—

—to teachers, doctors, pastors, relatives, television. . . it’s time to realize you are more than someone who keeps food on the table and a roof over their head. You have absolutely essential roles to play in your child’s life story.

Be generous. Be bold. Be all the things only a Parent can be.

Step up.

You are a Coach.   

Coaches create time for their athletes to learn new skills and practice existing ones. They evaluate progress and offer feedback to the team. They help young people locate and work on their weaknesses, and put them in places where they must exercise their strengths. They encourage and inspire when things get difficult and their students are feeling weary. They encourage teamwork and give kids opportunities to collaborate with others to meet their goals.  

That’s you, Dear Parent. In all the ways that coaches inspire their team members, pushing them to succeed, giving them guidance—that’s how you help your kids challenge themselves so they can fulfill their potential. You can’t jump in and play the game for them any more than a coach could. You stand on the side, sometimes shouting directions, but often just cheering them on. You comfort them when they fail, but you expect them to get back out there. So what if you sit in the locker room and cry it out later. They don’t need to see that. They need to know you are strong, you will fight for their cause, and be their biggest cheerleader.

“I swore things would be different with my kids. That’s my dream. Strong, happy, confident kids.” Steve Martin as Gil Buckman in the movie  Parenthood.

“I swore things would be different with my kids. That’s my dream. Strong, happy, confident kids.” Steve Martin as Gil Buckman in the movie Parenthood.

You are a Tutor.   

A tutor provides an individualized learning environment so the education experience is personalized for the student. They are there to assist when the student asks for help, but they do not step in and take over. They teach the student to navigate through ideas and information without hindering their creativity. Tutors do not spend much time lecturing, but instead ask open-ended and leading questions to spark inquiry and exploration. Tutors are like academic training wheels, and they can give needed balance and stability so students grow in skill and confidence.  

Whether your child is in a public school or is homeschooled, parents are a child’s first and most influential tutor. Before they are school age, you’ve taught them everything from using a spoon to riding a bike. They’ve learned to read words, count objects, and know colors and shapes. They’ve asked you why the sky is blue, why birds eat worms, where babies come from, and you’ve answered them or found the answer with them. When they draw a picture, make a mud pie, or build a castle with Legos, they bring it to you for your approval.

Don’t give away this role to someone else, regardless of their professional credentials. You are still a teacher and an inspiration to your kids. They will continue to learn from you and with you, even in their teen years. You can help them own their education, develop perseverance, and safeguard their freedom to be creative individuals. 

Famous movie mentors: Yoda and his student Luke Skywalker from  Star Wars

Famous movie mentors: Yoda and his student Luke Skywalker from Star Wars

You are a Mentor.  

Mentors are all about The Big Picture. Mentoring could be described as a combination of Coach and Tutor, but with an emphasis on nurturing and establishing an emotional connected to their charge.

A Mentor is not overly focused on academics, but on how information can be applied in the real world. Mentors listen carefully to their students, discussing the child's goals and ambitions, and helping them further develop their skills and career strategy. They have a meaningful relationship with the student built on respect, communication, and trust, and because of this can provide needed accountability.  Mentors nurture the whole student, acting as a role model of good character, expecting their child to exhibit honesty, courage, perseverance, kindness, and a work ethic.   

Famous movie mentors: Ralph Macchio as Daniel and Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in  The Karate Kid  (1984)

Famous movie mentors: Ralph Macchio as Daniel and Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid (1984)

What could be more descriptive of the role of a parent? You are training, teaching, and advising, your child every day in a hundred different ways, including showing them a pattern of good character, strength, compassion, and self control.

It’s not easy, but you’ve got it in you. Suck it up, buttercup.

You are a Coordinator.  

Coordinators are responsible for the daily management and operations at their place of work. They keep everyone organized and provide constant support. They are flexible, and ready to fulfill needs as they arise. They track inventory and keep necessary supplies in stock. They often prepare and supervise budgets, and plan the allocation of funds.

Taking care of kids also means taking care of a home. Not just running the vacuum cleaner or keeping the laundry caught up, but a hundred tasks must be done on a regular basis to provide shelter, food, clothing, safety, healthcare, and education.

Parents must sift through the overwhelming number of options available to them at any given time, and decide what is best for the family as a whole and the child in particular. Parents may have to get creative when there isn't an easy answer, and they try to think ahead, troubleshooting situations to prevent stress or harm. Parents are constantly creating and maintaining schedules to keep everyone happy and healthy. They try to provide a rich educational experience at home and at school with whatever resources are at their disposal.

None of this is to say you can’t ask for help when you need it. Of course you should talk to professionals who can offer assistance in caring for and teaching children. But you are gifted in your own way, you are the expert on your own kids, and you have been given a lead role in your child’s life story. You are so much more important to them than you may realize.

So be generous, be bold, and be all the things only a Parent can be.

What do you think about what it means to be a parent?
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For more inspiration: stories of parents, coaches, mentors, and tutors who changed the lives of young people: