Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast. This will be given Nov. 13, 2016.
Parenting has been called the most difficult job in the world. Most will attest that it sometimes seems easier to succeed in the workplace, move up the corporate ladder, and enjoy the praise of work associates and friends than to feel that you’re doing a good job as a parent. And with parenting, unlike most professions, the work is never done. Indeed, good parents never retire.
On the other hand, it’s also true that successful parenting sometimes requires knowing when to stop. And this can be the hardest part.
Motivated by sincere love for our children, we rightly desire to do everything we can to help them, to keep them from facing disappointment or failure. But how much help is too much? When do we take the training wheels off the bicycle? Should we help pay college expenses? How long should we let our grown children live at home?
Of course, there is not one answer for every family and every situation. But it may help to remember that the task of a parent is to raise a self-reliant, independent individual who knows how to solve problems. And sometimes that can happen only when our children struggle just a little.
“By giving too much help, we postpone the acquisition of effective behavior and perpetuate the need for help,” wrote well-known American psychologist B. F. Skinner. “One has most effectively helped others,” he explained, “when one can stop helping them altogether” (see "Financial Planning: The Art of Helping" by Paul Conrad, BYU Parent Newsletter, Oct. 1, 2015).
In the end, this may be the simplest definition of parenting: helping our children reach the point where they no longer need our help. But wherever that point is — and it tends to be different for each child — our children will always be our children.
As our relationships evolve over time, and instruction to a youth is replaced with advice to an adult, one thing that never needs to change is how much we love our children. One can never be too generous in giving love.
Yes, parenting is the hardest, most demanding work we ever do, but the endless love between parents and children can bring some of life’s richest joys and deepest satisfactions, and that makes parenting the best job in the world.
Tuning in ...
The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), mormontabernaclechoir.org and youtube.com/mormontabchoir. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. MST on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.