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A Happy Teenager is a Lame Parenting Goal

  • Kelly Givens What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2014 Apr 10

When "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua wrote "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" for the Wall Street Journal in 2011, a fireball of comments and opinion pieces on child-rearing followed. Ever since, the “Demanding Eastern vs Permissive Western” model of parenting has been regularly brought up for debate. Recently, Chua co-wrote a piece for the New York Times, where she again made note of Chinese vs. American parenting goals:

“Chinese immigrant parents frequently impos[e] exorbitant academic expectations on their children (“Why only a 99?”), making them feel that “family honor” depends on their success” Chua writes. “By contrast, white American parents have been found to be more focused on building children’s social skills and self-esteem.”

The critical question behind all it all: what should be our primary goal in parenting? Is it raising confident children? Successful children? Happy children? Fortunately, our Christian faith gives us a great framework to answer this question.

According to Mark Oestreicher, neither confidence nor success nor happiness should be the goal of Christian parenting. In his recent blog post, "A Happy Teenager is a Lame Goal," Oestreicher says that the “better” parenting goal is raising independent children.

“I believe the goal of parenting a teenager is independence. In other words, I’m more interested in raising adults than ‘raising kids,’” he writes. “Sure, we’re not ultimately made for independence; God made us in his own image, wired for interdependence. But the dependence children have on their parents needs to shift during and after the teen years, with young adults both moving into interdependence with other people and their parents.”

If you are a Christian parent, you are raising your children with the hope that they will one day be your brothers and sisters in Christ (how weird is that to think about!). That our children would know God, trust in Him and live for His glory should be the driving purpose in our parenting, not their success or happiness.

Crosswalk contributor Elizabeth Klein touches on this idea in her piece, "Where Will Your Children be in 10 Years?" She writes, “I think sometimes, we want to guarantee a harm-free future for our children whom we love so much. We want joy. We want fulfillment. We want good choices. We want good spouses. We want good health. We want no accidents, no pain, no sin or evil to befall them. And yet, we have no control over this. Not even one ounce.”

Ultimately, our children are in God’s hands. But we can be sure that we are doing good for our children by helping them, while they are still at home, to learn not to cling to us or to what the world can offer, but to Jesus.

What do you think is the goal of parenting? Share your thoughts below!

Kelly Givens is the editor of