Parenting is one of the most important roles a person can fulfill in their lifetime so it may seem absurd to claim that there are no bad parents. Sure, there are some parents who are more prepared for the rigors of parenting, parents who have the means to provide a good life and the diligence needed to ensure their child has a proper moral upbringing. As long as a parent takes the job of parenting with the utmost seriousness and humility it doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money they have.
If you look up the meaning of the word parent, Webster’s gives the definition as: “One that begets or brings forth offspring”. If you google the term “bad parent” the definition isn’t as clear. If you watch or read the news, there are some clear and obvious instances of what many of us would define as bad parents. However, when I interviewed Parent Educator Beth Gausman for the documentary film License to Parent she said she doesn’t like the term bad parent. She said, ”First of all, I would encourage you not to label parents as bad. Parents aren’t bad. Most parents I’ve met are doing the best they can. It’s strategies that parents are lacking. It’s knowledge. It’s understanding of child development.”
Even if we never agree on whether we should define certain parents as bad, maybe the answer lies in the direction of helping parents before they can be negatively defined for how they do their job as a parent. If there was a better road map for parents to follow that helped them be better at their job it might make it easier to actually do the job. I believe a parent is someone who provides for their child, who nurtures and looks after them. It is not simply someone who has a child. Just bringing a child into this world does not a parent make. Parenting is about committing to provide for your child, to put them above all else, until they can fend for themselves.
It can be easy to underestimate the difficulties and importance of parenting, after all any couple capable of having or adopting children is able to “apply” for the job of “parent”. The bar actually seems to be set higher for parents who want to adopt a child since they have to go through an interview process. And if they fail the interview, they aren’t getting a child. The parents who choose to procreate do not have to meet any standard to get the job as “parent”. They get the job by just showing up. And, they only lose the job of “parent” if they repeatedly prove themselves incapable, and by the time the authorities intervene and remove a child from an unhealthy home, the damage has often already been done.
We need to find a way to reach and encourage all new parents to approach parenting as a lifelong commitment they are making and make the tools readily available to help them do that job well. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize how others are doing their job. And when we define something as “bad” we are throwing that label on without any understanding of how it got that way or how it might have been prevented. Education and emotional support for parents to help them be successful would be far more productive, and would potentially save countless numbers of children from becoming a story because they became victims of parents who didn’t do their job.
Our award winning documentary film License to Parent is now available for viewing right here on Films For Action. We hope you’ll visit our website to learn about upcoming projects from Move the World Films.