One of the primary roles of parents is to be a leader of their children. Dedicated, motivated parents are usually one of two kinds of leaders; ambitious leaders or led leaders. While ambition seems like a powerful quality in a leader, it’s flawed because ambition is self-serving. On the other hand, a leader who is a good follower of truth, principles, and a higher moral authority, even if it is inconvenient to themselves or lacks showiness is a powerful influence for good in the lives of their children. In this article, I’ll refer to this second type of leader as a led leader.

This new global quarantine has turned every home into a homeschool and has removed the possibility for most activities that parents are accustomed to using to keep their children busy. Consequently, parents are stepping up to the parenting and education plate like never before. Sure, some parents feel overwhelmed. If that’s you, don’t feel bad about that. Liberation from that feeling is around the corner. As you strengthen your foundational purpose as a parent, your days will take on a different view.

What is the purpose and role of parent? Make a list for yourself. Not the kind of list we hear on Mother’s Day about how mothers are really domestic engineers, hair dressers, and taxi services. Those lists are just to do lists or responsibilities; not roles. What is a mother or father, really? In no way can we exhaust the role descriptions of parents here, but it does help to get a quick view of the deeper meaning of each of these vital leaders.

Mother is the heart and hearth-stone of her family. She holds the heart strings in her hand and leads her children to love goodness and truth with those strings. Mother can easily corrupt or enlighten her children depending on what she does with those heart strings or on who or what she allows to take control of those heart strings. Mother is a leader. Mother is also a teacher and nurturer. This means that mother’s way to her child’s heart is making sure the child’s physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs are met and the truth is taught. Nowhere does the role of mother require knowledge of the Ming Dynasty or computer programing. Mother’s focus is on deeper things, like the character, moral, and social development of her family and children. These things are the base and fruits of a good education. So, mothers, don’t stress about math. For now, just focus on making home happy and helping the children develop good moral character.

Father protects, provides, and presides in his home. What does this mean? Just like children learn from their teacher mother, they also learn from their teacher father. Fathers teach different lessons, and wisely keep those lessons in harmony with mother’s lessons to maintain unity of teaching. Mother and father also lead each other to maintain unity, but this is a lesson for another day. Father protects his children by being physically, morally and spiritually strong himself (emphasis on morally and spiritually). The moral and spiritual strength will do more to protect the child than the physical strength ever will over the long run. When it comes to providing and presiding, father really focuses mostly on his wife. He knows that if he unifies, loves, and supports mother in her role as nurturer, she will guide the hearts in the right direction; including toward him.

Please notice that I have not mentioned anywhere in these role descriptions that a person is responsible for making dinner or taking out the trash. Those are silly responsibilities that can be done by anyone. Roles are deeper than chores; they define the purpose and power of the person. Children also have roles which could be discussed at length.

Ambition Isn’t Enough

Some parents carry the knowledge of their role as a burden, while others carry it as a source of freedom, direction, and the power of influence.

Ambition means, “Desirous of power, honor, office, superiority, or excellence; aspiring; eager for fame; showy; adapted to command notice or praise.” (Webster’s 1828 dictionary) Ambitious parents work very hard to raise their children in a way that will make them and their children seem elite or superior to others. They are conscious of the trends and market their family in a way that will raise them to the top of the social, academic, or sporting ladder. Ambitious parents definitely teach their children to work for what they want and show them the finer things in life, but ambition isn’t enough.

Ambition is self-serving. It looks for the praise and glory of society and doesn’t factor in the heart. Both parents are meant to support heart development, and this ambitious method of growth only supports physical and mental development. The only type of parent leadership that reaches heart strings and moral strength is led leadership.

Led leaders are guided by the hand and heart toward the truths they need. After the led leader is drawn toward the truth, they feel a sense of duty to share it. A truth is only good if shared. The led leader introduces the truth to those they lead by going first. They follow the truth, then teach their followers how to adhere to the same truth.

It’s important that a led leader parent knows to what source they must turn to for truth and guidance. Led leaders are historically faithful people who repeatedly work to align their own lives with God’s commands and plans for them, no matter the inconvenience. Led leaders aren’t concerned with what is easiest, but what is most valuable. It is the ambitious leader who focuses on getting the greatest results for the least amount of her own work.

Once a young man asked me, “Nicholeen, you do so many things and have such a great impact on society. How can I succeed like you? Is it just ambition?”

“No,” I said. “It’s duty.”

This young man didn’t understand. He quizzically looked at me like I didn’t make sense. He really wanted to know my secret. But, even after I explained that I just live each day according to what I feel led to do and continually put the first and most important priorities first in my life and let God do the rest, he still looked blank. He didn’t see how obedience was a formula for becoming a leader. Well, it is.

Ambitious people/parents want a check list or a special trick to get the results they want quickly. Led leaders work with the learning process and God’s timing. Led parents toil away their days not knowing for sure that the child will become exactly who they want them to become until the day arrives. They trust in the goodness in the heart of the child and family. They trust in the learning process. They bond with the child and lead with heart. They present goodness and truth and trust in the strength of them. And maybe most importantly, led leaders pass their leadership on. They teach their children the skills they need to lead the next generation and themselves. And the most important lesson of all is how to be a good follower of truth.

While we’re all trapped at home with our children right now, let’s not think of what we don’t get or what they don’t get to do. Ambition focuses on what we get or don’t get. Let’s focus instead on who we are. Families are the greatest blessings and strengths to our children and society. Let’s put our focus there and call all this time together a great blessing that has the power to bring balance and truth to society.

For more learning about roles, read “Roles: The Secret to Family Business and Social Success.”

For tactical help with your new heart-school, watch this free seminar “The Heart of Homeschool.”