Do we need a licence for parenting?

A psychiatrist friend jokefully mentioned once, ‘If a licence is required for parenting, over 60% would have failed and you obstetricians would have a dreadful business!’

It was meant to be a joke on me but honestly if doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, electric technicians… you name the long list… are required to have a licence, it seems logical that parenting is also required a licence, doesn’t it?

I did a google on ‘licence for being a parent’ for fun and found 47,000,000 results! There are numerous discussions on this topic.

Obviously, it is a huge responsibility to raise a child. The responsibility is not just about food, accommodation, medical care and schooling, but also about the physical companion, the psychological support, education of values in life and the sharing of experience. Child neglect is obviously a kind of child abuse but over-protection and ‘tiger parenting’ can also be equally detrimental. Yet, each child is different and so are the parents. The time each couple can afford to spend with the child is different. There is no ‘best way’ of rearing a child.

For couple who plan to start a family. Congratulations because your kids are going to give you a unique experience of life! Yet, perhaps it is also time to consider the purpose of starting the family. Some patients told me that they desperately wanted to be mothers and yet the husbands were not really sure. Some others needed a boy or the in-laws will not be very happy or the husbands would be under pressure. Some revealed that they want one boy and one girl, no more or no less, or else their life would not have been perfect! There are all sorts of reasons and I do not want to pose my judgement here. I was told by one great Professor in the UK that the most important reason of raising a child is to pass a kind of legacy to mankind- hopefully our offsprings can develop skills to contribute to the society and to make a slightly better world, just like what our ancestors have done to us. I regard this the best said reason for raising a child. I have across two single mothers with no partners. Yet they are very brave to have children via in-vitro fertilization in the USA. Both told me exactly this thought for they wanted to ‘pass on something good’.

Even with good views to be parents, parenting is not straightforward though. Advice from friends, own parents and even educators are just advice. It may or may not work for you and your spouse. To be effective parents is a skill, something one can learn and improve as they go along. It is a bit like sports- some are born with better skills than the others but yet all will improve if they participate and learn. To be a parent is life-long, one should never stop learning. Even after the children have grown up and have started family, the parents would still need to explore their on-going roles!

I am a parent of 2. Honestly, if a licence test is required, I am not sure I can pass it!  However, I have never regretted the choice, the sleepless nights, the sacrifice of my own leisure time and the experience I can learn from my own mistakes as long as the kids are thriving and blossom in the right manner. I was educated in the Church when young and there was one biblical teaching which I would like to share:

‘Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it’ Proverbs 22:6

This article is contributed by Dr T.N. Danny Leung
Updated on 28.09.2020