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The Three Jobs of Parents: Love, Protect, and Teach

parenting Oct 28, 2022
woman and man reading to child

By Sarah Owens, LPC

One day, in a therapy session with a mom and a rather precocious 8 year old, we were discussing the six jobs of children. The child, practically a genius, had the jobs memorized before the end of the session. Mom was duly impressed that this child could actually comply with this task and said, “That is so great that he will be working on these jobs. What are the jobs that parents do?” Have you ever had one of those moments when it takes everything you have to not laugh out loud? Yeah. “What do you mean what jobs do parents do,” I’m thinking in my head! Parents do ALL the jobs ALL the time, right? But of course I did not laugh. I told mom there wasn’t an “official” list of jobs for parents, but I would think about it and get back to her.

So, think about it I did. I realized that I knew that parents do all the jobs all the time, but children with attachment disorder do not know this. They don’t believe that parents do anything! They believe they have to do it all! (Anyone familiar with control issues?) I decided it would be a good idea to break down the things that parents do into jobs that these kids can learn. Children with RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, NEED to learn that parents do have jobs and are absolutely doing them ALL the time. So I thought about all the awesome things that parents do and decided that they fit nicely into the following jobs:

  1. Parents love their children.
  2. Parents keep their children safe.
  3. Parents teach their children about life.

The third job, teaching children about life, covers all of the things the child probably would not learn at school such as brushing teeth, tying shoes, table manners, riding a bike, etc. This gets parents off the hook for algebra (you’re welcome)!

Awesome parents are doing these jobs all the time! Children with attachment disorder do not trust their parents to do these jobs. This is apparent because they do not do things the adults’ way. They do things their way. For example, when a mom tells a healthy child not to touch the hot stove, the child listens, trusts that mom is doing her job of “keeping them safe”, and then does it the adult’s way and doesn’t touch the stove. The child with attachment disorder, on the other hand, does not trust that mom is doing her job of “keeping them safe”, so they have to do their own way which is to touch the hot stove and get burned.

Once they work on their life and learn to do things the adults’ way, they will grow more trust and love in their hearts and will trust the parents to do their 3 jobs!


Six Jobs of Children:

  • Be respectful
  • Be responsible
  • Be fun to be around
  • Do chores fast and snappy
  • Do chores right the first time
  • Do chores the adults’ way


Sarah Owen has been a Licensed Professional Counselor since 1997 and is licensed in Colorado, Missouri, and Kansas. She completed the SAVY Attachment Therapist Training in 2006-2007. She has been in private practice since 1999 and moved that practice to Kansas City, MO in 2008. She can be reached at [email protected].


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