The Reputation of Parents


Watching the family reactions to the victorious Olympians in Rio this week reminded me of a Bible verse I learned as a child in Sunday School. Matthew 7:16 reads “Ye shall know them by their fruits…”

I couldn’t help but admire the parents in the crowd whose backstories were filled with sacrifices, difficult decisions and other human drama overcome. It is clear that the preparation for achieving such greatness started well before an athlete takes his first lesson in physical sport. What they learn about the sport is preceded and constantly supplemented by what they learn about life, and those life lessons – more often than not – came from the people who raised them.

Gold medal gymnast Simone Biles’ story of how her grandparents who encouraged her to call them “mom and dad” after they rescued her from a dysfunctional home, affirmed again the life-changing power of adoption. The parents of her team mate Aly Raisman, didn’t hide their parental instincts – openly twisting, squirming, squealing – as if simultaneously doing Aly’s routine in their seats. It made me think of the instinct to identify with our kids in times of acute stress – of when it’s impossible to physically take their place, how we still can feel their pain.

Unlike so many influencers who use media to create a reputation for the masses, parents have to earn their reputation on the strength of their abilities alone.  And the results are evident for all the world to see, bringing fame or shame. In public, you can distance or disown your kids. But in private, their emotional health, and therefore, their ability to succeed in life, is a constant reminder, a permanent grade card, that won’t go away even if we are the only ones who know it.

We recognize the success of individuals in business school, in awards programs and in the media generally. Why not recognize the successful parenting of those individual’s parents as well? Let us praise the parents of Bill Gates. Let us recognize the parents of Marie Curie. Let us not forget the parents of Malala Yousafzai or Martin Luther King Jr.

What do you think? Can parenting change the world? How were you influenced by your parents?  Please comment below.