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What Are Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

Parenting can be complicated, so many people wonder what parental rights and responsibilities are. Learn more and get specific examples on HealthyPlace.

Parental rights and responsibilities are part of mothers’ and fathers’ role as their children’s caretakers. Parenting is one of the most important, wonderful, and difficult jobs you could have. You’re not without support and backing, from family, friends and other parenting resources. As a parent, you have rights and responsibilities to guide you and help you confidently raise your children the way you believe they should be raised.

Parental rights and responsibilities come from multiple sources, all valid and possessing authority in the child-raising arena. Sources such as these provide official input into what parents do to care for their kids:

  • Psychological sources provide guidelines on child development, mental health, and wellbeing.
  • Medical sources guide parents in pursuing adequate (at minimum) healthcare and wellness for their kids.
  • Scientific sources, such as neurology, study the brain and how it matures and develops.
  • Legal sources help parents know and understand the rights they have in raising their kids.
  • Educational sources provide recommendations regarding kids’ schooling as they grow.

Most of these fields have professional organizations who create official recommendations for parental rights and responsibilities. Another important authority in delineating rights and responsibilities is parents themselves. Moms and dads know what’s best for their own children and their own family values. Learning about parental rights and responsibilities helps you shape your interactions with your children, and drawing on your own values, beliefs, and experiences will help you express your rights and fulfill your responsibilities as parents. Here’s a look at recommendations for parental responsibilities and rights.

What are Some Parenting Responsibilities?

The overarching responsibilities parents have is to raise children who are physically and mentally healthy, well-adjusted, successfully functioning adults. Specific parenting responsibilities help this positive development happen. These responsibilities include (in no particular order):

  • Providing care and guidance
  • Giving unconditional love
  • Encouraging kids
  • Teaching
  • Disciplining
  • Creating a safe, stable home environment
  • Spending quality time with your kids daily
  • Establishing and maintaining routines (mealtime, bedtime, bath time, etc.)
  • Keeping kids healthy
  • Ensuring regular dental visits (usually every six months)
  • Taking kids for yearly eye exams
  • Establishing proper sleep habits and routines
  • Creating time for active, outdoor play
  • Enrolling kids in school and making sure they receive a quality education
  • Being involved in their children’s education
  • Creating a dedicated, clutter-free space for homework
  • Creating rules and enforcing them with logical consequences
  • Setting limits and following through with them
  • Interacting with kids in a way that helps them become independent
  • Being present in children’s lives (actively listen, riding with them through the ups and downs of life)
  • Doing your best every day where “best” varies from day to day, and “best” does not mean perfect ("‘Good Enough Parenting’ Has Its Time and Place")

Parenting carries with it many responsibilities; however, some things are not part of parental responsibilities. Among them:

  • Trying to make your kids happy all the time
  • Receiving approval from family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers in the grocery store before making parenting choices
  • Doing everything for your kids
  • Being perfect; TV shows often portray perfect, idealistic parents and families (think Full House) but these shows are fiction and tv parents have a script

Parental responsibilities become easier to fulfill when you remember that with responsibilities come parental rights.

Parenting Rights to Help Parents Raise Their Kids

Parents have rights. These rights, though, exist not for the parents themselves but for the actions they need to take to raise their children. Parenting rights allow parents to fulfill their responsibilities in the way they see fit for their own family and personal values.

These rights are necessary because kids aren’t just miniature adults. They’re kids, which means that their neurological development isn’t complete until someone is between the ages of 23 and 25. Specifically, the frontal lobe takes until the twenties to mature, and this part of the brain is responsible for functions like assessing risks, strategizing, judgement, inhibition, reasoning, planning, and evaluating consequences. Whether they admit it or not, kids need the support, guidance, and input of their parent. The below rights allow parents to do their job.

Parental rights to the upbringing of children:

  • Choose and direct spiritual or religious activity and beliefs
  • Select schools and methods to educate kids in a way that aligns with parental goals
  • Teach kids moral and cultural values
  • Making certain decisions on behalf of children because children aren’t developmentally able to make fully informed, thought-out decisions
  • Choose how they discipline their kids (but parents never have the right to abuse their children)
  • Medical decision-making

Parenting rights and responsibilities complement each other. Rights exist to help parents fulfill their responsibilities. For example, one parenting responsibility is to support, nurture, and guide child development. The right to direct their own children’s upbringing and make suitable choices allows parents to meet this responsibility.

Knowing your parental rights and parental responsibilities will help you feel confident in creating your parenting plan and following through with it.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, June 26). What Are Parental Rights and Responsibilities?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parenting-skills-strategies/what-are-parental-rights-and-responsibilities

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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