21st Century Parenting #6

A number of years ago I read a book by Max Dupree titled Leadership Jazz. It used the metaphor of jazz music to describe the relationship of managers, employers, and employees in the workplace. I thought I would “lift” his inspired idea for a few thoughts about “parenting jazz.” Many parents (especially the new ones) want to know, “How does this work?” In other words, what are the “hard, fast rules” that govern parenting in an era when morals and values are shifting like sand? The reality is there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer to that. The parenting relationship is like the relationship between jazz musicians on a stage.

First, a jazz quartet or quintet starts at a predetermined point and in a pre-set key and time signature but they really can’t be sure where the others are going to go with the song. At a certain point in jazz, the musicians organically decide to end the song.

Second, a jazz musician has a lot of freedom in their particular part which is why jazz appeals to so many musicians. It’s not pre-set. They can stretch, bring their strengths to bear on the music and be celebrated for their contribution even though another may be the lead player.

Third, no two jazz renditions of a song are exactly the same. The combination of different interpretations of how notes begin and end and the skill set of the player changes the outcome of the song every time it’s played in jazz.

Now, let’s change the scene a moment.


Parents, like jazz players, start at a predetermined point as well. It’s called “childbirth.” While a number of things about an infant are pre-set and pre-determined, there are unknowns in rearing children that cannot be determined. Flexibility with the other parent, being willing to “yield the stage” in areas where another excels without being resentful or jealous is tremendously important. And at a certain point, the parenting journey comes to an end or rather to a transition to another season.

And like jazz music, remember that no two renditions of a song are the same. The lessons you learned parenting your first child may have nothing to do with how you parent your next one! Children are different. Each parent is different. The outcome of the parent/child relationship varies by degrees; some you notice and some are far more subtle. But no two experiences are the same.

Just like jazz. Just play… do your best… shine where you can… support where you need to… be flexible… and realize the parenting relationship is the second oldest relationship on the planet and one of the most organic of all. Every part needs to be heard and played.

And then as you bring something brand new into existence on earth rejoice in the music you hear!

FOR MEMORIZATION: Children are a gift of the Lord…. Psalm 127:3

FOR REFLECTION: Where does your parenting approach need more flexibility and improvisation? While some things are “written in stone” for us in God’s timeless and infallible Word, others must be “spiritually discerned” as we walk together with Christ. If you had to name it, what kind of music does your parenting produce?