There are two kinds of people you encounter: people who give life and people who drain life out of you. You have dinner with a friend and leave feeling refreshed and energized. Conversely, you can spend 10 minutes with someone who drains you and walk away feeling like you need a mini-vacation to recover. I think you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been asking myself: What is it that makes the difference? I think life-giving people have one thing in common: they have external sources that give them life, and conversely they have something to give when you get in a room with them.

What about the people who drain the life out of you? I’m not an expert, but here’s my guess: they don’t have consistent external sources of life. They have little to give and in fact spend much of their time trying to take. And that’s exhausting.

So, here’s the question: What if this pattern impacts our parenting? I have seen the lives of parents get so interwoven with the ups and downs of their kids that I sometimes wonder whether we approach our kids from a life-giving perspective or whether we end up trying to steal life from them?

I’ve seen:

Dads so enmeshed in the success of their sons at sports that you would think dad’s life will collapse if his son doesn’t make the big leagues.

Moms invest their identity in the success of their children—an A in school is an A for mom, and D in school is a D for mom.

Parents give up everything that used to give them life, and invest almost 100 percent of their energy and time in their children.

When we look to our children to be the source that gives us life, I wonder if we end up stealing life from them. In the same way friends can drain us when it seems their happiness is tied up in our happiness, parents whose sense of well-being is over-invested in the rise and fall of their children can end up draining life from the generation to whom we should be bringing life.

This isn’t saying we shouldn’t care about our kids. Parenting is emotional. But maybe our role is as much to bring life into their life than it is to find our life in them.

What do you think? Have you seen this? Do you see it in yourself? What do you see as the downside or upside to this?