What's Your Parenting Stage?
Our children go through specific developmental stages as they grow. Most of the time, we parents simply hang on. But did you know that we parents have developmental parenting stages as well? If our stage is not lined up with the one our child is in, there might be trouble, if not simply a misconnect.
When your child can't to for himself, and is totally dependent on you for everything, ages birth to five, then we have to do for him. This is Hands On Parenting. Telling your child to tie their shoes before they can or know how is setting them up to fail and be frustrated. "Here, let me do that for you."
From ages five to twelve, children are exploring, understanding their world, and trying to make sense of everything. As they learn new things, shift to Directed Parenting. Lots of teachable moments in this stage. If you're lucky, they will even ask you for help. "Can I help? Let's try together."
From ages thirteen to eighteen, teens know everything and (usually) make lots of mistakes and have lots of regrets. Offer him Advice-Based Parenting. You have the wisdom of having been there/done that. Your gift to your teen is to share that wisdom with them in an accepting, non-condemning, helpful way. "You know, back in the Stone Ages when I was your age, something like that happened to me. Wanna hear about it?"
As your child/teen now becomes a young adult, after age eighteen, treat him like one. With respect, collaboration, and acceptance, move to Consultative Parenting. His choices, his decisions, but you can offer perspective, a sounding board, and ideas. "I have some thoughts about what you are saying. Can I bend your ear?"
As child/parenting ages and stages line up, you continue to be a powerful, helping influence in your child's life.
Yes. That's an absolute. Much as I loathe absolutes, this one sticks. Why? Because testing the limits is a developmental imperative. It's part of creating an individual identity. Does it always go well for the child? Not so much. Especially with youngsters, children test the limit to be sure that it's there. Without the capacity for abstract thinking, which the brain doesn't develop until around age 12, children are left with concrete yes/no, do/don't. And this is comforting to youngsters. Testing the limits is preferable to being in charge. When there are no, or porous limits for children, the ambiguity leaves them feeling very anxious and fearful. They don't know how to be in charge, so it's scary and worrying. Because children are concrete thinkers, the best way to give your child assurance that you are in charge is to make it concrete. Plan ahead. Be a list maker. Have family meetings to develop chore lists and house rules. Kids can participate in these events, as they are growth-enhancing, but they are not in charge. As their lives are structured, consistent, and secure, their fears and worries diminish. A firm and concrete foundation for the family helps kids have more fun playing and more opportunities to grow into their individuality with confidence.