Much like there are stages of development for children, there are stages of parenting. While your path may look slightly different (as did mine), here is a path laid out by Tim Elmore. Where are you on the parenting path?
Ages and stages
Inspection comes first as you bring your bundle of joy home.
You inspect every little thing and make sure your little one is growing and developing normally. This is normal and natural. But it can lead to unhealthy comparisons. I am reminded of the poem Desiderata.
“If you compare yourself with others you will become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
As your child grows the second stage of correction comes. Obviously children need to be taught, and as they learn there will need to be corrections. But too much correcting can make children feel inadequate.
And then comes protecting. When kids first leave the nest and enter into school we want to protect them from every possible harm. As in everything we do as parents, the intention is good. However, kids NEED to learn how to protect themselves.
For some, a period of neglect can come next, when you find yourself living with a child you hardly recognize, and you can be timid about what to say or do. This isn’t the time to back away, but rather assure them that we are there for them.
Adolescence can bring with it a parenting stage of suspicion. Instead, do your best to create safe ways to communicate so you don’t become estranged.
Many parents find themselves wanting to resurrect an earlier relationship just as their young adult heads off to college, or into the world.
Inspection, correction, protection, neglect, suspicion, and resurrection. An interesting way to look at stages of parenting. Tim Elmore suggests there is one important ingredient missing for many parents today.
All of these stages or phases of leading children are common to teachers, coaches, and other people who work with children. They may or may not be familiar to you as a parent. (It’s always easier to see things in others than yourself!)
The big thing that seems to be missing is setting expectations for our children. In order to complete the maturation process, kids need to be guided towards meaningful work to accomplish. They need to know there is a unique reason they are here. Instead we fill their hours with all kinds of “activities”, but miss the opportunity to allow them to really develop a passion for relevant work. We miss the opportunity to encourage them to find ways to have a real impact on the world. If we had expectations of the end goal right from the start, we might be better able to steer our kids to reach that goal.
If we set high expectations, and encourage the kids to discover what they are really interested in or gifted in, they will be able to mature into adults who are ready to make a contribution. By high expectations, that can sound like setting someone up for failure. What I mean, is starting with an assumption that they WILL find an area that will be a natural fit for their personality and talents. By expectations, I mean that they will find meaning and purpose for their lives. And that is something that parents, teachers and coaches can’t find FOR them. Each individual has to discover for themself their own life’s meaning and purpose. And THAT should be the end goal of the parenting path.