Lifelong Parenting Roles

Parenting is a lifetime commitment. The roles that parents play in their children’s lives will change throughout a lifetime of (child and parental) experiences. Elizabeth Crary described these roles beautifully when she wrote about her four levels of support. She portrayed the roles of nurturer, teacher, coach, and consultant. Here they are:

1.The nurturer comforts the child and solves the problem.
2.The teacher offers choices to calm child or resolve problem.
3.The coach reminds the child she can comfort self or solve problem.
4.The consultant assists, if asked.

When a newborn baby is crying, a parent acts as nurturer. The parent comforts the child and solves the problem. As the baby grows, the parent may act as a teacher, offering choices to the child in an attempt to help the child self sooth or resolve a problem. As the child matures, the parent may act as a coach or consultant. The parent’s role changes over time as the child becomes more skillful in various situations.

It is important to match the level of parental support to the experience of the child. Imagine this scene…a ten year old child cries when she scrapes her knee and her parent runs to pick her up and hold her tight. This parent is acting as a nurturer in a situation when most likely he/she could act as a teacher, coach, or consultant. Now, imagine this scene…a sixteen year old child suffers a broken heart. If this was the child’s first broken heart, it is probably appropriate for the parent to act as a nurturer and teacher. When children gain experience with a variety of situations, the level of parental support also needs to change, allowing the child to maintain their sense of responsibility and independence.

From Elizabeth Crary's book: Am I Doing Too Much for My Child? Getting Your Child on the Road to Responsibility and Independence.


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