Yet Another Type of Parent—the Lighthouse?

lighthouse-at-nightWe all have heard about helicopter parents. They are the parents who drive teachers and coaches crazy. They show up at school to argue about grades. They go on job interviews with their kids–and they’ve been known to sew cell phones into stuffed animals to work around the summer camp’s “no cell phone rules.”

There’s the lawnmower parent who smoothes the way and removes all obstacles from their children’s lives. I’ve also read about free-range parents, who let their kids raise themselves. Their kids choose their meals, bedtimes and they don’t go to school. They aren’t homeschooled, in the traditional sense because they learn on their own without guidance or help. What do you these parents do all day?

I was surprised to read a couple articles about lighthouse parents. It’s a label that’s a cross between free-range and helicopter—which makes me believe it’s a mixture and probably what most of us are doing.

Dina Leygerman wrote “7 Signs That You’re Actually A Lighthouse Parent” that explains the parenting style:

“In his book, Raising Kids To Thrive, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a developmental psychologist, professor of pediatrics, and author, claims that “parents should be lighthouses for their children, visible from the shoreline as a stable light or beacon.” Dr. Ginsburg continues to explain that lighthouse parents “make sure their children don’t crash against the rocks, yet allow them to ride the waves even if they get a little choppy sometimes.”

Here are five tips about lighthouse parenting by Richard Rende, Ph.D. in his article called “Lighthouse Parenting: 5 Ways to Strike the Right Balance Parents:”

Love without conditions: Provide unconditional love, but not unconditional approval; set boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not; disapprove behaviors, not the child.

Set the right kind of high expectations: Set realistic goals that can be met, emphasizing stretching for that next level; focus on effort, not performance; embrace the ups and downs, which are both necessary steps when pursuing success.

Be protective, not overprotective: Cultivate trust, which serves to protect, but don’t smother; allow mistakes to be made but within your protective gaze to balance risk and safety (take off the training wheels but be there just in case).

Nurture coping skills: Offer a “lap and and a listening ear” to encourage your child to talk about feelings and problems; help children identify problems, and think about ways of taking on the issue; teach good self-regulation skills including ways to reduce stress like breathing exercises (e.g., blowing bubbles can teach kids about how to use breathing to relax).

Cultivate communication: Maintain calmness when listening (too much emotion can shut kids down), and don’t rush to judge (which can undermine the sense of unconditional love); when talking to your child avoid the overuse of “you” (e.g., “You did this … you did that”) which can sound like blame, rather use “I” (e.g., “I was worried because …) which promotes empathy.

What style of parent are you? Perhaps we’re combinations in different circumstances and times of our children’s lives.

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