Are You a “Lighthouse” Parent?

What is Lighthouse Parenting?

If you’re a parent, you know there is no definitive handbook, but there are plenty of experts out there who can help you pinpoint what you’re doing wrong. That’s why we found this article from Parents magazine on “lighthouse parenting” refreshing. Rather than launch into a list of don’ts, the author acknowledges the challenges of striking the right balance between setting limits and freedom. The article cites the work of  Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, who uses the analogy of a lighthouse to illustrate the role of a parent raising a confident, thriving child. Here are just a few of his lighthouse parenting tips:

Loving should come with boundaries. Unconditional love doesn’t mean no limitations. Parents should not be afraid to focus on acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and separate those from an unconditionally loving relationship with their child. In other words, disapprove of what your child does, not who they are.

Help your child stretch rather than stress perfection. We want our children to do their very best, and it can be tempting to set the bar unrealistically high. Think of next steps rather than a perfect outcome. After all, you’ve gone through your own ups and downs in your life journey. Embrace the same for your child, and give them the freedom to fail.

Being protective does not mean 100% risk avoidance. We all know the feeling when our child gets hurt, the rush of guilt. However, eliminating all potential risk will also limit our child’s ability to learn self-reliance and self-trust. Let your child know you trust his/her ability to learn new skills, including the occasional fall or skinned knee. You don’t have to go far, but you do need to let go just a little.

Communicate with your child, don’t talk at them. It’s all too easy to reflexively push back with your child when something doesn’t go the way you want it to. Learn to talk with, not at your child, using “you” less and “I” more. (Rather than say, “You did this,” try “I was worried because…”) You may find your child (and you) become more empathetic toward each other. While you’re at it, try to listen more and offer solutions less. You may find your child developing stronger coping skills as a result.

Unlike the usual “top down” advice approach, Dr. Ginsberg incorporated the voices of over 500 children in writing his book, Raising Kids to Thrive, stressing the consistent need for listening and communication between children and parents. We hope you’ll take a few minutes for some parental encouragement by reading the entire article.

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