3 Levels of Parenting

parent child serving togetherAs parents we all want our children to obey us, be respectful, stop whining, and stay out of trouble. But below the surface, there are three different motivations for parenting decisions. These motives lead to three different levels of parenting.

1) Parent-Centered Parenting

The goal of parent-centered parenting is the comfort and convenience of the parent. Parent-centered parents want their children to behave and stay out of trouble, so their children’s behavior doesn’t get in the way of their own interests and reputation.

2) Child-Centered Parenting

The goal of child-centered parenting is the comfort and success of the child. Child-centered parents want their child to do well in school, sports, the arts and stay out of trouble so the child will have a good life.

Child-centered parenting may look like parent-centered parenting at times because child-centered parents also want their children to stay out of trouble, but their motivation is different. Their primary motive is what’s in their children’s best interest rather than self-interest. When their interests conflict with what’s in their children’s best interest, child-centered parents will often sacrifice their own comfort and convenience for the success of their children

3) Others-Centered Parenting

The goal of others-centered parenting is to develop children into a people who makes the world a better place. Others-centered parents develop values in their children like honesty, service, and perseverance.

Others-centered parenting may look like parent-centered parenting at times because others-centered parents also wants their child to stay out of trouble, but again the motive is different – it’s for the impact their behavior has on others rather than its impact on the parent or child.

Others-centered parenting may also look like child-centered parenting at times because others-centered parents want their children to be successful, but once again the motive is different.  They want their children to be successful in ways that benefit those around them. Others-centered parents are not only willing to sacrifice their own comfort and convenience but also their children’s comfort and convenience for the sake of others.

What kind of parent do you want to be?

While it’s not always easy in the short term, I contend that long term others-centered parenting will not only make the world a better place, but make for a richer, happier life for us and our children.

What motives are driving your parenting these days? What kind of parent do you want to be? Can you give an example where you’ve made sacrificed your own interests and the interests of your children for others?

7 Responses to “3 Levels of Parenting”

  1. I think there needs to be a combination of all three. I think children do need to be aware of and respect our expectations as parents (and learn social skills and behaviors that prevent embarrassment). They also need encouragement for who they are and what gifts they have. Not with the goal of merely staying out of trouble, but becoming who God created them to be. And children definitely need to learn the importance of caring for others. Compassion, perseverance, and honesty are all learned skills that they need to develop to function as adults.

    I think the most important thing as a parent is to make sure the children aren’t the focus of the family. The marriage of the parents should be the focus. Children learn how relationships function, how people care for and respect each other, and how to serve and give to others, all by the example set by the parents.

    • Hi Rachel, thanks for your comment. I’m with you on the importance of making the parents the focal point of the family rather than the children. The family is where children learn that “we” comes before “me.” It can be tough to do, though, because we all want the best for our children and it seems so noble to put our children first. But if the marriage suffers because it’s a lower priority then everyone suffers.

  2. According to your levels, I agree that others-centered-parenting would be the best option.

    Personally, my goal in parenting is to raise children into men and women of character that will make the world a better place. Without clear definitions behind each of your categories, it’s sometimes hard to choose which style is best – especially if ‘others-centered’ is based around the idea that helping others is always best.

    I’m sure that we mean very similar things when we talk about parenting, so I would like to hear more of your ideas flushed out! Thanks for this post!

  3. Great post Paul. Simple and insightful. I struggled with choosing which style my wife and I use to raise our kids. I am inclined to say all three.

    However, I would say that regardless of the parenting style that that you choose to deploy while raising your children . . . . first and foremost you need to simply “show up”. The foundation that we create for our kids, regardless of where they end up on the spectrum of “interest” (own to others) -will be much better served if we as parents are around to provide a model that is infused in character. The parents style is great . . . but it is not a substitution for being active in their lives. Our job is to prepare them to decide for themselves how they will make our world a better place to live.

    My pinheaded perspective

    Walkstrong!

    • Showing up is so important in almost every aspect of life, isn’t it? Especially in tough times when it’s tempting to want to give up or skip out.

  4. Paul, that was very well done! I’m passing this on. I appreciate your posts and your desire to tell others about Christ’s atoning work.

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