On this page, I’ll be sharing what I’ve come to know about parenting. It’s knowledge derived from my experiences as parent, clinician, and researcher. My particular focus will be various challenges that arise when parenting children ages 5 to 25.
I’ve organized that knowledge into a framework I call the Six-Sided Parenting Box. Here are the six sides:
GOALS. The very top of the box is the goals we have as parents. I believe that the science of parenting and child development has identified key factors that determine who our children become over time. For example, we now know that genetic endowment shapes our children’s development in profound ways, but we also know that parents have a critical role to play in their chldren’s journey toward emotional maturity and social competence. It’s important to put time and energy into what matters most on that parenting journey. Some goals serve us well; others are less helpful.
Health. On the bottom of the box, serving as the very foundation of parenting is a parent’s health. I believe that healthy adults can make good parents, even if they know little about children or child rearing. I define health broadly to encompass many aspects of one’s wellbeing (e.g., physical, emotional, relational).
Structure. On one side of the box is the structure we use to organize our family. Useful here are the 4 Rs of family structure: Roles, Rules, Routines, and Rituals. We help ourselves tremendously when we have a structure that can adaptively guide our family even during times of stress and upheaval.
Accepting. On the three remaining sides of the parenting box are the “ingredients” needed to manage well the parent-child relationship. I believe that parenting is less about managing our children’s behavior in the short term and more about managing our relationships with them in the long term. But some children are hard to like. Parents who are accepting convey a consistent message of belonging: “You are our child.”
Containing. Some children are uncooperative and hard to discipline. The challenge is to set clear limits while maintaining a posture of acceptance. Parents who are containing convey a clear message that some behaviors are not allowed: “We love you, but we don’t act in that way.”
Leading. Our children need helpful information and healthy examples. As they move toward adolescence and young adulthood, that need increases. We can be a resource but we often compete for that privilege with other forces in their lives (e.g., peers, media). Parents who are leading convey a strong message that their life is an example worth following: “We trust that you will find your own way, but we offer our own lives as a guide.”
The Six-Sided Parenting Box is a simple rubric that can help parents who are going through a rough spot and feeling a bit like the worst parent in the world. You can think of it as a 6-point checklist when trying to discern how you and your family got to the rough spot and what’s needed to move on.
I look foward to sharing more about “The Box” and hearing from you about your own parenting journeys. Let’s learn together.