Graham Irvine, Kingsway Christian College, The Seasons of Parenting
Parenting is the only role in life where you are not given a manual or job description yet the outcome changes lives. Graham Irvine, parenting expert from Kingsway Christian College joined us this morning to navigate the blurred lines to the most important job in the world, parenting.
“Parenting is messy; you have lots of grey areas in it,” described Graham. “The goal of parenting is to raise a child to be independent of us, to be a fully functioning adult.”
Mr Irvine likened parenting to the seasons, where the seasons are indicative of a stage of development. The seasons Graham refers to are the dictator, the boss, the coach and the friend. Each season comes with its own challenges and rewards but the stages are there to nurture the child through their stages of development and to equip the child for life.
The dictator is the stage where you bring a new baby home and you make all of the decisions for the child. This stage is a little scary for you as a new parent but the child cannot do anything for themselves so you make all of the decisions like a dictator for them.
“You need to move and change the way that you parent as the child starts to grow and becomes intellectually independent. They start to gather some life experiences. Some children will do it quickly, some children will do it slowly but they will all do it,” Mr Irvine said. ”They will all get to the point where they will go no, I’d rather do that rather than what you are telling me. And that’s where you go: Oh okay, am I now the dictator or the boss?”
The boss is more complicated due to the lines not being as clearly defined as for the dictator role. You have to discern which decisions you make for the child based on their age and maturity. Just like a boss in the workplace makes some decisions for the employee and the employee is left to make some of their own decisions as well.
One of the challenges of parenting is in knowing what season you are in with the particular child at that point in time said Mr Irvine.
The coach stage can be compared to the coach of a sporting team. This stage is where you guide the child in the best way to things.
Graham used the West Coast Eagles as an example, “No matter how poorly the team is playing, the coach doesn’t come down from the coaching box and run out onto the field and stop a player and say now listen; this is how I want you to kick the ball. That just doesn’t happen. The coach is there to give some instructions from the sidelines but he doesn’t get on and play the game with the players. So the idea of the coach is more hands off than the boss.”
You will always be the coach to a child but as they get older you can also become their friend. This stage is where you can have those adult conversations with the child but you also no longer are responsible for their life. It becomes their responsibility to take charge of their life and make sure their actions reflect their values.
If you follow all of the early seasons properly you will be able to have the friend relationship with the child at the end but you can skip these steps and be a friend to your four year old said Graham.
Listen in next week to delve into the season specifics and for some practical parenting tips.
By Rebecca Low