Shulamis Cheryl Mayerfeld
Every few years a new parenting term emerges. There's Helicopter Parenting, Tiger Moms, Snow Plow Parenting... and now, get ready for this latest one... Lighthouse Parenting! During a recent session with a client, I had a stroke of inspiration and came up with this awesome new parenting perspective.
Many of us have noticed that in today's parenting culture, it seems that parents are expected to be and do everything for their children. Make sure they are constantly organized for school, only eat healthy and organic, have the perfect costume for the school play, be the parent, coach, teacher, therapist....it is A LOT. Parents are burnt out, and notice themselves feeling irritated at their kids, losing patience, and overall feeling very overworked. Of course this leads to frustration and overwhelm. No wonder so many parents struggle with just being "there" for their kids, and listening to them with compassion, love, and acceptance.
And then of course comes all that GUILT!
When you are overworked and taking on so many jobs, it is impossible to be the present, calm parent you had envisioned being.
Enter Lighthouse Parenting. In this analogy, I help parents shift from their current modus operandus of trying to manage what is happening on each child's "ships". Instead of jumping from ship to ship while attempting to captain each ship, manage each crisis, and be every member of the crew, the parent can choose instead to act as the "Lighthouse". The Lighthouse is the safe harbor. The ships (and children) always know where to find the parent when they need them. The Lighthouse is sturdy and present constantly. It is reliable, calm, and safe.
The Lighthouse also shines light onto the sea to guide ships from afar, and it's the cause of the ships to follow this guide. Meaning the parent guides and advises from afar, but refrains from doing the actual work of the ship's crew.
Don't get me wrong. This kind of parenting style is not as easy to achieve as it seems! It takes a lot of discipline to hold back from micromanaging your kids' lives, even when you know they are doing something incorrectly. We are talking about letting go of your children being a reflection of you, and allowing them to make mistakes - even in public! This might mean that they don't get that perfect science project done.
As a parent you don't need to be everything for your child, the tutor, teacher, therapist, manager etc. In fact, when you try to fulfill all those roles, even when you have the natural knack and capability to do so, it may take away from your ability to be the present, calm, and safe harbor. Tending to your own needs insures you are able to be the calm consistent presence for your children. YOUR job is to be present, accepting, consistent, reliable. The sturdy, comforting, dependable "Lighthouse". Tasks can be outsourced, the ability to be a calm, dependable parent can not.