There are three types of parents.
There are those who walk in front of their kids; there are those who walk behind their kids; and those who walk beside their children.
‘Walk in front’ parents love to lead the way. “Let’s go” is their mantra. This is the style for task-oriented, busy, enthusiastic types. I was this type of parent when my kids were young. It’s the style I default to. The trouble was, I may have thought I was leading but my children didn’t always follow!
‘Walk behind’ parents usually push their kids hard. “Come on” is their mantra. This is the style for parents with high expectations and parents with a lot on their plate. This style is exhausting as you always seem to be pushing harder than you want. It’s doubly hard when kids are resistant.
‘Walk beside’ parents do a great deal with their children. “Let’s do it” is their mantra. This is the style preferred by relationship-driven, inclusive types. This was my wife’s preferred style. She was a hands-on parent who spent much of her time teaching, talking and explaining to kids. This style is time-consuming, and can make it hard for parents to have their own time.
So which style do you naturally default to?
Effective parents adapt to different situations, and different children. There will be times when you should be a ‘walk in front’ parent, just as there are times when your kids will want you to be a ‘walk beside’ parent, particularly when life doesn’t go their way.
There are times, and some kids, who need to be pushed hard. They need someone to ‘walk behind’ them and push like mad. You may have been one of these types of kids yourself.
The trouble is, if you are always pushing like mad then resentment can build up. If you find yourself always ‘walking behind’ then you need to spend some time ‘walking beside’ your child to build some good will.
Similarly, if you are a ‘walk in front’ parent (more likely to be a male) always miles ahead of your kids you may need to slow down and spend some time ‘walking beside’ your kids. They’ll appreciate the change.
What style does my child need right now?
There is a better question to ask than "What style do you default to?"
That is, “What style does my child need right now?”
Ask that question often enough, and respond appropriately and you’ll find your effectiveness as a mum or a dad will increase astronomically as you’ll be meeting the needs of your child.
You may prefer one style but try not to get stuck in that style. Remember, great parents are adaptable, rather than inflexible. Try practising different styles so you get used to how each style feels. You’ll also discover the styles that your kids feel most comfortable with.
So explore, experiment and grow as a parent. Your kids will benefit from your flexibility and self-knowledge.
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