Before my husband, Andy Stanley, and I even had kids, someone told us about four general stages of parenting — how parents should interact differently with their children as they grow up. This turned out to be an incredibly important framework for us.
Recognizing the stages
Here’s an overview of these relational directions:
(parenting 0- to 5-year-olds)
During this stage, we began to teach our kids that there are consequences for their behavior.
(parenting 5- to 12-year-olds)
For this age group, we also concentrated on putting the why behind the what of our family’s rules and expectations.
(parenting 12- to 18-year-olds)
Parenting happens a bit more through our advice from the sidelines, while the relationship moves toward connecting, rather than correcting.
(parenting adult children)
As adults, we enjoy one another’s company and process life together.
Many times Andy and I referred back to this framework to remind us to adjust everything from daily routines to methods of discipline as we encouraged our kids to progress toward more independence and responsibility.
How this looked
In those early discipline years, when one of our kids didn’t obey and ran through a crowded parking lot, correcting bad choices happened immediately. During the training years, more explanations were given along with the correction. By the time we reached the coaching years, our responses to our kids’ bad choices were guided through conversation.
These stages were our roadmap — a nudge toward giving our kids more independence and a check and balance against “helicopter parenting.” And they slowly gave us a means for giving our children a growing responsibility for their side of our relationship.