Nurturant parent model
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The nurturant parent model is a parenting style which envisions a family model where children are expected to explore their surroundings, while being protected by their parents. This model believes that children inherently know what they need and should be allowed to explore their environment.
The parents are responsible for protecting their child during this exploration, including protecting their child from serious mistakes, by offering guidance. A child will be picked up if the child cries because the parent wants the child to feel safe and nurtured. If a child grows up believing that its needs will be met, it will be more confident when facing challenges.
Ideas involved in this model include:
- True discipline is not a matter of strict obedience, but of respect and compassion
- The world is no more inherently hostile than it is inherently friendly; it merely commands respect
- Respect and compassion can only be taught by example
This model is based on a study conducted by the Boston College Graduate Program in Human Development where researchers were investigating the parenting style preferred by parents of extraordinarily creative children. Most parenting books recommend the authoritative style. The researchers discovered another parenting style which they called "the nurturing parent" that focuses on responsibility, empathy, and creativity. The basic approach these parents used was to:
- Trust in their children's fairness and good judgment
- Respect their children's autonomy, thoughts and feelings
- Support their children's interests and goals
- Enjoy their children's company
- Protect their children from doing injury to self or others, not by establishing rules but by communicating values and discussing their children's behavior with them
- Modeling the self-control, sensitivity and values they believe their children will need
Herbert Jay Rosenfield (LCSW) in his unfinished book Caring Parents: a Guide to Successful Parenting encourages use of the acronym "RECEPEE", for "Reasonable Expectations, Clearly Expressed, Performed Everyday and by Example". "The factors that children need to develop good self-esteem...are primarily 'gifts' from us parents!" writes Rosenfield, who offers another acronym "UCARE":
- Uniqueness that is positive, achieved through praise, encouragement, and positive feedback
- Connectiveness to family, to extended family, and to a neighborhood that is safe, healthy and moderate
- Age-appropriate autonomy: responsibilities and privileges that parallel their age and capabilities
- Role Examples: parent models with good self-esteem and behavior, whom they can emulate
Reverend George Englehardt stated succinctly, in 1991, that "parental responsibility is to provide their children with a safe, loving, nurturing environment".
The nurturant parent model is also discussed by George Lakoff in his books, including Moral Politics and Whose Freedom? In these books, the nurturant parent model is contrasted with the strict father model. Lakoff argues that if the metaphor of nation as family and government as parent is used, then progressive politics correspond to the nurturant parent model. For example, progressives want the government to make sure that the citizens are protected and assisted to achieve their potential. This might take the form of tough environmental regulations or healthcare assistance.
The model is also consistent with slow parenting in that children are encouraged to explore the world for themselves. They have to learn to face the risks that nature presents. Although slow parenting might go further and reduce the level of protection offered by parents, it would not advocate withholding it entirely.
- Dacey, J.S. & Packer, A.J. (1992). The nurturing parent: How to raise creative, loving, responsible children. NY: Fireside, Simon & Schuster