Decide on Your Parenting Role: Director, Collaborator, or Supporter / Confidant
In order to guide our children toward success, we need to understand our role in each challenge we encounter with them. There are basically three parental roles: 1) The Director: Sets rules, guidelines, and expectations; 2) The Collaborator: Discusses challenges with children and decides on solutions together; or 3) The Supporter / Confidant: Supports children’s own problem-solving process where they make the final decision. Unless we clearly know which role to adopt, we risk being either too lax or too controlling of our children’s lives.
Our parental role is directly connected to who owns the problem. The process I use to determine the appropriate parental role is based on the problem ownership questions developed by Michael H. Popkin, PhD.
- Who is the problem directly affecting? Decide this by asking 1) who is most concerned or upset about the issue, or 2) who brings up the problem and wants to find a solution to their unmet goals or needs.
- Does the problem involve health, safety, family rules, or values?
- Is the problem solvable within reasonable limits for the child’s age and level of maturity?
The Director: When you bring up a concern and your child doesn’t see it as their problem and it involves health, rules, safety, or values, such as doing chores, the problem directly affects only you. Until your kids embrace your values, which may not be until adulthood, your parental role is to decide how your concern will be addressed. Chores usually fall into this category unless you have a child who loves to help. You can choose to either dictate what each child does or problem solve together. Either way, you will need to be the rule enforcer to make sure your requests are being met.
Unfortunately, parents often get mad when they have to remind their kids to do their chores. When you accept your job as a director without getting angry, everyone will be happier. Then you can direct with warmth and your kids’ resistance will diminish.
The Collaborator: When your child is complaining about a family member, a teacher, a friend, etc., you need to ask follow-up questions to determine if it is your child’s problem to solve or if it is a problem to solve together. Ask yourself question #2: does it involve health, rules, safety, or values? If it does, then you probably need to problem-solve together by brainstorming ideas and agreeing on the final solution. The collaborator does less enforcing than the director because the child has an invested interest in fixing the problem.
The Supporter / Confidant: If your child is sharing a problem or making a complaint and it doesn’t involve health, safety, rules, or values, ask yourself question #3: “Is my child mature enough to take care of it with only my support in finding a solution? This means I won’t tell her what to do and I won’t take action on her behalf.” If your answer is “Yes,” your role is one of a supporter who is available to discuss the child’s problem if requested. Learning the problem-solving process is crucial to being “hired” as a supporter by your children. If you child wants you to just listen empathetically and not discuss ideas together, then you will embrace the Confidant Role.
Here are examples of possible issues for each parental role. Your role will vary as you evaluate each challenge based on your children’s ages, abilities, personality, needs, or situational factors. Many issues are in more than one parental role category due to these variations and shifts. Flexibility and open mindedness are key to successfully interacting with your children.
- The Director: The Parent Owns the Problem: Issues: Refusal to do homework or chores, bad language, friends, hitting, anger and allowance, etc.
- The Collaborator: The Parent and Child Own the Problem Together: Issues: Child waking up late, sibling fighting, problems with teachers, bullying, homework, dating, money, when new freedoms are given, anger, friends, etc.
- The Supporter / Confidant: The Child Owns the Problem: Issues: Friendship problems, values homework and requests help, future decisions, love, problems with teachers, anger, money, etc.
Keep in mind that as your children mature, you will collaborate on issues that you once directed. With maturity, your main role will be as their supporter. If you continue to direct your kids in a way that hinders their individuation process, they may become angry with you, rebel against your control, and refuse to do what you want. This is a red flag for you to step back, re-evaluate who really owns the problem, and choose the correct parental role that maintains a healthy relationship with your kids.
Read about the great Director Parenting Strategy the After-Then approach. This is how I won cooperation from my daughter! It’s a winner for most families.
Also, contact me for a complementary phone discovery session to see how I could teach you how to create greater family harmony in your home.
©2015 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!