Lighthouse parenting is a term coined by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine, child resilience and parent-teen communication. Lighthouse parenting is an authoritative parenting style in which parents find balance in the ways they raise their children, to help them achieve the brightest future possible. Understanding more about lighthouse parenting and its benefits may help you incorporate some of its philosophy into your own parenting style and practices.
What Is Lighthouse Parenting?
According to an article by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, lighthouse parenting is when a parent creates a balance between love and setting limits for a child in order to ensure that a child is nurtured, safe, and respects parents as important figures in their lives. Parents should act as a lighthouse while raising their children, including being a guiding light/example for their child to turn to, providing a sense of safety in times of trouble, and shining light on the wave-filled waters below to inform their child of danger, but allowing them to navigate the challenge on their own.
Examples of Lighthouse Parenting
Lighthouse parenting centers around balancing mutual love, respect, and trust between parents and children. This parenting style aims to help parents provide a strong, supportive base for their children to rely on, placing trust in children's decision-making skills and their ability to cope with any consequences that may arise from them. Lighthouse parenting looks much different than other parenting styles, such as authoritarian, which places structure and obedience at a higher importance. Some examples of lighthouse parenting include:
- Lighthouse parents allow children to make their own decisions and trust they will make good choices. vs. Authoritarian parents make most of the decisions for the child because they do not trust their decision-making skills.
- Lighthouse parents are an example of kind, respectful, and thoughtful people for their children to model their behavior after. vs. Authoritarian parents enforce constant discipline on their child when they do not mirror their parents' behaviors or follow parental goals for them.
- Lighthouse parents comfort their child when they turn to parents after experiencing challenges. vs. Authoritarian parents are cold to their child when they make a mistake, as part of their punishment.
- Lighthouse parents set clear rules for their child in order to protect them, and trust that they will follow and respect the boundaries. vs. Authoritarian parents have an overabundance of rules for their child that are more so meant to control them instead of just protect them.
- Lighthouse parents foster a strong support system for their child, equipping them with the tools they need to grow and become more independent. vs. Authoritarian parents do not allow their child the opportunity to grow on their own or as individuals due to a lack of trust.
Benefits of Lighthouse Parenting
Lighthouse parenting is a type of balanced or authoritative parenting that has been shown to have numerous benefits for both children and the parent-child relationship as a whole. Some benefits discovered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) include:
- Higher rates of problem-solving and active problem coping
- Increased rates of independence
- Fostering a strong parent-child bond surrounding trust and support
- Decreasing engagement in risky behavior
- Greater rates of academic success
- Higher rates of emotional security
- Increased rates of resilience, self-reliance, and self-esteem
- Greater rates of social skills
- Higher rates of maturation and optimism
How to Be a Lighthouse Parent
According to Ginsburg's article, lighthouse parenting is all about "how to balance love with expectations and protection with trust." This balance may look slightly different for each family depending on the levels of trust already established and the particular boundaries parents want to have in place. That being said, there are staples of the parenting style that you can implement in your own family to help you become a lighthouse parent.
Support Your Child
The lighthouse metaphor in the parenting style paints parents as a beacon of light in their child's lives, something that is strong and stable, and that their child can rely on to bring them back to safety. Taking these aspects of the metaphor and bringing them into your own life is a great way of supporting your child and following through with the lighthouse parenting style. You're most likely already offering your child a ton of support, but some additional ways to do it are:
- Not judging or belittling your child's interests or placing them on a lower level of importance than yourself or others.
- Encouraging your child to try new activities that interest them, even if they are scared.
- Allowing your child to choose their own friend group and encouraging them to socialize.
- Comforting your child when they fail a test, lose a game, or face another difficulty.
Lighthouse parenting revolves around balance, which means that trust should be developed on both sides of the parent-child relationship. Parents need to trust their children to make their own decisions and remember the boundaries that are in place, and in return, kids need to trust that their parents are setting boundaries that are reasonable and put in place to protect them. Some ways to develop trust with your child are:
- Tell them why you have set certain boundaries or rules in place.
- Ask them if they think the boundaries sound reasonable and possibly adjust some based on your conversation.
- Respect your child's personal boundaries, such as not invading their privacy or repeating things to others that they tell you in confidence.
Talking to your child is a great way of building trust, strengthening the parent-child bond, and learning more about your child in general. Respect your child's opinions, interests, and viewpoints, even if they are different than your own. Share your viewpoints and opinions as well, and have open communication throughout your relationship. No one knows what another person is really thinking or feeling unless they ask, and the more you ask, the more you learn. Some ways to practice open communication are:
- Coming to your child with questions or concerns and allowing them space to reply and do the same.
- Listening to your child's requests and being flexible within reason, and not always saying 'no'.
- Being honest with your child, even when it's difficult.
Allow Your Child to Make Mistakes
Allowing your child to make their own mistakes will help them take a step forward with their independence. Mistakes give children a learning opportunity to grow from and apply their new understanding by themselves in the future. Preparing your child to make the best choices possible will set them up to put their best foot forward in the future, even if they stumble. Some ways to allow your child to make mistakes are:
- Not rushing to their school constantly to deliver homework that they have left at the house.
- Allowing your child to resolve conflict with teachers, friends, or family members on their own.
- Reminding your child of schedules/deadlines but not forcing them to manage their time.
Set Clear and Protective Rules
Lighthouse parenting is not permissive parenting, which means that although parents can be flexible and listen to their child's views, clear rules and expectations are still set in place. Rules and boundaries in the lighthouse parenting style should be based around protecting your child from any physical, moral, or psychological dangers that may threaten their safety. Some examples of these rules are:
- Not allowing your child to throw things in the house.
- Setting curfews to make sure your child is home before a certain hour.
- Explaining how fighting others due to conflict is harmful, both physically and emotionally, to everyone involved.
Becoming a Lighthouse Parent
Being someone your child feels safe to turn to in times of trouble, or when they are seeking someone they can trust, is something that every parent hopes for, but may feel difficult to achieve. Practicing a lighthouse parenting style is one way to help build the trust in a parent-child relationship that encourages children to both learn and grow on their own, as well as communicate openly with their parents. Being a lighthouse parent may look slightly different from family to family, but finding your own unique balance between nurturing and protecting will set you on the right path.