The Four Stages of Parenthood


Ah, parenthood. As soon as we seem to figure out what’s working, something changes. So we observe, try a few things differently, and adjust. We hit a sweet spot…and something changes. Again.

After a father/daughter camp with our middle daughter several years ago, my husband came home with some information that has stuck with me ever since. He began explaining what he had learned in one of the “dad sessions” at this camp, about the stages of parenthood. As he was talking, I truly had a lightbulb moment. You see, I realized some mother/daughter friction was due to the fact that I had been stuck in one stage with our middle daughter, when in fact, I needed to move on to the next. She had grown up a little bit on me and I hadn’t adjusted my parenting style. Once I did, our relationship vastly improved.

I know you don’t know what I’m talking about yet, so let’s get to it.

The 4 Stages of Parenthood

1. Caregiver

Your child depends on you to take care of their every need.

You are their source of food and mobility. You clothe them, clean them, regulate their temperature and environment, provide them with stimulation, learning, and love. This begins at infancy and you likely teeter back and forth in the caregiver stage as their independence grows in certain areas. Your heart just about explodes when you are in the caregiver stage, though. Who knew that the simplest things, like toweling off your child’s tiny toes after a bath, could fill you with the biggest sense of awe and wonder? 

2. Cop

You are the one policing what is right and wrong for your child.

At this stage, your child is becoming more independent, but needs to know boundaries. As parents in this stage, we say things like:  “No sir, we do not put our feet on the table.”, “We say we are sorry when we hurt a friend’s feelings.”, or “Because you ate that candy without permission, the rest of your Easter candy is going in the trash.”

This is the stage I had gotten stuck in with our daughter, who had just turned twelve. Instead of constantly making the decision for her as the “Cop”, I needed to pull back the reins a little bit and adjust my parenting. She was getting frustrated and not feeling as if her voice was being heard, and I was getting frustrated that her frontal lobe growth was causing her to question decisions. Needless to say, this was causing friction in our relationship.

3. Coach

From the sidelines, you give instruction, helpful tips, loving corrections, encouragement. 

This one takes a little extra patience, but is an important part of our children’s growth process. We likely already know the answer, but as parents, are trying to get our children to find that answer for themselves. At the Coach stage, we also tend to give a lot of choices to our children. After our child determines how to handle options and the situation is over, we may talk through how their choices played out.

An example of a Coach parenting style may be: “I see that you chose not to do your chores right after school, and now you are unable to finish them in time to go play at Maggie’s house. How do you feel about that choice? Is that the same choice you would make if given a second chance?”. Again, you are helping them be responsible for their choices and consequences, both good and bad.

4. Consultant

If your child comes to you for guidance, you listen to the situation, take in all the factors you can, and then give your best counsel. 

This stage of parenthood likely happens as our kids are in their late teens and beyond. They are living independently but from time to time, come to us with questions about a situation. At this point, we listen, (after thanking God that they still occasionally confide in us!), put on our consultant hat, and give them our very best advice. This is a sweet moment.

What do you think about the 4 Stages of Parenthood? What stage are you in right now? What stage do you WISH you were in right now? Would you add or take away a stage? Give us your feedback in the comments!

*I have searched for the original content my husband received, but to no avail, so this is a combination of our own ideas and what he learned at camp some years ago.


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