I mentioned in a recent post the concept of the “family-centred child”. The opposite concept is that of the “child-centred family”. I thought I would revisit this to explain a bit more about what we as a family understand by these concepts, and how we are implementing our choice. We came across this idea from a wise friend with his own great family.
The home of a child-centred family is one where the children become the centre of attention, and remains so beyond the baby years. In this family the family structures itself unconsciously around the needs and schedules of the child, to try and not inconvenience the child. The parents/family adapt themselves to ensure that the child is prioritised as much as possible and suffers OTHER inconveniences to do so.
The home of a family-centred child is one where the child is welcomed into a family that already exists (a husband and a wife ARE a family already!) and already has an established identity, values and priorities. The child takes up their place as a new member of the family and joins the family in following its values, and its routines and priorities, in spite of any inconvenience to the child in doing so! While obviously some adaptations are made for the child, the priority is the family, its values, and the best outcome for ALL members of the clan, not just the child concerned.
We as a family believe implicitly that the only wise and sustainable choice for parents, and the most likely system to create well rounded and socially mature individuals, is the family-centred child model. It is the family “DNA” we have chosen to learn, and to try to impart to our children and through them to their future children (our grandkids… yikes!).
To be fair, all families are a blend of the two, and not completely one or the other. Also, it’s very important to clarify there is no desire to paint the child-centred family as not having the child’s best interests at heart.
At the end of the day, this is all about what we believe is a wise allocation of resources and time for us as parents, and a vision of the best possible “normal” we want to create for a child. It’s personal for everyone, and I respect that.
In the home of a family-centred child, the idea is that the BEST structure for a child is one that is sustainable and consistent, and gives them a pre-ordained place, and a context in the world. This context is the family, which they join as the newest member. And they have a place in that loving family appropriate to their age and their needs.
They are under the loving and caring leadership and stewardship of their parents, who deliberately prioritise for the whole family based on their vision of the best use of time and resources for the whole family. The family is a team, with many players. All contribute to each other’s world, and all receive the benefits of this.
The priorities are determined largely by the parents, with the following in mind, as far as we can see:
– As far as possible, the family needs rested and functional parents with capacity to contribute quality time and energy
– Established values and priorities determine the focus of each day, and determine how any conflict will be resolved. (And there will be conflict, so the values need to be clear and taught repeatedly so the context is always understood)
– Children are happiest and most secure with structure, boundaries, well communicated expectations and guidelines
– The child understands and is willing to suffer some inconvenience – with a good attitude – for the greater good of the family (and the parents are unapologetic about that) Attitude is important, and is a value we pursue.
– There are consequences for misbehaviour, and for attempts to manipulate priorities.
– Sowing and reaping are core values – as a child sows, so it will reap (Significantly, this is better modelled by the parents than preached from a soapbox)
– We live by the “golden rule” – Do to others as you want them to do to you
– The development of the children is a priority, but elective things like extramural activities take place in the context of the wise use of available time and resources. This includes time to relax and play; and includes space for parents to recover and replenish their own resources.
– Each family member is entitled to at least an equal or fair share of the family’s time and resources, and to share graciously of their own time and resources (ok, toys!) for the benefit of others.
– Children have the responsibility to contribute, appropriately to age and maturity, to the family and household needs (like tidying up after themselves).
What does all of this look like in reality?
We are still busy learning and building it for ourselves, so we are certainly no experts and we probably have more examples of how it should NOT look, than vice versa 🙂 .
Being such a work in progress, and still so very early in the parenting stages, I would prefer to draw on examples of what I have seen from other marriages and families (Obviously these are not exclusive only to “family-centred child” models but they are consistent at least in the families I am thinking of)
– Parents with huge capacity to give and be generous with their time, sowing into community work, social work, and other families
– Families enjoying a high level of social interaction and friendships, always able to offer and accept invites.
– Children are low maintenance, easily satisfied and contented with what they have, where they are, and who they are with.
– Good social skills – both the parents and the children are inclusive and gracious with others.
– Conversations are less about the children, and their issues, and more about other people and other issues.
– Children cope with change better and are flexible.
What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear from you.