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Nearly three years ago, I wrote a post on the Four Phases of Parenting found in On Becoming Childwise. At the time, Brayden was barely three and Kaitlyn 15 months old. The first phase is called the leadership phase and is for ages 2-6 years old. My kids were young–one of them not even in the phase yet. You can see in that post that the information I shared is basically that–information.
Today, Brayden is almost 6. Kaitlyn just turned 4. And I have a third child who is barely 2. Today, I obviously have a much different, and wiser, perspective on this phase. Brayden only has one more year left in this phase.
First, the basics of the phase (Childwise page 55):
- Primary goal is to establish your leadership in your child’s life.
- Not oppressive leadership, but authoritative.
- This is a phase of boundaries. You allow freedoms as your child demonstrates responsible behavior.
- This is the bootcamp of child-rearing.
- You want to get control of your child so you can train him.
- This phase is the focus of the book On BecomingChildwise.
During my most recent reading of Childwise, I was suddenly struck by this phase. My mind halted on this phase–it is the bootcamp of child-rearing. This is the time to establish leadership. Let’s compare this with the next phase of parenting–Training (page 56):
- Ages 7-12
- During training, your children are not yet in the real game of life.
- This is a series of practice sessions.
- As Ezzo & Bucknam describe, using a sports analogy, you work with your child each day in different settings, going through drills and exercises. This is practice time.
- You stop your child when necessary and make immediate corrections, explaining the reasons.
- Show your child what to do and how to do it.
- Your child will only listen to your training if you gained control in the discipline phase.
- This phase is the focus of the books The Smart Parentand On Becoming Preteen Wise.
I think that a lot of times, we parents try to rush the leadership phase an move on to the training phase. We get discouraged and frustrated when our child is less than perfect. It is important to remember what the phase is: a time to establish your leadership. This is a four year time period. I think that illustrates the fact that there will be plenty of times your child challenges that leadership. There will be plenty of times your child forgets or even ignores the boundaries you have put in place.
So as you navigate this often tumultuous phase of the 2-6 year old, keep in mind what you are doing in this phase. You are not expected to have a perfect child by the 7th birthday. The 7th birthday is when training begins.
So take a breather. Relax. You are doing just fine! All of Childwise is focussed on the Leadership Phase, so you can get lots of information on what you want to be doing during this phase in that book. Remember, this is not the phase for perfection. A 5 year old is not meant to go through life perfectly with minimal reminders from you. He hasn’t even started official training yet! He is simply learning to listen to your voice and obey it. So take it easy. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, a delightful 19 year old was not taught all she needs to know in a day, week, year, or even phase of parenting. It took her parents 13 years of solid work followed by 6 years of solid coaching. You can get there someday, too.
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