Lighthouse Parenting

Effective Parenting

Effective parenting begins when parents guide children toward a fulfilling, positive future while keeping them safe. Parents who apply a balanced parenting style – meaning they are clear about BOTH how much they care AND that they need to guide, protect, and monitor – raise adolescents who will be more academically successful, take the fewest risks, and have the closest relationships with their families.

Finding the Balance

Two major ingredients we must balance as parents guiding our children are warmth and rules. There is often a tension between parenting approaches rooted in loving attachment and those that take a more hands-off approach to encourage independence. A similar tension exists between those that focus on high levels of parental involvement with those that encourage children to learn from life’s lessons. 

For example, the “tiger” parent tends to focus on rules and obedience while the “jellyfish” parent is known for being hands off and indulging. These are parenting approaches at the opposite ends of the spectrum and they’ve made headlines in recent years. While this push-pull approach to parenting successfully attracts media attention, it risks creating uncertainty about the best parenting approach.

In truth, the most effective parenting stems from one style over all others. And here at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, we base our information on proven strategies.

Your family’s distinct circumstances may push or pull you toward one approach or another. These circumstances may be influenced by cultural values, issues affecting the safety of your community, or your teen’s unique needs. Once you learn about the proven effects of a balanced parenting style, you’ll learn that you can apply it in a way that works for your family.

We Know What Works

Decades of research tell us how to balance love with expectations and protection with trust. We know that children and teens are more likely to achieve their academic potential, be emotionally secure and choose safer behaviors, when they are raised by balanced parents. The kind who openly display love and warmth for their children, are flexible and thoughtful to meet their needs, and monitor them closely with clear rules and boundaries.

When we speak of the benefits of being a balanced parent, we do so based on an enormous amount of research. Families have shared their approaches to parenting and that has allowed us to learn what makes the difference in raising successful young people and building healthy families.

Treat Teens as Experts

Nobody is more of an expert on your teen than you are. Well, actually, there is one expert who knows more about your teen than you do. Wait for it … the person who knows the most about your teen and the world he or she needs to navigate is your own teen. When you have the kind of relationship where open communication is expected you’ll learn how to parent in a way that is earned from speaking to the expert.

Don’t get us wrong, your teen may be the expert, but your wisdom and experience remains the key to guiding him or her into adulthood. Balanced parents respect their teens’ views and are clear that adults have an irreplaceable role to shape young people.

Balanced parents respect their teens’ views and are clear that adults have an irreplaceable role to shape young people.

Be a Lighthouse Parent

The next time somebody tells you that they adhere to a certain style of parenting made popular by the latest book, you can respond that you like to think of yourself as having a balanced approach to parenting. One that allows you to connect deeply with your children. That lets them learn from life’s lessons. But that also guides them to navigate the world within safe and moral boundaries. If you prefer a catchy phrase, we offer you “Lighthouse Parenting.” A term that metaphorically conveys the best of what is known from balanced parenting — a style backed by decades of research.

I like to think of myself as a “Lighthouse Parent.” A stable force on the shoreline my child can measure themselves against. I see it as my job to look down at the rocks and make sure they do not crash against them. I look into the waves and trust they will eventually learn to ride them on their own. But I will prepare them to do so.

Remember, over-protection does not prepare young people to navigate turbulent waters. Preparation is protection for the future and the key to effective parenting.

About Ken Ginsburg

Ken Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, is Founding Director of CPTC and Professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He travels the world speaking to parent, professional, and youth audiences and is the author of 5 award-winning parenting books including a multimedia professional toolkit on “Reaching Teens.” CPTC follows his strength-based philosophy and resilience-building model. For more on Dr. Ginsburg visit

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