How to Be ‘Lighthouse Parent’ – And Why It’s a Good Model to Follow - Hope 103.2

How to Be ‘Lighthouse Parent’ – And Why It’s a Good Model to Follow

Adolescent psychologist, teacher and parenting expert Collett Smart explains 'lighthouse parenting', a term coined by US paediatrician Dr Kenneth Ginsburg.

Listen: Collett Smart chats to Katrina Roe about Lighthouse Parenting

By Katrina RoeFriday 14 Aug 2020ParentingReading Time: 3 minutes

Many parents around the world would agree that 2020’s been a difficult year to be a parent.

More than ever, our kids have needed our protection, but they’ve also needed their own personal resilience and strength, to navigate the choppy waters of 2020.

In recent years, there has been a very public parenting tug-o-war between the instinct to protect our little ones, and the need to foster independence. ‘Helicopter parents’, ‘tiger-mums’, and ‘free-range parents’ have all jostled for position, pulling and pushing about the right way to raise kids.

‘Lighthouse parenting’ offers an attractive middle ground for these challenging times.

Adolescent psychologist, teacher and parenting expert, Collett Smart has embraced the term, coined by US paediatrician Dr Kenneth Ginsburg. While it’s similar to the ‘authoritative parenting’ model, the image of the lighthouse creates a clearly defined picture of the parent’s role.

Warmth and Strength

Lighthouse by evgeni-tcherkasski-

“I love it, because I think it has such a warm and strong picture to it,” Collett says. “For me, this ‘lighthouse’ conjures up visions of warmth, stability, offering direction. Even in a storm, you’re this safe place. Your child might launch themselves off onto the rocks, into a storm, into the raging sea, without oars – and we really are the guiding light. We don’t always pick up the oars. Sometimes we will throw them a life raft. But we’re there to offer warm blankets, hot chocolates, a safe place for them. It’s just those beautiful images.

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“Ginsberg says the style is totally trustworthy. It’s helping our children not to get decimated by the rocks of life, but really being committed to letting them learn to ride the waves.”

Limits, Boundaries, and Support

Kids flying a kite

Key features of lighthouse parenting include:

  • Setting limits with clear standards and boundaries
  • Reasoning with your children
  • Being supportive, understanding and responsive to their emotional needs

Collett says children thrive best under the care of the authoritative/ lighthouse parenting style.

“It actually works well for families regardless of your ethnicity, your income, your education or your family structure,” she said. “Children develop a secure attachment under this style of parenting.”

According to research, children raised by lighthouse parents are more:

  • Psychologically well-adjusted
  • Intrinsically motivated
  • Self-reliant
  • Self-confident
  • Resilient
  • Able to exercise self-control
  • Connected to parents and friends as they grow older

How to Follow the ‘Lighthouse’ Style of Parenting – 4 Keys

Collett’s tips for how to be a lighthouse parent include:

  1. Offer your children unconditional love.
  2. Have high, but realistic expectations. Expect the best, but when things go wrong, discuss it in age-appropriate ways without judgement and shame.
  3. Strike the right balance between independence and offering assistance. Do this by letting your children approach some challenges independently, and allowing them to experience failure.
  4. Make time to talk through the things that are happening in your child’s life. Be there to listen. Sometimes children just want to be heard, not given a solution.

You can read more parenting tips and ideas at Collett’s website: and at