Stewardship Parenting: Why Children Come First

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May 2, 2011

Non-custodial parents who are assets to their children never blame the other lawyers, the other parent, their own lawyers, or even the system for the “loss” of a child. Rather, they tend to their own garden and build meaningful relationships with their children. Good parents are first and foremost stewards to their children.

Merriam-Webster defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Stewardship parenting is accepting and embracing the idea that your role as a parent is to help children, from their birth until your death, to be the best they can be. It is an ever-evolving process.

Stewardship parents understand the need for children to have an independent relationship with both Mom and Dad. They worry more about meeting the needs of their children than pointing out the other parent’s failures.

The reverse of stewardship parenting is ownership parenting. These parents use children as leverage. They view children as trophies or extensions of themselves. Yet parents who care about their children can, by carefully considering each action, evolve into becoming stewards and assets to their children – regardless of the amount of time they spend together.

A good way to gauge whether actions are motivated by stewardship or ownership is to compare them to the Child’s Bill of Rights,* which states:

As a child, I have the following rights and need you, my Mom and Dad, to respect those rights:

  1. The right not to be asked to “choose sides” between my Mom and Dad.
  2. The right to express, or not express, my feelings.
  3. The right to have a unique relationship with each of my parents without the other making me feel guilty about it.
  4. The right to freely and privately communicate with both my Mom and Dad, and not to be asked questions by either parent about the other.
  5. The right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn, possession or negotiating chip.
  6. The right not to be expected to be a spy or a messenger.
  7. The right not to hear either Mom or Dad say bad things about the other.
  8. The right to have my life change as little as possible while my Mom and Dad work out their problems.
  9. The right to have my own life and remain a child.
  10. The right to expect you to be my parents, not my friends.
  11. The right not to be expected to be my parents’ confidante or companion.
  12. The right to have what is in my best interest protected at all times.

When children see themselves as equal halves of each parent, they want their parents to succeed and are, by nature, forgiving. No parent is perfect, nor do any children expect them to be perfect. What all children want is for both of their parents to never give up on being the best parents they can be.

*As defined by the nonprofit organization Child Centered Solutions.