The Nurturing Parent and the Nurturing Teacher

One way that educators can practice Nurturing Teaching is by allowing students to be part of the problem solving process when they have a complaint or frustration. For example, creative children often find repetitive paperwork to be irritating. Too much of this can lead to that attitude we all know so well: disengagement or defiance. Consider two conversation scenarios between a third grade student and her teacher.

Raising creative kids is something we all want, yet it doesn’t seem so easy to do.  In Raising Creative Kids by Susan Daniels and Daniel B. Peters, the authors conclude that the most effective parenting style for raising responsible, independent, creative kids is the “Nurturing Parent” style. In fact, the Nurturing style is easy to understand and can also be applied to the classroom.

Daniels and Peters caution us not to confuse healthy, Nurturing Parents with helicopter parents.  Nurturing Parents “ . . . have clear values and actively encourage self-discipline, commitment, and intellectual and creative freedom in their children” (Daniels & Peters, 2013, p. 117).  Other types of parenting can lead to a lack of identity, more anxiety, or children who require excessive outside validation.  A Nurturing Parenting style is in contrast to:

  • authoritarian parenting (based on rules and regulations that are strictly enforced);
  • permissive parenting (lacks discipline and has few boundaries or limits);
  • uthoritative parenting (vacillates back and forth between permissive and authoritarian).  

The Nurturing model is applicable in the classroom as well.  Creative and highly creative students benefit from Nurturing Teachers who see and support them as individuals (Bronson & Merriman, 2010; Goertzel et al., 2004; Millar, 2004).  Mutual respect is a main pillar of the nurturing concept, based on original work by John Dacey and Alex Packer (1992).  Nurturing Parents and Nurturing Teachers: 

  • trust their child’s fairness and good judgment.
  • respect their child’s autonomy, thoughts, and feelings.  
  • support their child’s interests and goals.
  • enjoy their child’s company.
  • protect their child from hurting him- or herself or others.
  • model self-control, sensitivity, and values they believe are important.  (Daniels & Peters, 2013, p. 117-118).  

These six behaviors on the part of a teacher set the stage for a positive culture and climate in the classroom.  A Nurturing Teacher promotes respect among everyone involved in classroom life (teachers, student, other students, self), and this respect is undergirded by a sense of joy in teaching.  

One way that educators can practice Nurturing Teaching is by allowing students to be part of the problem solving process when they have a complaint or frustration.  For example, creative children often find repetitive paperwork to be tedious.  Too much of this can lead to that attitude we all know so well: disengagement or defiance.  Consider these two conversation scenarios between a third grade student and her teacher. 

Child:  (expressing frustration and wondering aloud) Why do I have to do two pages of multiplication facts every night?

Authoritarian Teacher:  Because everybody has to learn their math facts.

Child:  But I really don’t like doing the worksheets every night for homework.  It makes me mad.  Plus, I already know most of these facts.

Authoritarian Teacher:  You do not know every single fact, so you need to practice.

Child: I wish I could listen to my times table music instead.  

Authoritarian Teacher: You’re going to have to do lots of things in life that you don’t like.  Anyway, these only take 5 minutes of your time.  Lose the attitude, and get it done.    

This child was genuinely expressing her discomfort, presenting a great opportunity for a teacher to engage in collaborative problem solving rather than just making the student “suffer through” the situation.  Problem solving in and of itself is a highly valuable life skill, and a teacher would do well in allowing it in real-life student issues like this one.  The conversation above leaves a child without truly knowing the purpose of the assignment, feeling like she has not been understood nor valued, and feeling disciplined harshly for expressing her point of view.  

What would be better?  How would a Nurturing Teacher handle the conversation? (Hint: Say Yes!)

Child:  (expressing frustration and wondering aloud) Why do I have to do two pages of multiplication facts every night?

Nurturing Teacher:  Yes, I see you don’t love this.  It’s because you don’t yet know all of your multiplication facts and you will need these as we advance in math.

Child: But I really don’t like doing the worksheets every night for homework.  It makes me mad.  Plus, I already know most of these facts, so I feel like it is a waste of time.

Nurturing Teacher:  Yes, and the purpose of the worksheets is to give you the chance to practice all of your facts so that you may recall them quickly.  But I understand that these are irritating to you.  What might be other ways that you could learn the facts that you don’t know that wouldn’t be so frustrating?  

Child:  Well, I could listen to my times table music for five minutes every night; I could play that fun multiplication card game with my parents; I could do the Cool Math 4 Kids times games online . . .

Nurturing Teacher:  Yes! Those are all great ideas, and it is fine with me if you’d like to use some of your ideas to replace the worksheets and to still achieve the goal of learning your facts.  In your homework notebook, please write down what you do each night and you can turn it in at the end of the week.  

Yes.  It’s a three-letter shift with huge results! The purpose of the assignment was clearly communicated by the Nurturing Teacher; with that in mind, the child could think of ways to meet the purpose that would work better for her.  The Nurturing Teacher wasn’t letting the child off the hook, nor was the child trying to get out of work; she was just asking for an approach that would be better for her individual learning.  Opening the door to problem solving, the Nurturing Teacher empowered the child to think through her own challenge and learn to solve a problem through new ideas and compromise.   

Daniels and Peters make a compelling case for a Nurturing Parenting style as effective for raising creative kids.  With Nurturing Parents on the home front, and Nurturing Teachers in the classroom, our children will be well on the road toward becoming responsible, creative problem solvers and self-sufficient individuals.  Yes? 

References
Bronson, Po and Ashley Merryman.  (July 16, 2010). The creativity crisis.  Newsweek.  Dacey, J. & Packer, A.  (1992)  The nurturing parent: How to raise creative, loving, responsible children.  New York: Fireside.
Daniels, S. & Peters, D. B. (2013).  Raising creative kids.  Tucson, AZ: Great Potential Press.
Goertzel, Goertzel, Goertzel, & Hansen.  (2004).  Cradles of eminence.  Scottsdale,  AZ:  Great Potential Press.
Millar, G.  (2004).  The making of a Beyonder.  Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing Services, Inc.

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