Erik Erikson was an American developmental psychologist known for his theory on psychosocial development. He identified eight stages of human development through which a person should pass from birth to death: infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, adolescence, early adulthood, adulthood and old age.   Just as their children advance through the stages of development, parents pass through four stages of parenting as their children mature.  We call these stages the Seasons of Parenthood, and similar to a child conquering developmental tasks at each stage, parents have milestones to master.


Season 1, the “Season of Service” encompasses Erikson’s infancy and early childhood stages.  The young child is dependent upon his/her parents and is the center of the universe around which the parents orbit.  During this season, the male parent may take a less active role in the child’s day to day care.  There is less time and energy to devote to the marriage which may lead to decreased intimacy, less one-on-one time and less attention paid to the needs of each spouse by the other.  Parents are busy micromanaging the child’s life.

The key questions to ask and answer during this season of parenting are: as our child matures and becomes more independent, what does less orbiting around our child look like?  How will we shift from passively performing tasks for our child into more active authority with our child.  How do we introduce discipline and consequences?

If you’re a parent in this season, the first thing you should do is make a list of your family values.  House rules grow out of your family values.  Write down your agreed family rules and limits.  For example, if you’re going to start using time out consistently when your child is three or four, pre-determine and write down the who, what, when, and how.

  • Who will be in charge of time-outs?  Will it be Mom, dad, grandparent, caregiver, or all of you?
  •  Under what circumstances will time out be used?  If your child initially says “no” but after a warning, does pick up his toys, will there be a time out?
  • When will time outs be used?  Will you use time outs anywhere you go or will you just use time out at home.
  • How will time outs be served?  Will your child sit on a step, in a corner, on a special chair?  Will you use a timer?  How many minutes will your child serve in time out?

The two most important features of discipline during this season of parenthood are consistency and predictability.  Your child craves and depends on consistency so that he or she can learn to trust the world around him or her.  Having predictable consequences helps your child make a conscious choice as to whether violating a rule is worth earning the consequence.

Remember the phrase “catch ‘em being good”?  It’s good advice for all stages of parenthood.  There is no better way to reinforce positive behavior than to lavish attention and praise on your child for his or her good behavior choices.

Finally, write yourself a mental prescription to nurture your child at least three times a day, at times and places not connected to any behaviors.  Deliver random hugs, kisses, I love yous and snuggles.  Play with bubbles, do silly dances together, make fruit faces on their pancakes.  Increase your child’s security, self- esteem and sense of belonging by showing your children you love them just because they are.

If you’re already past this season, stay tuned for Seasons 2-4 in upcoming blog posts!