Roles Within the Family


Families are not democracies. Each family has its own ways of deciding who has the power and authority within the family unit, and which rights, privi­leges, obligations, and roles are assigned to each family member.


In most families parents are expected to be the leaders or executives of the family; children are expected to follow the leadership of their parents. As chil­dren in the middle years grow older, they will ask for, and certainly should be allowed, more autonomy, and their opinions should be considered when deci­sions are made; however, parents are the final authorities.


Of course there will always be disagreements among the generations. Your child may want to go to the beach on a family vacation; you may want to go to the mountains. He may think he has too many chores to do; you may think he has just the right amount. Let him speak his mind, but the ultimate decision is yours. Explain why you’ve made the judgment you have, without becoming de­fensive or apologetic. You won’t always be popular in these decisions, but your youngster is still going to love you.


Although generational hierarchies are the most obvious ones within fami­lies, other types of hierarchies exist as well. Sometimes they depend on gen­der. In patriarchal societies such as ours, men have traditionally had power over women, including within the family. Traditionally, fathers have been the providers and authority figures, but while they may be the final decision­makers, they often have assumed only limited functions beyond that in the family. Mothers have been the caretakers, responsible for the emotional side of the family; they have kept the family together and functioning smoothly. What this means is that mothers and fathers are likely to hold different posi­tions in the family hierarchy, that mothers take primary responsibility and that fathers may have only partial responsibility for day-to-day parental deci­sions.


Today, however, there are challenges to this traditional gender-based struc­ture. In many families both fathers and mothers are bringing home paychecks. And while women still seem to shoulder the larger share of responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the family, more fathers are assuming greater roles in child-raising and household duties.


It is useful to consider what roles each family member takes within the fam­ily, and whether everyone is satisfied with the current arrangement. For ex­ample, the oldest children in the family may take on the parental role of caring for their younger siblings. Or grandparents may acquire an important place within the family by assuming a central child-rearing role while parents work.


Think about who is responsible for what within your own family and how the current arrangement is working. Some responsibilities may be open to ne­gotiation, particularly if the family does not seem to be functioning optimally. For example, an older child may be resentful of having too much responsibil­ity for watching over the younger children, while the younger children may also resent the older child playing a parental role. This will result in arguments whenever the oldest child is left in charge. Parents need to review what is go­ing on, discuss how the children are feeling about it, and come up with some alternatives.





The size of a family has a significant effect on the interrelationships among its members and can play a major role in the formation of a child’s personality.


Family size is a significant factor in child development, but must be considered as only one part of a larger picture, however. Other factors, such as the parents’ personality traits, and the gender and spacing of the children, contribute significantly to the formation of a child’s personality. Children of large families have a greater opportunity to learn cooperation at an early age than children of smaller families as they must learn to get along with siblings. They also take on more responsibility, both for themselves and often for younger brothers and sisters. In addition, children in large families must cope with the emotional crises of sibling rivalry, from which they may learn important lessons that will aid them later in life. This factor, however, may also be a disadvantage; either the older child who was “dethroned” from a privileged position or the younger child who is in the eldest child’s shadow may suffer feelings of inferiority. Children in large families tend to adopt specific roles in order to attain a measure of uniqueness and thus gain parental attention.


Children in small families receive a greater amount of individual attention and tend to be comfortable around adults at an early age. They may also be overprotected, however, which can result in dependence, lack of initiative, and fear of risk, and the increased parental attention may also take the form of excessive scrutiny and pressure to live up to other people’s expectations. Researchers have found that only children are often loners and have the lowest need for affiliation. They tend to have high IQs and are successful academically. However, only children have also been found to have more psychological problems than children from larger families.



Generation gap is nothing but certain psychological and emotional gap between parents or elder people and the younger ones. Bulging generation gap creates misunderstanding and lack of attachment between the parents and children. The success of parenting lies in how effectively they avoid the generation gap or ignore the differences with kids.


Generation gap is the result of the fast paced development of the society. In earlier times two or three generations live in the same lifestyle and environments as the development was so slow. But today, nearest past is very much outdated and the world is more advanced each day. Parents do not even know many of the modern technologies and equipment children use.

Tips for parents to cope with generation gap

Being up to date is the only way to cope up with the generation gap. When you are asked a doubt by your children, and if your answer is that you do not know, then you may be counted an outdated man or person of the gone age. To avoid this situation, try to be current and updated with information and technologies. Never make your kids feel that you think in some old fashion. When children express their feelings, understand them in the modern world context.


Certain things considered a taboo have been changed into socially acceptable in the modern world. Many parents do the mistake of evaluating children by comparing their age with that of parent’s when he/she was in the same age. When a parent was in fifteen, he/she might need a bicycle, but their child of same age may ask for a motor bike. Understanding the requirements of time and lifestyles of modern children will help evaluating children and taking right decisions without making kids feel you an outdated parent.


Make friendship with them instead of being rude parents. Let them express all their feelings to you. This will help in both the ways. You can cope up with the generation gap by learning the feelings and requirements of the children and also guide kids if you feel that they are mislead. Friendship with kids will help you to maintain the smooth family relationship. From deep friendly attachment with parents, kids will learn to respect them and obey them.

In fact, there are no global standards of attitudes. Different people may have different attitudes. People of same age may exhibit different attitudes. But, when such difference in attitudes come under one roof, then it affects effective communications and active relationships. Knowing it better is the right way of avoiding it.


The world is a smart world today, being smart enough to cope up with the modern world will help parents to be equal with the younger generations. However hard parents try to be like younger generations, they can never become exactly equal, but can cope up with the newer generations and dismiss the possible issues generated out of generation gap.

Bridging the generation gap between parent and children is essential. Parents often contribute their share in digging gap between parents and children by pushing the kid’s beyond their limits. This happens in two ways. Parents either demands higher than the limits of the child or pushes the child beyond the economical or social limits of parents themselves. This, in future, makes the child going astray from the lifestyle and status of parents. If child grows higher, parents should, at least, grow in attitudes and thinking levels to cope up with the child. Larger generation gap means greater lack of understanding.

Never make your child feeling ashamed of the parents. If he expresses his desires on the look or behavior or his/her parents, be ready to change for him/her, but of course reasonably. For example, if your child says that his friend’s parents come on a luxury car, then you buying another luxury car is stupidity, but when your child says that you speak more loudly or dress up in old fashion, then you can think about changing them. This way you can cope up with the expectations of the kids and always be updated.


Know that the age of your kids is more than a number. As they grow on passing through ages, their thinking pattern changes; the way they look at the world change; the way they express feelings change. Parents should learn to understand the growth of the kids. A twenty year boy should not be dealt with same as when he was five year old.




Parenting is the ultimate long-term investment. Be prepared to put far more into it than you get out of it, at least for some time. Given the structure and stresses of contemporary North American society, the happiness of couples plummets the minute they become parents. And it gets worse before it gets better. In the long run, however, it can be the most rewarding job of your life.


From talking and reading to infants to making values clear (best done in conversations around the dinner table), parents exert enormous influence over their children’s development. They are, however, not the only influences, especially after children enter school. It is especially important that parents give children a good start, but it’s also important for parents to recognize that kids come into the world with their own temperaments, and it is the parents’ job to provide an interface with the world that eventually prepares a child for complete independence. In a rapidly changing world, parenting seems subject to fads and changing styles, and parenting in some ways has become a competitive sport.


But the needs of child development as delineated by science remain relatively stable. There is such a thing as overparenting, and aiming for perfection in parenting might be a fool’s mission. Too much parenting cripples children as they move into adulthood, renders them unable to cope with the merest setbacks, and is believed to be a major cause of failure-to-launch syndrome.


There is such a thing as too-little parenting, and research establishes that lack of parental engagement often leads to poor behavioral outcomes in children, in part because it encourages the young to be too reliant on peer culture. Ironically, harsh or authoritarian styles of parenting can have the same effect.




A role model is a person who serves as an example by influencing others. For many children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers. Children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships, or when making difficult decisions. Children also look up to other relatives, teachers, coaches, and peers. Children may try to copy the behavior and appearance of celebrities, such as athletes and entertainers, and characters from books, TV, movies, or video games. Some parents may want to help their children choose positive role models. Here are some helpful suggestions for discussing role models with your child and for serving as a positive role model yourself:


Have your child identify what qualities he admires in his role model

Give examples of people in your community who you feel have positive qualities and are a good influence on others


Talk about people you look up to for guidance and inspiration


Negative role models, however, may also influence children. Sometimes widely admired public figures can make poor personal choices. Young children may assume that the behaviors of negative role models are typical, safe, and acceptable. Parents and caregivers can intervene by emphasizing that role models who embrace inappropriate behavior, violence, racism, sexism, and drug and alcohol abuse are not acceptable.


Some suggestions to help you talk to your child about role models who have made mistakes are:


Remind your child that all people have both good and bad qualities and that anyone can make a mistake. Explain that it is important to apologize and to learn from our mistakes

Ask your child what he thinks of the role model’s behavior

Ask what he would have done differently in the situation

Give examples of more positive and healthy ways to handle the situation

If you have concerns that your child is being negatively influenced by his role model, work with your child to identify more appropriate role models.


Encourage your child to become involved in activities that reflect your values, such as religious programs, athletics, after school programs, clubs, or volunteering

Remind your child that he or she does not have to do everything that the role model does.

Your child can copy what he or she likes but still be him or herself

Help your child identify more positive role models




Parents and families have the most direct and lasting impact on children’s learning and development of social competence. When parents are involved, students achieve more, exhibit more positive attitudes and behavior, and feel more comfortable in new settings. Early childhood providers need to reach out to families in order to build the kind of relationships that engage them as active partners early in their children’s education


Families are crucial partners in promoting positive social skills. Home visits, parent visitation to child care or school setting, telephone conversations, newsletters, informal notes, bulletin boards, workshops, and regular face-to-face communication can be used to keep families informed about the specific social skills being focused on in the early childhood setting and for care providers to learn about what families are doing at home.


If guidance strategies are to be truly effective, parent involvement and support are crucial. Early care providers need to engage parents as soon as their child is enrolled in the program and ask for assistance in understanding the child’s background and the family’s goals for the child. Sensitivity to family and cultural differences is crucial and can be heightened by the care provider’s ability to listen and encourage communication. Acceptance of differences in families is essential for each child and parent to feel a sense of belonging in early childhood programs. Mutual respect, cooperation, shared responsibility, and negotiation of differences in opinion between parents and care and education professionals are necessary to achieve shared goals related to the guidance and education of young children.


According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (1998) Code of Ethical Conduct, professionals’ ethical responsibilities to families most related to guidance strategies include:


Develop relationships of mutual trust with families we serve


Acknowledge and build upon strengths and competencies as we support families in their task of nurturing children


Respect the dignity of each family and its culture, language, customs, and beliefs


Respect families’ child-rearing values and their right to make decisions for their children


Help family members improve their understanding of their children and enhance their skills as parents


As our nation’s population becomes more and more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and language, early child care providers may need to learn about cultures and family child-raising styles that are different from their own. Families participating in their programs can help them do so. Parents become a respected source of information and are accorded another meaningful role in their child’s education. Establishing dialogue and trust is the first step in this process and should include: expressing a desire to learn from the parent, asking for parents’ opinions, discussing ways to support the family’s values and customs, and acknowledging that there are many points of view on a topic (Sturm, 2003).




Guiding young children’s behavior is challenging work, but it is the most important job of the family. Children need your help in learning how to behave. Discipline and supervision change with the age of your child. Young children demand more time in guiding their behavior. Older children still need your guidance, but the amount of time and the number of times is less.

Always keep in mind that discipline, which really means teaching, is “training that develops self-control.” Discipline is not mean. It is not embarrassing. It does not destroy a child’s sense of worth. Eventually you want your child to develop the internal ability to guide his or her behavior and actions in proper ways in all situations, even when you are not there. This can be done if you do it a little bit all through childhood. Begin when your child is very young. Remember that the world is different from when you were young. Your child may need different skills.

Once you get used to the idea that you are a parent, it is important to get comfortable with the idea that you are responsible for guiding your child’s behavior. In the process, you are going to be ignored, neglected and unpopular at times. In order to help your child develop self-control, you must have confidence that you are doing the right thing for your child. Keep your goal in your mind.

You need to discipline and guide your child’s behavior respectfully, firmly and matter-of-factly even when you are feeling anxious or angry. You need to remain in control.

All through the stages of development, children need to know in advance what is expected and which behaviors are unacceptable. Young children are not able to always understand the words you say, even if you tell them what to expect. When children are young, you need to watch what they are able to tolerate. Leave when their behavior and attention span are not up to the activity. For example, when you take a very young child shopping, watch carefully for what the child can tolerate. Shopping is fun for a certain amount of time. Then the child might need to go on to another activity.

Let your child know in advance what you expect if they are older. If there is not a lot for your child to do, remember to bring things along that are fun and interesting. These added activities create a lot of opportunities for appropriate behavior.

If you need to reprimand your child, no matter what age your child is, always do it privately and respectfully. Remember that you are teaching the child what you want him or her to do. Be firm and kind.


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