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Adults Develop in Relationship with Their Children

By Josette Luvmour, PhD

Blog5_relationship-mom+teenMost of us have established ways of knowing our world and identifying ourselves within it. Parenting is one such identification. Our values, beliefs, and cultural customs around parenting form from past practices that many people are finding insufficient to meet the challenges of raising children in today’s world.

During graduate school, I conducted several small research projects as I prepared for the big one…my dissertation research. One project was conducted at the end of a family program designed to teach parents how to nurture their child’s development with practical applications. The participants learned that each child has a unique set of development requirements and when the adult provides those requirements, the child experiences health and has access to well-being.

As the adult participants learned what to expect at each age and stage of the child’s development and how to nurture that development, they also learned the importance of an empathic relationship to the child’s worldview—to see through the child’s eyes. Learning this helped each adult communicate with their child at the child’s developmental level and thus supported positive development in the child. In addition to this amazing discovery, I found that as the adults changed their style of relationship with the child, the parents’ development and well-being was nurtured as well.     

An unexpected result of this program was that many of the parents revealed that they had developed new perspectives on their own childhood experiences. Adults learned that they could continue to develop and grow with their children. As one parent reflected, “It is a surprise to me to feel the intense deep healing when I do something for my son that wasn’t given to me when I was a child.”

How mutual development works

When we go through our own development as a child, the environment has certain limits, including our parents’ abilities, circumstances, and consciousness. These limits inhibit our full access to our inner capacities, thus limiting total well-being. As a parent attending to the development of our children, we inevitably come face to face with these unresolved childhood issues.

The reflective self-inquiry and subsequent self-knowledge that are central to our family programs are key to adult growth and development. What’s more, reflection and integration of the past create a deeper, fuller, and more connected relationship to the present. In this way, unresolved childhood issues in the adult are resolved in the context of parenting the child. Confidence builds as the interaction always affects both adult and child.

Increased time spent in nurturing children’s developmental needs helps us to: 1) transform old perspectives, 2) create new meaning in our lives, and 3) set a new level of normal and well-being in the family. By making the effort we emerge from old ways of being. As the adult meets the developmental needs of the child, they and the child connect to increased well-being and a deeper, more loving relationship.

Adults who take the time to learn and apply child development principles often find they are able to operate from a different frame of reference when communicating, making decisions, and nurturing development in children. One mother confirmed the changes in her family: My husband and son are communicating better and coming up with solutions together that are different. Although they don’t agree on everything, they are more open to one another since my husband is asking more questions and is less authoritative.

Children are happier when their developmental needs are met. When adults learn what to expect from each stage of childhood, there tend to be fewer conflicts and more understanding for the child’s age-specific capabilities and the parent’s confidence in parenting skills increases. As one mother said, The impact on my own well-being is that I feel more competent, which makes me feel happier and more enthusiastic.


You can read more about mutual development between adult and child in an article published in the Journal of Adult Development (2011) by following this link: http://summainstitute.org/docs/JLuvmour_JAD_Article_DevTogether_2010.pdf

©2012 Josette Luvmour, PhD. All rights reserved.

Posted on June 30, 2012 by Josette Luvmour, PhD

Josette Luvmour, PhD is a developmentalist, consultant, educator who specializes in child development, adult development, and sustainable family relationships. She serves in the non-profit sector as Director of Family and Professional Development at Summa Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides Natural Learning Relationships™ programs to students, families, and professionals. In addition to her 26-year consulting practice at Luvmour Consulting, LLC, she is author of five books and numerous journal articles and chapters that focus on building positive relationships with children.

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Tags: *Out-of-School Time, *Parent Engagement at Home , Building trust & respect, Communicating, Empathy


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