FamilyLife Today®

What Kind of Parent Are You?

with Jill Rigby | August 2, 2013
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Did you know that parents fall into three categories? Find out which category describes you when guest Jill Rigby, author of Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World, explains the differences between deflector parents, depriver parents, and developer parents.

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  • Did you know that parents fall into three categories? Find out which category describes you when guest Jill Rigby, author of Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World, explains the differences between deflector parents, depriver parents, and developer parents.

Jill Rigby explains the differences between deflector parents, depriver parents, and developer parents.

What Kind of Parent Are You?

With Jill Rigby
August 02, 2013
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Jill: Three-year-old Madeline comes to the breakfast table. Mom says "Honey, what would you like for breakfast this morning? Would you like Froot Loops®, or Cheerios®, or Rice Krispies®?" She gives her six choices. Little, three-year-old Madeline says, "I want Lucky Charms®."

Mom says, "Well, Honey, we don't have Lucky Charms."  “Well, I don't want cereal."  "Okay, honey, well, how about an egg?" "Okay, I'll take an egg." "Alright, Honey, do you want a fried egg? Do you want a scrambled egg?  How would you like your egg cooked?" "Good egg, Mama." 

So, Mama turns around, and cooks the egg, and says, "Honey, do you want bacon? Do you want sausage?"—here we go. I call this the deflector parent because the parent is deflecting their responsibility on the child by asking the child all the questions.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So if you’ve been thinking to yourself, "Okay, I really have been letting my child run the show,”—you’re not alone. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. You and I were chatting, the other day, about kids. I remember you saying that children are born foolish; and part of our job, as parents, is to help them grow out of their foolishness and into wisdom. Then, you said: "They are also born selfish. Part of the job, for parents, is to get them from selfishness to unselfishness." That’s really a universal issue for all parents; isn’t it?

Dennis: It is; and the problem is that we, as parents, we were born foolish and selfish, too. [Laughter] So, you've really got a double problem here. We're in the process of growing up, as we raise our kids. That's what it's all about, I think. I think God finishes growing us up as we raise our children.

We have a guest, here on FamilyLife Today, Jill Rigby, who I think also believes that—as she was a single-parent mom of twin boys—and God finished growing you up, as a mom, no doubt about it; right, Jill?

Jill: Oh, absolutely. [Laughter] I grew up with my boys.

Dennis: Jill is the founder of Manners of the Heart®, which is a nonprofit organization that is bringing—I like this, Bob—"civility and respect to our culture through books, parenting, conferences, a curriculum for K through 12, and also training for businesses."

You're actually helping businesses with manners? That's a great idea!

Jill: Believe it or not—believe it or not—we work with a lot of businesses. The byline for that is: "Leading with the Heart". So, everything—you don't talk to me for more than five minutes and not hear "heart" [Laughter] spoken somewhere. But we do. We're working with business leaders to try to help them remember that the bottom-line is people. It's not product or money, but the bottom-line is something much more than that.

Bob: Your school curriculum—you said—is in about 800 schools; right?

Jill: Yes.

Bob: And most of them public schools. Is there a spiritual component to the material?

Jill: Well, you know, if you're going to talk about manners—you know, it's kind of hard to get away from it not being biblically-based because, after all, that's where it all comes from—the ability to have manners, and the ability to have that attitude that's self-giving, not self-serving. I mean, that's where it comes from.

Dennis: And they let you do that?

Jill: Yessss, they do.

Dennis: Yesss?

Jill: You all are going to get me in trouble. Yes, they do because it's biblically-based. The principles are biblically-sound; but we don't use Scripture references, in the curriculum itself, that's used in the schools.

Bob: Right.

Jill: But that is the foundation and basis for all of it.

Bob: But there have got to be some times when people have come up to you and said: "Where did you get all of this?"—Right? —"Where did this information come from?"

Jill: Oh, absolutely; absolutely. Of course, I see God's Word, jumping off the page, that says, "Whenever anyone asks, you must be willing to say," and so I do.

Dennis: You tell a story about a father, by the name of Tom, who learned an important lesson in dealing with a situation with his son.

Jill: Yes, Tom—unfortunately, was called in by a soccer coach—his son's soccer coach. His son's name is Will. Please, all these names are coincidence—if there's a Tom and a Will listening. But the day that Will's soccer coach called him in and said: "Look, we're going to have to remove him from the team if he can't learn to be a team player. We've got a problem here."

Now, Will was one of the stars of the team—had excelled in everything. Tom had been the dad, on the sidelines, from day one, cheering him on and forcing the idea in his son that: “He was the best,” and, “He would be the best, and, “You're going to be number one.” That pushing—which we get confused sometimes—we think it's parenting, but it's not parenting—it's pushing.

This was the wakeup call for this dad—who thought he was involved, and he was there for every game, and he was that great dad that cheered his son on. But this was the wakeup call for this dad—for Tom—when the coach is sitting there, saying, you know—he was willing to remove one of the best players on the team because Will thought it was all about him. Will had no understanding that: "I'm a member of the team. I've got some good skills, and I contribute to this team; but the team is not playing out here for me. I'm supposed to be playing with the team."

Bob: You know, I've watched professional athletes, who get so wrapped up in themselves, and think the whole thing is about them. Their teams never do well, at all. The reality is—whatever skill set you've got, even if you're a master at it—if you can't figure out how to love and serve others in the midst of what you do, you're going to wind up isolated, and lonely, and destroying folks around you.

Jill: And, you know, the tough thing for Tom that day is—when they walked out; and he said, "You know, Tom, you've got to help us get this straight or Will's off the team,"—the real wakeup call of it was that moment of realization, in Tom, that it had been his fault and that his son felt the way he did about himself because his dad had told him. His dad had done this to his son—it was his fault.

Dennis: And what you're illustrating is something that you teach—that there are really all kinds of approaches in raising children. There's the child-centric home, the parent-centric home, but there's really a third category. It's the character-centric home, where you are building the life of a young person, ultimately, to deny himself and really to live unselfishly.

Jill: Yes, absolutely. So much of this runs counter-culture because our culture is telling parents, as we've mentioned already, that we are to raise children who grow up and become number one. We've lost the idea of raising children to become the best that God meant them to be—to help our children become the person that God created them to be. That's not going to happen if we continue to make either a child-centered home or a parent-centered home. We have to be focused on building their character.

Bob: That was really the thesis of the first book you wrote, Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World; right?

Jill: Yes, it really was—the idea of changing your perspective, as a parent, in order to change your child's point of view so that they look for their purpose in how they're going to serve the world—not, as I mentioned, how the world is going to serve them.

Bob: And you see parents falling into three basic categories; right?

Jill: I do. There is the deflector, and the depriver, and the developer. I'll give you a little brief description of each. The deflector parent is the one—well, I'll give you a little illustration for this. Three-year-old Madeline comes to the breakfast table. Mom says: "Honey, what would you like for breakfast this morning? Would you like Froot Loops, or Cheerios, or Rice Krispies?" She gives her six choices. Little, three-year-old Madeline says, "I want Lucky Charms." Mom says, "Well, Honey, we don't have Lucky Charms." "Well, I don't want cereal." "Okay, honey, well, how about an egg?" "Okay, I'll take an egg." "All right, Honey, do you want a fried egg? Do you want a scrambled egg? How would you like your egg cooked?" "Good egg, Mama." 

So, Mama turns around, and cooks the egg, and says: "Honey, do you want bacon? Do you want sausage?"—here we go. I call this the deflector parent because the parent is deflecting their responsibility on the child by asking the child all the questions. You know, that's something that modern-day parents have been told to do—is that you need to ask you child's opinion, you know. We're talking about a three-year-old. Here is the problem—that three-year-old is looking at the parent for their answers—and what's the parent doing?—asking them all the questions.

Bob: The three-year-old is thinking, "I know more about life than Mom or Dad knows;" right?

Jill: Exactly; and so is that three-year-old going to listen when she's 13? I don't think so! She's not going to care what your opinion is because you haven't commanded her respect. You haven't earned that right.

Dennis: You know, I have to wonder—at the point when they begin to make choices of which school to go to—in high school, maybe; or junior high—if the deflector parent isn't also one of these who asks their child, "Well, Sweetheart, where do you want to go to school?"

Now, certainly, you want to know what the child thinks, and what their preference is, and what they would like it would be; but to give that choice to a child and let the child, by himself or herself, alone, make that decision? I think, at that point, the parent has abdicated their responsibility and is really not taking the place of respect that you're talking about here.

Jill: Oh, absolutely; and how often we see that today—where the parent deflects—that's why I call them "deflector"—deflects that responsibility. They're actually taking it off of their shoulders, and they're putting that responsibility on their child and expecting the child to make the decisions that the parent should be making for the child.

Bob: So if I'm a deflector parent, and I keep coming to my child and saying, "What do you want to do today?" or, "What outfit do you want to wear today?" or all of these things—letting the world revolve, as it were, around my child's choices—you're saying I'm raising a child who will become a selfish child?

Jill: Absolutely; because, again, the child thinks: “It's all about me. It only matters what I think. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.”

Bob: So, as a parent, I should, instead, be saying, "Here is what you're wearing, and here's what you're eating, and here is how life is going to go for you today"?

Jill: Well, kind of. Here is three-year-old Madeline. Madeline comes in; and Mom says: "Honey, I've got a bowl of Froot Loops here. Here's your breakfast for you." "Oh, I wish I had Lucky Charms." "Well, Honey, today we're going to have Froot Loops; and, look, here's toast with your favorite strawberry jam."

Now, when you say: "Honey, you know what? We're going to start doing things differently," you better believe it's going to be war for a little while. But you don't have to engage in the battle because, you see, you're the parent. You've made a wise decision; and so you will win the battle, if you just don't engage in the war.

Dennis: Okay, if that's the deflector parent, what's the depriver parent?

Jill: This is a tough one. This is a real—I'll warn you; another warning here—this is a tough one. This is that parent who either gives too much or too little. The parent who gives too much is the one who gives too much and expects too little. That's actually depriving their child of maturing.

This is that classic parent that has raised the child—and now, who's in their mid-20s—and it's one of those kids who is coming back home because they stepped in the world and went: "Yowtz! I can't do this. Nobody is taking care of me,” and, “No, I don't know how to wash my clothes. No, I don't know how to cook. No, I don't know how to take care of myself. Nobody is waking me up in the morning with a glass of orange juice in bed. [Laughter] Wait a minute here!  I can't handle the real world. Where is somebody who is going to take care of me?"

Dennis: This is the boomerang child that comes back home to: no rent, free food—

Jill: Right; Mama washing the clothes.

Dennis: Camp out for a while.

Jill: Absolutely, and that's because they had a depriver parent. That's the one who is giving them everything in the world and depriving them from growing up—actually, keeping them—I often say this is a parent who, rather than raising their children with two legs to stand on, they're actually raising kids without a leg to stand on. So, their kids have to have a crutch. Of course, the crutch can present itself in many different ways. There are plenty of crutches waiting, out there, to devour our kids.

Dennis: The depriver parent is really preventing a child from self-accomplishment and ending up feeling good about himself or herself because they finally got it—they finally got the point. They fought through the obstacles to achieve what they needed to accomplish; right?

Jill: Exactly; it's the parent that fixes everything. When there is something uncomfortable, the parent fixes it. If a task is too tough, the parent will do it for them. Another parent—you know, how you talk to parents all the time—a parent, at a recent seminar, came up and she said: "You know, Jill, you made me understand something. My daughter, who is in the eighth grade, it's time I stopped doing her homework; isn't it?" “Oh!”  I said, "Eighth grade?" She said, "Yes;" and she said: "You know, I've always said my daughter was so immature, and I just don't understand why. I have been so involved in her life." The helicopter mom, you know?

Dennis: Sure.

Jill: "I've been there for every concert. I've been there for everything she's ever done. And yet, you know, at this stage, in eighth grade, she's getting belligerent. She is getting this attitude toward me. Jill, it's almost like she resents me. How can she resent me? I do everything for her." And I said, "Well,"—[Laughter]

Bob: "How do I put this?"

Jill: How do you say this and you keep your manners? And, you know, how do you say it in a very sweet way but in a way that has to be said, for the sake of her daughter, that, you know—and I did have to say: "She's resenting you because you're depriving her from growing up. You're keeping her from having those—she's never had an ‘Aha!’ moment. She's in eighth grade, and she does not know what it feels to persevere—do something tough, get through it, fail, get up, start again, go again, and finally accomplish something. Do you realize your daughter has never had that experience? No wonder she's resentful."  Ooop!

Dennis: What about the parent who is depriving their child by not giving them anything or too little?

Jill: This is a parent that replaces things with those heart needs. Rather than giving them of themselves—giving their child themselves and building a relationship with the child—they replace it with money. They just try to pacify the child, and keep the child occupied and busy; but they are totally uninvolved, and the child may be doing everything.

A really sad, sad example is a young woman, who was raised this way. When she finally got to high school is when it kicked in. She finally realized how empty her heart was and how empty she was because her parents had allowed her to do everything and be in everything, but they weren't a part of it. And so what did she do? She found activities to get involved in to try to fill it up—and it was sex and shopping. That's what happened because her parents had truly given her too little. I understand I'm making everybody flip around backwards in my thinking with this, but I think we can grab hold of it. Unfortunately, because we all know either we've done it or we know parents who have done it.

Bob: There are some drill sergeant parents who, when you use the word "depriving" parent, you think of them. They're not caring for their child the way they ought to be.

Dennis: They're not indulging their child—they're doing the opposite—which is really depriving their child of a relationship—of warmth, of love. It's all duty—it's all responsibility, it's all chores, it's all work—but we can’t really do that. At that point, we can't lose the relationship to achieve the chore.

Jill: Oh, absolutely. It's that family that has—“Here is your duty. You're a member of this family, and so here are your responsibilities as a member of this family. If you don't fulfill your responsibility, there is punishment;” but there is no grace. Where is the other side of it? There's not that hug, and that love, and that affirmation. It's simply: "You're a member of this family. So, here is what you've got to do to be a part of it. If you don't do it, and you don't follow the rules, and you don't tend to your duties, then, there is going to be punishment;” but there is no love.

Bob: The kind of parent you think we ought to be is what you call the "developer" parent. Can you give us just a thumbnail? We've seen we shouldn't be deflectors and indulge a child. We shouldn't be deprivers and do everything for them. What does a developer parent do?

Jill: The developer parent is that parent who walks through the difficulties and the triumphs with their child. That's the parent who, as I mentioned with Madeline—that example—when Mom recognized what she was doing, and she changed that breakfast scenario. Mom made the decisions, and Mom made the choices.

It's that parent who wants to develop their child—develop the talents and the abilities that their child has—helps them find their purpose, helps them determine the right choices to make by being the parent and making the right choices for the child until the child is ready to make age-appropriate decisions for themselves.

It's that idea of training the child. There is a beautiful poem, written by a woman named Mamie Gene Cole, who was in her eighties when she wrote a poem called "I'm the Child". She wrote it as the voice of the child telling the parent what they desperately need. The last line of that poem says, "Train me"—this is the child talking—"Train me, I beg you, that I may become a blessing to the world." That's what a developer parent does. That's that long-term goal that they set before them—is developing their child—training their child—to become a blessing to the world.

Dennis: Jill, I was thinking, as you were saying—a parent could be listening to you right now and saying: "Man, I'm guilty as charged. I have deprived my kids. I have indulged them and been a deflector parent."

But I was reflecting back on one moment, when we did get it right. I'll never forget this--we had a child—their sex and name will remain anonymous here for obvious reasons—but this child had an ongoing run-in with a teacher. I mean, it was over, and over, and over again. The child kept losing with this teacher. At those moments, it's real easy to listen to your child, and just take his or her side, and just come alongside them and say: "You know, that teacher—she's been teaching too long! She's just rusting out! You know, she's just had it with kids; and you can tell. She's become impatient with them."

But, instead, we used it as an opportunity to try to instruct one of our children around character development and learning to respond to tough situations because we said: "You know, for the rest of your life, you're going to face situations that are beyond your control—with a boss, with a spouse, with a child—and you've got to know how to endure. You have to know how to handle an adverse situation." I think we did okay. I don't think we fell into the trap of being a deflector, and caving in, and rushing to the aid of the child. On the other hand, I don't think we left them to deal with it by themselves and deprive them. But instead, we tried to use the circumstances, that I believe God created, to teach our child an important lesson.

That's really what you're calling parents to do, here, is use the daily teaching opportunities—that God brings your way, with your kids—so that you can develop them to become responsible adults, who learn to live life on their own.

Jill, I just, personally, want to thank you for your work, and your courage to do this yourself, and to model it with your kids—and then, to take a step beyond that—to reach out to your community, and to your state, and to the nation, through your ministry. I really admire what you're doing, and hope you'll come back and visit us again soon on FamilyLife Today.

Jill: It would be my pleasure. Thank you for having me here.

Bob: I’ve been thinking about a couple I know. I want to share your book—your resources with them—because they’re about to become new parents. I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if they recognize what the assignment is?” Because when we had kids—when Mary Ann and I had kids—we did not fully get the assignment. I think, along the way, we’ve begun to understand our responsibility to help build character in our children—one of the things that we need to be guiding them toward, as they grow up.

We recognize that character is something that, ultimately, they have to embrace; but we have a responsibility, as parents, to guide them, and direct them, and point them in the right direction. As we’ve talked about selfishness this week, it’s one of the key issues we need to be addressing with our children. Jill’s book, which is called Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World, is a book we would recommend to you.

You can go to to order it from our FamilyLife Resource Center. Again, go, online, at You’ll find information about the book, Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World. You can order it from us online, or you can call to order. Our toll-free number is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”; 1-800-FL-TODAY. Give us a call and ask about Jill Rigby’s book, Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World.

While we’re on that subject, we had a conversation, not long ago, with Kay Wyma, who lives in Dallas. She was trying to tackle a related issue with her teenagers—whom she noticed just had some expectations about what life ought to be like—a little bit of an entitlement mentality. So, she set out on a 12-month project to try to break some of that mentality in the lives of her kids to make them responsible for what goes on around the home—participants in home management. It was a fascinating approach that she took, and the results were pretty encouraging.

We have copies of our conversation with Kay Wyma; and we’re making the CD of that interview available, this week, when you help us with a donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We could not do what we do without you—our Legacy Partners, who make monthly donations to support this ministry—and those of you who get in touch with us, from time to time, and just offer a word of encouragement and your financial support, as well. We appreciate that partnership.

If you can make a donation, this week, go to Click the button that says, “I CARE”. Make an online donation—that’s easy to do—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone, and ask for the CD called, Cleaning House, when you get in touch with us. We’ll send it out to you.

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And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk to the former Secretary of Education, Dr. Bill Bennett. We’re going to talk about manhood—“What makes a man a man?” and, “How do we raise godly men in this generation?” We’ll talk about that on Monday. Hope you can tune in.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Episodes in this Series

Character Development Day 1
Are You Unselfish?
with Jill Rigby August 1, 2013
Jill Rigby explains how emphasizing self-esteem over service encourages a child's natural selfishness.
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