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Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science


Blackwell Publishing

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Objective: To identify the advice and regrets empty-nest parents have when reflecting on their experiences as parents, and to investigate the utility of the parenting pyramid framework for parent education on the basis of that advice and those regrets.

Background: The parenting pyramid specifies that the parent–child relationship, teaching, and corection are key components of parenting, and that they should be emphasized in that order or priority. However, the extent to which this model is reflective of what parents actually think or do, or wish they would have done, remains unclear.

Method: Empty-nesters were recruited through social media, professional e-mail listservs, university advertising, newspaper ads in multiple states, and word of mouth, resulting in a convenience sample of 379 individuals from across the United States who completed an online, open-ended survey. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Consistent with the parenting pyramid, empty-nesters conveyed the importance of a healthy parent–child relationship being the foundation for teaching, reasoning, direction, and correction throughout children’s lives. Empty-nesters’ advice focused primarily on the importance of the parent–child relationship and the role of parents as teachers. Regrets were related to overemphasizing correction and negativity.

Conclusions: These findings provide empirical support for the utility of the parenting pyramid as a useful framework for principles-focused parent education.

Implications: The relative importance of relationship building versus correction and discipline suggest that parent educators should reduce the amount of time and attention they spend answering the question, “What to do when things go wrong?” and focus more on helping things go right.

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