The Four Roles of the Preceptor Parent

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One really fun part of my job is being a preceptor for pharmacy students and pharmacy residents.  I was listening to a preceptor training course, learning how to become a better preceptor to these college students and recent graduates, when it struck me just how similar the role of the preceptor was to the role of a parent.  The goal of a preceptor is that the student will be able to perform independently as a pharmacist, and that same successful independence is the ultimate goal of every parent.  The class explained the 4 roles that the preceptor will play, and here is the adapted version that we can apply to our jobs as ‘preceptor parents.’


The first strategy that you use is instruction.  This is simply lecturing, giving information, talking.  This is an important, necessary step.  But if this is where you stop then you are limiting your influence drastically.  This just fills their heads with what they should do, but it doesn’t give them the chance to get involved.  This will be something that you do, a lot, especially when the kids are younger.  Parents who stop here will have children who say ‘He talked a lot’ or “He gave me a lot of wisdom.’  But if you stay here you will just be a sage or a lecturer.  I’m guessing that as my kids become teenagers they will be less influenced by plain old instruction than by the other 3 roles.  (So I’m trying to get this well-established before they get to that point!) 


The next step is modeling.  This is where you walk the talk and also explain what you are doing and why.  When you do something kind for a neighbor you let your kids see it, and then you explain why you did it. Much like Instruction, Modeling sets the foundation.  If you talk a lot and give lectures, but don’t live it out yourself, then you are a hypocrite and will lose credibility.  By doing this step well, your kids will be able to say that you were a great role model.  But again, you can’t stop here. For example, just because you model the lifestyle of a hard worker doesn’t guarantee that they will ‘catch’ it from you.  You have to proceed to the next step.


Now we come to the parent as a coach. Most of us have been on a team with a coach, or at least observed coaching in action, so we are familiar with this term.  At this phase you are asking the learner (your child) to start taking action.  Meanwhile, you as the coach stay right there with them, observe, and give them direction and pointers.  This is a great and fun phase.  As the parent of a 8, 6, 4, and 1yr old, I have enjoyed getting into this phase somewhat recently.  It is exciting to watch them take your direction and do it, without your direct help!

Coaches For Life (uh-oh)

Honestly, many parents stay here.  And some parents get very, very good at this phase.  These parents are sometimes derisively called “Helicopter Parents.’  These parents are always hovering nearby, ready to swoop in to bail the child out or give helpful feedback.  There are stories about how this kind of parent continues to assist their children, even into adulthood.  (This has become more prevalent and recognized recently, but it has always been a tendency for some parents.)  It is great to be an amazing coach, but it is not our ultimate goal to raise children who ‘listen to and follow instructions’ from their coach.  Our goal has to be that our children can make their own decisions, without us hovering nearby.  To move past helicopter parenting, there is one more step:


Facilitation is where you “step back, but check back.”  In this step you allow the child to solve problems.  To feel the consequences for his or her own actions.  To be confronted by a difficult challenge and not have the exact answer handed to them.  (Note that in order to problem-solve, you must allow them to have problems, to solve.)  Now of course you will always be available to assist, and there are certain situations that are not safe to ask your child to ‘just wing it.’  And avoid the extreme – you do not want to become an absent parent or to give the impression that your child is on their own.  But you have now taken off the training wheels and you are not running behind them with one hand ready to steady them.  But you are always available to assist, when asked.

Summary and Questions

You will continue to use all four strategies throughout your child’s life, but the goal is to develop them to the point that they don’t need you to do it for them any more.  Your job is to train your children in the way that they should go, and your success will depend on your ability to employ all 4 techniques.

Which style or role is most natural for you?  Which one is a challenge that you will have to practice?  I am interested – we are just now getting into the Facilitation role for some aspects of our kids’ training.  I’d love to hear advice from more experienced parents about how this works and the pitfalls to avoid.  Please share!

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