Your parenting message to your teen can create an atmosphere of respect in your home, or chaos and power of control.
Maggie Baumann, M.A.: When our newborns are handed over to us after delivery, it's such an intense, monumental moment in our lives. There's excitement, fear, pride, and a host of other emotions when we become new parents.
We can enroll ourselves into parenting classes to help us learn skills and how to be healthy parents. You can learn some tips and tools along the way. But raising a child -- then later a teenager -- is no easy task.
Parenting experts say there are many different styles to parenting, but the three most common are:
- Parenting by giving orders
- Parenting by giving in
- Parenting by giving choices
Few parents follow one style to the extreme. But more than likely, you'll have a comfort level with one of these styles and use this most often when communicating with your child or teen.
With this style, parents are focused on setting limits. They try to control their teens. Kids living under this parenting style usually feel little or no freedom.
This parenting style is often called "authoritarian." Parents tend to be critical and judgmental of their teens. Demands are made on the kids, and parents often use punishment or rewards to control. A parent with this style may be someone who gets too involved in his or her teen's homework, more interested in the outcome of a good grade than the learning experience for the child. There's no real respect for the teen.
Teen's behavior can look like ...
If you are an authoritative parent, your teen can react in different ways. Some get frustrated, angry, and rebel in areas you can't control -- like friends, drugs, school delinquency, or sex. This is where a power struggle emerges between the teen and parent. Respect is lost on both sides.
However, a teen of an authoritarian parent may behave in an opposite way, fearful of the parent and discouraged to show his/her emotions. These kids don't want to be criticized, so they try their best to please the parent and follow parental direction, even if respect is not there. On the surface, this family's relationship may look perfect ... because the teen behaves as demanded to behave.Pitfalls of this parenting style
- The giving orders parenting style doesn't help build trust or respect
- It doesn't offer the teen appropriate freedom or responsibility
- It doesn't teach teens to think for themselves
So if you are a parent who doesn't like to give orders, you may backpedal and take a stance that operates in a "giving in" style. This type of parent just accepts that teens will rebel and they accept that living with them is going to be difficult.
A parent in the "giving in" mode, also known as a "permissive parent," will often believe it's best to stay out of the teen's way. They give in to the "wants" the teen demands. Permissive parents avoid conflict and often feel unprepared to deal with teen problems such as drug abuse, teen sex, and disrespect for elders or authority figures.
Often, permissive parents are not around a lot, working long hours and seldom home. They may be divorced or remarried. By not being physically there for their teen, they may feel guilt and think that allowing the teen to make decisions on his/her own without counsel is a way to give back to the teen so the guilt of not parenting properly feels lessened. Permissive parents give teens a "green light" to misbehave. Giving in takes respect away from both the parent and the teen.
Teen's behavior can look like ...
Having a permissive parent sends a signal to the teen that his/her parent is weak, and it's easy to grab the power they seek. So the teen has an excuse for rebelling or showing disrespect.
Experts suggest that teens may feel good about having all the control, but it doesn't usually last long. When a parent continues to give in to their teen, then the teen eventually learns the parent doesn't respect them, and this in turn makes it hard for the teen to respect him/herself.Pitfalls of this parenting style
- Having no limits won't help teens learn to get along with others
- It won't help teens learn responsibility and respect for others
- It won't help teens gain respect for themselves
When a person is given a choice for an action or behavior, it gives them a sense of control -- healthy control. Parenting by giving choices is also known as the "democratic style" -- one in which rights and responsibilities are balanced. This style helps teens become responsible by showing respect and giving them opportunities to make decisions.
However, it's important to understand this style allows teens the right to say what they want or need, but it doesn't automatically mean they get their way. It depends on the parents' and teen's ability to balance the rights and responsibilities of the situation.
This parenting style is committed to guide and discipline the teenager, but with respect. Yet, the parent expects respect from the teen at the same time. If the parent is yelling or talking down, then it's going to be hard for the teen to respect him/her, so they may counter with disrespectful behaviors to the parent. There can be no double standard.
So if everyone is to be respected in the family, does this mean the teen can make decisions on his/her own? No, there are times parents need to step in and provide constructive discipline and guidance to keep the teen safe. The main point is to guide your teen respectfully.
Teen's behavior can look like ...
If you as a parent can step back from controlling your teen, they will begin to learn to make healthy decisions on their own, learn from their mistakes, and grow into more independent people. This process of change is not instantaneous, but a journey for the teen into healthy adulthood.
Teens who feel respected and loved by their parents are more apt to give back the same respect and love. A trust develops between the family members, and the teen will grow and act more responsibly to those in the family as well as those people outside the family network, including friends, teachers, and employers.
A good resource for parents wanting more information on how to parent teens successfully is a book called Parenting Teenagers: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens.
|Maggie Baumann, M.A., is a marriage family therapist intern working as a counselor in a private practice in Newport Beach as well as at The Victorian in Newport Beach, a residential treatment facility providing care to women struggling with eating disorders, addictions and body image. Maggie has written for various publications and appeared on national television promoting eating disorder awareness and prevention. She also facilitates an eating disorder support group in Newport Beach. You can reach Maggie by email or visit her website at MaggieBaumann.com.|