I have been racking my brain on what to write about teens/kids and helping them to flourish into adults. It all starts with our parenting style. How to raise these walking headaches without becoming the consumer, passive, or authoritarian parent and without killing them before it happens. I will quickly describe what each style is and then tell you what experts say is the best style of parenting.
Consumer parenting– Trying to keep up with what you see other parents doing. Raising your kids the “Burger King” way, made to order. For example your son says that his friend Bobby is allowed to stay out till 2am so you feel like you should maybe let your son stay out till 2am even though his curfew is 11:30. You are constantly trying to keep your child happy and be the cool parent. This type of parenting has you walking on egg shells and not knowing how to discipline your child. Your child deep down in side is like a prison inmate waiting to shank you in the shower. Don’t let your child manipulate you into believing that you’re the worst parent for having reasonable expectations.
Authoritarian parenting– This type of parenting is characterized by parents who deride, demean, or diminish children/teens by continually knocking them down or putting them in their place. The home environment is usually hostile, lots of yelling, and controlling. This type of parenting can result in delinquent behaviors, anti social`behavior, anxiety, depression and no self worth. This type of parenting is a dangerous one. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that this is how Hitler was raised. I don’t know.
Permissive parenting– This is where you leave the child to do as they please. They choose and have little or no consequences for their actions. This type of parenting can be dangerous because the child can grow up having difficulty respecting others, coping with frustrations, or following through with plans. Not to mention they become little craps that no one wants to be around. Am I right?!! Yes I am.
Well there you go, more confused then when you first started reading this post. This is like a highly stressful story of The Three Bears. Too much, too little, so what is just right? Without being shanked in your shower, becoming a fast food parent or raising another Hitler…
Here it is!!
Authoritative parenting– “Fosters a positive emotional connection with children, provides for regulation that places fair and consistent limits on child behavior, and allows for reasonable child autonomy in decision making.” (Successful Marriages and Family pg. 108)
After studying this type of parenting in school for awhile I have dialed it to this, give limits and guidelines but let the child help with them and give some leeway. Hold them accountable for their actions but do it with love and respect. Let them make some of their own decisions that won’t kill or harm them. When setting the guidelines, be clear and detailed as to what will happen if the guidelines aren’t met. Follow through. Number one pearl of wisdom that I learned, do not correct or punish when you are angry.
Punishing when angry results in saying things you don’t mean and missing the teaching opportunity and potentially breaking the trust between you and your child. They will avoid, hide, lie, and become afraid to tell you anything they know you won’t want to hear. They will become experts at hiding things from you. Another thing that I am going to say and you can take it or leave it but I feel strongly about it. Don’t treat your child like a criminal if they have experimented with smoking, weed, or drinking. I know its not ideal to think your child is doing drugs but you overreacting isn’t going to make them want to stop. It will make them feel ashamed and they will never tell you anything again. You will be guessing at what they’re doing at this point instead of them being open with you. Be the safe place for them to ask you questions.
Parents who do not let loose of the reins are causing their own problems. Teens growing up and making decisions on their own is a normal growing process that needs to happen. If we want them to be able to make wise decisions as adults we need to let them start doing it in a safe place like a parents home. Pray that they fail! If they fail in the home and learn their lesson they are less likely to repeat it outside of the home as adults. Let them fall flat on their faces and be there, not to point and laugh and say I told you so! But to be compassionate, understanding and available if they need your advice. In your head you can smile and say, I told you so.
They are already kicking themselves in the butt and internally judging themselves, they don’t need your help. Remember it is not about being right or winning. Just like in marriage you have to keep your eye on the prize. What is your end result with your teen? To be right? To say I told you so? or is it to raise a responsible, healthy human being with a self esteem? You may need to have your tongue surgically re-placed after you bight yours off. But! you will be raising a functioning human that knows how to positively contribute to this world.
The fail that I can see in my own life comes from not really listening to my kids. I would stare at them and hear them but I wasn’t really listening to understand. I would judge them or their friends. I would be trying to solve the problem. I would correct them. I would diminish their ideas by telling them all the negatives about it. I know I made a face when they told me something I didn’t want to hear. (I can’t hide my facial expressions, they have a mind of their own.) My son told me one time, you guys just don’t listen to me. I was shocked that he said that and said, yes we do! Someone slap me!
Because if he doesn’t feel like we are listening then we are doing something wrong. Teens and kids are not stupid they may make mistakes but who doesn’t? They are observant and catch the sarcasm or disapproval in our voices. Being sincere and treating them like humans with ideas and feelings will help build the bridge back that might have been broken and will aid in their self esteem. Dan and I are slowly trying to build the bridge back with our 16 year old son. Sometimes we set that bridge on fire and run like hell but we always come back with a fire extinguisher and some semi warped wood to start rebuilding again. We don’t give up and we love our kids even though sometimes I want to punch them all in the face.
Oh yea that reminds me, according to the article published by the Chicago Tribune, link below, psychical punishment does not work. The kids will only push back on what you didn’t like. Teaching with words and action is going to be your best tools while raising kids. Maybe invest in a punching bag to let out some of that steam.
Good luck parents and may the odds be ever in your favor and when you feel like you’ve got everything under control, just wait they will change tomorrow.
Lauer, R.& Lauer, J. (2018). Parenting Marriage and Family: The Quest for Intimacy (9th ed) New York:Mcgraw Hill Education
Hawkins, A.J., Dollahite, D.C.,& Draper, T.W. (2016) Parenting with Love, and Limits, and Latitude: Proclamation Principles and Supportive Scholarship (p.103) Successful Marriages and Families.Provo, Utah: BYU Studies and School of Family Life
Stevens, H., (2016). New Study Says Spanking Doesn’t Work, Makes Children’s Behavior Worse. Chicago Tribune Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/heidi-stevens/ct-spanking-effects-study-balancing-0428-20160428-column.html