When our children are born, we begin to fear the teenage years. But with the right information, parenting your kids through these tumultuous years can even be fun sometimes. There is definitely a parenting style that is successful in dealing with teenagers and you’ll want to adjust your parenting style to suit it.
There are four named parenting styles with fairly predictable outcomes. Authoritative or affirmative parents set limits and boundaries on their teen’s behavior. They are emotionally connected with their kids and are engaged in the parent-child relationship. Liberal or permissive parents often want to be seen as a “friend” rather than an authoritative figure in their child’s lives. They let their teens make their own mistakes and don’t offer much counsel when mistakes are made. Dominating or authoritarian parents set strict rules and guidelines and show little compassion toward their children. They often micromanage their teens and offer little opportunity for their children to make their own choices. Unengaged parents provide no limits or structure and are not connected with their kids on any level.
As you might guess, the authoritative or affirmative parenting style is resoundingly the most successful. Children parented with these ideals are typically successful in academics and socially. The other parenting styles may produce success in academics or social endeavors, but there is usually a consequence of drug, alcohol use and involvement with sex at an early age. Teens parented by an authoritarian method are typically successful academically and are not involved in drugs, alcohol or sex but are often unhappy.
Consider your own parenting style and how it is affecting your teenager’s behavior. Evaluate ways you can adjust your parenting strategies to communicate rules and ideals while still providing your teenager choices which they are developmentally ready to handle.
Teenagers often feel insecure and need to feel an emotional connection to their parents. Even if they’re ignoring you while you’re there, they want you around. Find ways to connect with your teenager. Boys in particular are best at communicating while involved in an activity. Join your son while he’s shooting baskets outside, ask a few questions, and you’re likely to get more answers. Take your daughter to the movies and share dinner together. Even if they balk and act uninterested, they will benefit from your efforts to connect and be involved in their lives.
Model good behaviors. This isn’t new news–you’ve known from the beginning that they are watching and imitating your behavior, it’s just easier to forget when they’re older. Treat your teenager, your spouse and those in your family with respect and honesty. Expect from yourself what you expect from your teen.
Meet their friends. Go to your high school football games. Make your home a place where your teen and his friends are welcome and encouraged to be. Drop by your daughter’s volleyball practice and offer to carpool with other parents so you get to know them and their kids. Know who your children are spending time with and what the rules are in their friends’ homes.
Make time to talk to your teenager. There are so many topics that are difficult and we’d rather not discuss them at all, let alone with our kids. But the fact remains that communication is your most effective tool when dealing with your teenagers. Talk a lot and talk often about your expectations, the rules and how you see life. Make sure they know they are loved and have a safe place to land.
- If your teenager is showing signs of drug or alcohol use or abuse–secrecy, truancy, new friends, sullen behavior, evasiveness–seek help from a professional immediately. Even parents who follow the authoritative and affirmative style of parenting may find themselves in these situations. Ask your health care provider what is available for help and begin immediately.