This post is Part 3 of a 4 Part series about teenagers and how to parent consciously. In Part 1, I’ll provide general information to normalize teen behavior, while in Parts 2 and 3, respectively, I’ll share important information about the teenage brain and suggest ways parents can consciously parent as they watch the dynamic transition from adolescence to adulthood. Finally, in Part 4, I’ll share my thoughts on bullying. I’ll give examples of teens I have worked with in order to reassure parents that support is available for both teens and their parents.
As anyone who watched parents and children playing together in a park knows, there are different parenting styles. As children grow into the adolescent years, some parents are permissive and have few rules with few consequences and are endlessly negotiating with their teens. I believe it’s important that teens have some structure and rules. It helps them feel safer and have a sense of where to turn or what to do when things don’t go well.
Others may have more rigid rules, with strict enforcement and no negotiation. This represents an autocratic style of parenting. This style doesn’t give teens the opportunity to talk about what they are feeling as well as start to learn how things work and how to make decisions for themselves because all of the decisions have been made for them.
What seems to work best for teens is a structured parenting style with firm rules, firm enforcement, and limited negotiation. This brings more grounding and stability into the teen’s life because they know where they stand and are clear about the consequences and it gives them some space to talk about it. I often talk to parents about what style of parenting they use and find out how effective it’s been with each particular teen. One of the biggest challenges is when both parents don’t agree about which style of parenting is being used. This creates more opportunities for a teen to take advantage of his or her parents and they also miss out on the safety and security of a consistent structure.
What This Means For Parents
Since some of these changes can happen over a longer term, I believe it’s important to give teens space to feel their feelings, and also remain open and available to them. It’s also really useful for parents to model and encourage teens to think ahead about the consequences of their behaviors before acting on them; it is essential that this skill get wired into their brains (see Part 3, The Developing Teen Brain).
Maintaining a caring relationship is essential to supporting them in managing their stress. Regularly praising their efforts in a sincere way also helps them during this transition. I recommend encouraging teens to assess for themselves how things are going, and make space for whatever you hear. This is a good way for you and your teen to get to know more about their experiences and what type of support is optimal.
Many parents may find it challenging to resist the impulse to offer a solution or give their own opinion about what they think should be done in a particular situation. However, the developmental need here is to help your teen learn to figure things out for themselves and learn to think independently based on recognizing their own needs and values.
Choose a firm, but not autocratic, style of parenting. Structure and nonjudgemental listening are both important for teens to find their boundaries and learn how to take life on with confidence.