Attention, harried parents: Supportive control gets the nod over permissiveness if you want to nurture a psychologically healthy teenager, according to an ongoing study directed by psychologist Diana Baumrind of the University of California, Berkeley.
Parents who consistently set down clear standards for conduct and offer freedom within specific limits produce teenagers who perform better on academic tests, are more emotionally and socially stable, and use alcohol and illicit drugs substantially less than youngsters from other types of families, Baumrind reported last week at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in New Orleans.
"The study demonstrates the problems with parental leniency," she says. "We expected that at puberty, some imbalance in favor of freedom over control would have become desirable, but that did not happen."
Many traditional theories of psychological development, based on the work of Sigmund Freud and Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, encourage a more lenient parental style with adolescents, emphasizing freedom over control. Such theories hold that an individual's prime task during the teen years is to separate emotionally from the parents and achieve a sense of his or her own identity.
The traditional approach may be appropriate in a stable social environment, Baumrind asserts. But in today's climate of social instability -- marked by many mothers entering the work force, a high divorce rate and readily available illicit drugs -- adolescents function best when parents are highly demanding as well as sensitive to a child's emerging needs for autonomy, she says.
Divorce was most frequent among authoritarian and unengaged parents, she adds. But single parents who used the authoritative style had teenagers who were just as competent and well adjusted as teenagers from intact authoritative families.
Talking with, and listening to our children is tricky. Communicating with our children is the quickest way to Successful Parenting Solutions. Positively focused communication with our children is an important successful parenting solution in most situations. About two years ago, my grown son said to me. “Since you are my Mother, I’ll let that one go.” Believe me, I had no idea to what he was referring, but I wish I had thought of that response when he was a teen. I’ve come to the conclusion that parents and children are the two hardest groups with which to communicate. Any topic revolving around family, limits or questioning, on either side, results in not being heard, not being understood, and sometimes hard feelings.
Listening skills and speaking skills are essential to successful parenting solutions. I’d throw in there an ample dash of patience, which can be said to be ‘the’ essential successful parenting solution. Patience is a parenting skill. All this is very time consuming. Moreover, today’s parents have very little of that sparse commodity. Even though you may value your child’s stated feelings and opinions, time and patience may limit a parent’s ability to ‘hear’ what needs to be heard. Are you able to listen, take into account, and store away your child’s view and comments? Can you allow for these when you attempt to share your views?
A child’s age is of particular importance when you become engaged in a discussion towards successful parenting solutions. Depending on the age, some children will not understand what you are saying or why you are saying it. I believe there is an age somewhere between 6th and 8th grade that both groups seem to understand each other. It is fleeting and somewhat ambiguous. With just these two skills, patience and understanding/comprehension can you successfully navigate a discussion 90% of the time successfully, listening and discussing openly and honestly? These are points to consider.
Every encounter with your children is a learning experience for both. Your responsibility is intentionally to teach your children, regardless of age. Thus, using patience, and choosing our words carefully are vital to the best successful parenting solutions. Both groups judge the motivation and honesty of the other group through the filter of feelings and experiences. Responding and not reacting, requires being receptive to feelings and opinions. And, guess what? It is the parent’s responsibility. The child, depending on age, will have very few skills in these regards. Neither group wants to live in the aftermath of a unsuccessful discussion. If a parent over reacts in a discussion, the child’s perception often results in feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Ouch! That most certainly was not the parent’s intention. Harshly spoken words and yelling may have lasting negative effects on the relationship.
If you have any hopes of initiating a plan of action with your child towards successful parenting solutions, at least some basic points of agreement are essential elements. Your child may feel more at ease and transmit that feeling through body language, however, expressed appreciation for your patience and understanding is most likely not forthcoming. Again, depending on the age group, you may get an ‘I love you.’ Your child may even be surprised that you are capable of understanding their side of the issue.
Based on the pretty picture I just painted, here are a few points to consider:
- Determine your own feelings and opinions before you initiate a discussion, especially, if this discussion is about limits and rules. Remember your specific goal of finding one or more parenting solutions for this situation.
- Be open to listen and hear your child’s feelings and opinions, even if they are pacing and rolling their eyes.
- Allow enough time to be patient and to give your full attention to feelings and opinions. Do not start a discussion just before your get in your car to go to work.
- Keep your voice even and minimize drastic inflection. If your child is talking fast, it is particularly important for you to keep your tone and cadence steady.
- Listen openly and communicate honestly. That does not mean that you share everything with your child. Keep in mind the age of the child.
- Be prepared to accept what your child shares about feelings and opinions. Also, be prepared that these may change repeatedly.
- Avoid an overreaction to your child’s feeling and opinions. You will lose a lot of ground. If the discussion becomes heated in either group, be prepared to take a ‘time-out.’ You may want to wait until the next day.
- Ask questions that cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Avoid probing too deeply; you do not want to sound like a police detective.
- Ask for solutions to the issue. Many times a child will be harsher than the parent will. If the solution is at all relevant, agree with it and set it into motion.
- The best parenting solutions are always simple and direct. It may not seem apparent, but you are in charge. Accept your successes and learn from your mistakes. Smile inside and out; life is too short for anything else.
Parenting: Roles, Styles and Outcomes
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