Raising adolescents is a full-time job, and that’s before you incorporate parenting styles and other little things like meals and care. Seriously, as the mom of four, I can tell you with undo certainty that there is nothing like raising kids who are busy. I thought we were tired when we had a 6-year-old, 3-year-old, and newborn twins. No. We were not tired then.
We didn’t even know what tired looked like. There is no tired like four kids actively involved in sports and activities tired, and it makes parenting even more challenging. Is our parenting style working? How do we know if we are doing it right? Are there actual parenting hacks that work? Are we providing the children with love and support and just enough sarcasm and dysfunction to make them witty and amusing? I think so…?
Parenting styles are all over the map, and it turns out that most of us have a preconceived notion about what each of them really means. At the end of the day, parenting adolescents is not as difficult as it might seem provided you’re doing it well and using the right method of parenting. On the flip side of that, every child is different, so what is the right method of parenting?
I can’t tell you how to raise your kids (I mean, I absolutely could tell you how to raise your kids because we’ve raised four really good ones so far and I feel confident in my parenting abilities most days, but you might not appreciate me telling you what to do, so I won’t), but I can give you the parenting styles and let you see for yourself where you’re doing a great job. Or not.
What is Adolescence?
Generally defined, it’s the teenage years. Adolescence occurs between puberty and adulthood, and it’s a time filled with many emotions. Changes occur often and regularly in kids this age, and they are not always positive changes.
Their own moods, their feelings, and their perspective change. An adolescent’s friends change. Life often feels, to an adolescent, as if it’s going by a million miles and hour and it’s never these same. The comfort and routine they’ve had their entire life is disrupted by new feelings, bodily changes, and so much more. It’s sometimes the most awkward time in a child’s life.
There Are Four Styles of Parenting
There is no right or wrong way to parent a child, and this is because every child is different. No two children respond the same to parenting, so figuring out which parenting style works best for your child is a very personal decision.
No one can tell you if you’re right or wrong, but understanding what each parenting style entails allows you to make an informed and education decision.
The four main styles of parenting are permissive, authoritative, authoritarian, and neglectful. You don’t have to know what they all mean to know that the last style is not the style you want to partake in.
However, I can almost promise you that you don’t know exactly what it means to be a neglectful parent, because it’s not exactly what you imagine.
What is Permissive Parenting?
Of the four styles of parenting, permissive parenting is among the least effective. It’s the child-driven style of parenting. In general, kids make the rules. They do what they want, there is very little enforcement of rules – if there are rules at all. Kids of permissive parents rarely face consequences for their actions, and their parents tend to indulge them.
More to the point, the children of permissive parents are often overindulged by their parents. This causes them to develop behavior issues, a sense of entitlement, and adulthood is often a harsh reality check.
What is Authoritarian Parenting?
On the opposite end of the permissive parenting spectrum is authoritarian parenting. This is very much a parent-driven way of parenting. Have you ever heard the phrase children should be seen and not heard?
It always comes to mind when I hear the term authoritarian parenting. You, as the parent, are essentially the dictator. What you say goes. The child has no feedback, no input, and no course of action.
You make the rules, the child follows the rules. Harsh and strict punishment occurs when a child breaks the rules, and all things are black and white. Authoritarian parents do not give a second thought to the social and emotional needs of their children. They do as they are told, and that is the end of the discussion.
What is Neglectful Parenting?
This is where things are a little more complicated. Neglectful parenting is a term with certain connotations. A neglectful parent is one who does not take care of their children. They don’t do anything for their kids, and their kids are left to fend for themselves. A neglectful parent doesn’t love their kids, doesn’t provide for them, and they are bad parents.
This might be partially true, but the precise definition of a neglectful parent might surprise you. A neglectful parent does provide for their children. They provide what the child needs to live and survive. Their kids have a roof over their head, clothes on their back, they go to school and do their homework, and they have food on the table.
A neglectful parent does not, however, meet their child’s social or emotional needs. They are often an absent parent – even when they are present – because they are uninvolved and uninterested in being a parent outside of doing the bare minimum to keep them healthy and alive.
Neglectful parents are not nurturing, and they are not the kind of parents kids feel that they can go to when they have a problem. A neglectful parent is not defined as the mom who leaves her sleeping babies home alone to go out partying. That’s neglect, sure, but neglect comes in many forms.
What is Authoritative Parenting?
Finally, we have the authoritative parent. It’s the style of parenting that takes a little bit of every other form of parenting – save for neglectful parenting – and it brings a happy medium.
Like an authoritarian parenting, the authoritative parent sets rules and boundaries. However, unlike an authoritarian parent, an authoritative parent solves problems with their kids.
Things are not always black and white, and there is always room for discussion when someone does not follow the rules. Authoritative parents listen to their children, but they also enforce the rules they set. They’re big on natural consequences, and they fall in line between permissive and authoritarian parenting.
Which Parenting Method is Most Effective During Adolescence?
No two kids are the same, so there is no right or wrong answer. The common answer to this question is that the authoritative method of parenting is almost always the most effective. It marries rules and boundaries with love, communication, and warmth.
Authoritative parenting allows you to set clear rules and boundaries with your adolescent, but it also allows your teen the freedom to come to you without fear. For example, let’s say your 17-year-old adolescent has a beer at a party, but her designated driver had entirely too many. She (and her friend) needs a ride home.
The child of an authoritarian parent is more likely to do anything it takes to avoid her parents finding out that she broke their no alcohol rule. No one knows what decision she will make, but she’s likely fearful of her parents and their strict rules, so calling them for a safe ride home is off the table.
The child of a permissive parent might not hesitate to call their mom for a ride home. However, the permissive parenting child is also the most likely to drink more often because no one is punishing her for her poor behavior. The child of a neglectful parent will probably drive home herself because she feels she has nothing to lose with parents who don’t care about her.
The child of an authoritative parent knows she’ll probably get in trouble for having a beer because it’s against the rules. But she also knows she’s going to be in a lot more trouble if she drives home or gets in the car with a drunk teen. She knows her parents would prefer she calls them for a ride to get her and her friend home safely, and then they’ll sit down and talk about it.
Do Adolescents Benefit from Authoritative Parenting?
Yes, they do. The benefits of being raised by authoritative parents are numerous. For example, children who are raised by parents who set rules, enforce the consequences, but also sit down and listen to their children are more likely to succeed in life.
According to Parenting Science, children who are raised by authoritative parents are typically more independent, well-behaved, and they perform better in school. These kids are also more self-reliant, socially successful, and they’re less likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety.
To continue the positive benefits, kids raised by authoritative parents are also less likely to develop habits such as drug use and alcohol abuse.
Authoritative parents are as fun-loving and nurturing as permissive parents, but they take rules and consequences as seriously as an authoritarian parent. Unlike an authoritarian parent, authoritative parents don’t want their kids to blindly follow the rules just because.
They want their kids to understand why the rules are important, which is why they are also into natural consequences. It’s a good blend of parenting styles that works well with the adolescent crowd.
Kids feel loved in more than one way. They know their parents love them and want the best for them because they work hard to keep their kids safe while also educating them and allowing them to enjoy life.
How Do I Integrate Authoritative Parenting into My Household?
Welllll…don’t be a pushover or an a**hole. Need I go on? Okay, okay, I’ll elaborate at the risk of ruining my fresh manicure. Integrating authoritative parenting into your own parenting style is not as difficult as it might sound. There are a few things to keep in mind when introducing this type of parenting method, and they are as follows:
Take Your Child’s Feelings Into Consideration
Authoritative parents are more likely to take their child’s feelings into considerations. They are also more likely to take their child’s wishes into consideration prior to issuing demands or making requests of them. For example, our middle daughter is not like our oldest daughter or the twins. She’s not the ‘come home and do her homework and get it done and out of the way’ type of child.
She’s the come home and unwind, take a breath, relax, have a snack, wander about for a while, and then do her homework kind of kid. We prefer that the kids get their homework done early to get it out of the way and minimize the stress of needing to do it later, but it doesn’t work for her.
She becomes overwhelmed, upset, and she struggles to get it done right away. So, we take her own feelings into consideration. As long as her homework is done before bedtime, she’s free to do it whenever. It’s our job to remain calm and figure out what works for her.
Encourage Your Kids to Be Open With Their Feelings
Authoritative parents are more likely to encourage their kids to discuss their feelings whether they are in trouble or not. How does this make you feel? What does this feel like to you?
For example, when our oldest daughter found out someone who was once a good friend to her was talking about her, I asked her how that made her feel. She said it made her feel sad for her old friend that she feels that way. This kind of encouragement allows us to get to know our teens better, and it helps us better parent them.
Help Your Child When They are Afraid or Emotional
Letting your child handle everything in their life on their own is not a wise idea. No, you cannot swoop in and handle all their problems yourself…they do have to learn. But that does not mean you ignore it. Authoritative parents are there for their kids.
They are their child’s biggest encourager, supporter, and rock. They’re there when their kids are sad, upset, scared, nervous, excited, or any other emotional moment.
Set Boundaries and Make Them Clear
Authoritative parents set boundaries, and they enforce them. These are expectations, and every parent needs to have expectations for their children. However, the authoritative parent also lets their kids in on why these rules, boundaries, and expectations are in place.
Encourage Your Child to Express Their Feelings and Opinions
There is no such thing as a wrong feeling or opinion, and teaching your kids that feeling differently than you is a terrible idea. Kids must learn to stand up for themselves, to speak up for themselves, and they have to learn how to disagree respectfully.
Otherwise, they’ll never succeed in life. Too many kids were taught that they don’t disagree with authority figures in their lives, but why shouldn’t they disagree if they feel differently?
As long as disagreements and differing opinions are expressed with respect and maturity, please encourage your kids to speak up. This builds strength and character in kids, and it’s one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.
There is no right or wrong way to parent a child so long as you are not hurting them, putting them in danger, or engaging in illegal activities. However, considering taking an authoritative role in the life of your adolescent is a surefire way to teach them some positive life lessons.
Additional Resources for Parents
- How to handle teens who lie
- Dealing with teens who get into fights
- Parenting through a divorce
- Parenting Consultant: Should You Hire One?
- How to Give Advice to a Friend With Family Problems