Which parenting style should I be using?

Many parents express uncertainty about which kind of parenting styles are most effective. Liz Dooley from FAMSA summarizes her thoughts as follows: ”We need balance in parenting teenagers. At one end of the scale there is authoritarian parenting – the risks here are that the teenager doesn’t have space to grow, to make mistakes and to learn from them. It also sets the scene for a power struggle and rebellion, which leads to a no win situation for everyone. Page:2 “At the other end is permissive parenting where anything goes. We all drink, smoke and club together. This leaves teenagers with no boundaries to kick against. And boundaries help teenagers to feel secure. “Don’t make too many rules – rather have a few non-negotiable ones – eg who is driving, with whom are you going, and then negotiate the rest as they arise. Don’t make rules which you can’t sustain! “Discipline with dignity. There have to be consequences to behaviour which is unacceptable. Try to make sure the consequence has something to do with what has happened. Sometimes it’s enough to say “I’m really disappointed in your behaviour” and no more. But it obviously depends on the circumstances.

However, don’t shame or humiliate the teenager. Sometimes it works to ask teenagers what they think the consequence should be. “Most teenagers are rude or cheeky at some stage and talk to their parents as if they are intellectually slow. I recommend that the parent says “Please don’t talk to me or anyone else like that, it is not alright” and then walk away – don’t engage! Don’t let it develop further by saying things like “how dare you” as it’s easy to end up being angry and rude yourself.

Talk openly to your teenager at home

“Talk openly at home about the issues the teenager may be confronted with (such as sex; pornography; alcohol and drugs). It can sometimes be helpful to use films, TV programmes, or the Internet to introduce and discuss the topics. Outright banning and avoidance increases interest. “In my experience most teenagers don’t like face to face serious chats with their parents. General discussions are helpful, about how we all have strengths and vulnerabilities and how we need to learn to understand and manage our vulnerabilities. I think it works better to keep the discussion more general and less personal. Drop a pebble into the pond and see where the ripples lead. “It’s valuable for teenagers to know that they are appreciated for who they are. Affirm them for their special qualities, their sense of humour, being kind, their opinions.

Find a healthy balance somewhere in the middle

“So a balance in the middle, call it democratic parenting, is the style which gives the teenager boundaries, respect, security, allows them to make mistakes and learn from them, and grants them personal dignity. This style includes listening, negotiating, brain-storming ideas, always remaining respectful. It allows parents to say sorry if they have made a mistake and to model that behaviour. “It’s good to know that as parents we can learn a great deal about ourselves and the world around us through our teenagers.”

Our Life Talk book series has all kinds of tips and advice should you wish to enquire a bit further. Feel free to reach out to us should you have any questions.

Please Note: This article is based on a contribution from our newsletter archive by Liz Dooley.

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