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What parenting style is best for raising well-rounded teenagers?

I started posting articles in 2005 to share my expert advice on how to deal constructively with teen behavior.

Knowing that you’re there to help if needed will increase his confidence, and his respect for you and your advice.

mother with teenage daughter

Photo credit: Hongqi Zhang/iStock/360/Getty Images

Let's take a look at the three parenting styles and how they affect your teenager.

Authoritarian parenting: Being controlling

In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents.

You barely allow your teen to do anything, have a very early curfew, no parties, maybe even no hanging out with friends unless you’re there too. I've known of a father who had other people spy on his daughter when she was out of the father's immediate sight.

You may be driven by the desire to protect your teen from making any mistakes, or getting physically or emotionally hurt. However, you cannot control what your teen is doing when you’re not standing next to him.

Instead of finding ways to spy on him, try to give your teen some credit and add some trust to your relationship. I bet you your teen is afraid of you "finding out" anyway, so I seriously doubt he'll do something drastic, unless he does it just to spite you.

All your teens will see is that you're denying them what they would like to do or have, and they will put in all their effort to either convince you to change your mind, or they will do it anyway behind your back.

A teenage girl once told me: "I'm 16, and my dad does not allow me to go out on a date. That's so ridiculous, but you know what I do? I climb out of my window almost every night after he’s gone to bed."

The sad thing is that the daughter really would have preferred not to do things behind her father’s back, but in her eyes he did not leave her a choice.

If you try to control your teen by holding on too tight, he’ll have to find a way to vent his frustration, and that will lead to anger issues or depression, even cutting, self-mutilation, or drug use.

Once parents realize that they no longer can control their teen’s every move and are tired of constantly arguing with their teenager, they look for advice on how to build a better, more respectful relationship with their adolescent child.

Permissive parenting: Too uninvolved

Some parents' primary concern is to ensure that their teen has enough space and privacy. Permissive parents are also more likely to try to be their teenager's friend, instead of his parent.

You may encourage disrespect

As discussed in the beginning, all teens pull away from their parents; it is part of developing their own personality.

However, some parents may feel that this pulling away is caused by something they did, so they try to get their teen to like them again. Parents believe that their teen will be grateful, and thus appreciate and respect them:

  • My teen will like me again when I buy him this gadget
  • If I let my teen do whatever he wants, he'll love me for it
  • Whatever trouble he gets in, I'll fix it for him, and he'll be grateful

This type of thinking will rob you of your authority. You’ll also set yourself up for one disappointment after another.

Your teen will not be grateful; he'll take you for granted. Your teen will also develop a daring and careless attitude; after all, you'll be there to clean up his mess, so why should he care?

Contrary to what you are trying to achieve, your teenager will respect you less and treat you more like his "slave" each day.

And the longer you allow this to go on, the worse it will get for you. At some point, this can lead to your teen being verbally and even physically abusive towards you.

It’s too much to handle for your teen

Permissive parents also may overlook that their child has not yet learned how to handle matters of his daily life.

Naturally, the teen likes to have that level of say; he can brag about it to his friends, especially when the other has to ask for permission.

Since you "cut your teen loose" he feels obligated to take care of himself without asking for your advice or assistance. Your teen will be excited that he can do what he wants when he wants, but this excitement lasts only a short time.

Once reality hits, and your teen feels the weight of having to deal with everything on his own, he wishes that he could ask for your help.

But, you gave him complete control over his life, so you must be convinced that he can handle it, right? And therefore your teen feels by asking for your help he would be disappointing you.

Overwhelmed, your teen will turn to other people (not always good ones) for advice, or he'll get into trouble, just to get a reaction from you or to force you to get involved in his life.

Authoritative parenting: Being in control without being controlling

Authoritative parents understand that parenting teenagers is not a popularity contest.

You enforce rules and limits, but are willing to listen to your adolescent child’s input. If your teen wants to have more freedom and more control over his life, you are open to giving him a chance to prove to you that he can handle it.

To find out what your teens are capable of right now, give them a chance to handle certain matters that affect their daily lives. For example:

  • Allow them to decide what clothes to buy and wear
  • when to do their homework
  • when to do their chores
  • respect your rules and limits
  • any other situation you'd like to test

You may discover that your teens are capable of making right choices and good decisions on their own, based on the principles you've already instilled in them.

On the other hand, you may discover that your teen lacks the confidence or ability to make decisions.

Instead of scolding or punishing your teen, point out what and where he went wrong and how to better handle this particular situation the next time.

Stick to discussing what went wrong; teach your child how to gather information, analyze facts and situations, and how to look past the obvious.

Knowing that you're there to help if needed will increase his confidence, and his respect for you and your advice.

Christina Botto is the author of Help Me With My Teenager! A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents that Works, and has been a teen behavior expert and parenting coach specializing in the problems parents of teenagers face for more than 20 years. To find out how you can stop the never-ending cycle of anger and resentment, and rebuild the trust you and your teen both desire, visit her website Parenting A Teenager.

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