Traditionally, parenting styles are passed down through the generations, with parents often repeating the methods in which they were parented. The challenge with this is that the method that may have worked well for one child may not necessarily help another child to thrive. Each child comes with their own unique temperament, and it is up to the parent to adjust their parenting responses accordingly.
For example, recent research is showing that 20% of our population is highly sensitive, meaning that their nervous system is highly responsive. For this type of child, a small change in your tone of voice or facial expression will be very impactful. Anything more than that will be a distraction from the message you are attempting to convey. Yet, on the other hand, a very active child who tends to be easily distracted may not respond as well to such subtle guidance. They may, in fact, need you to repeat directions and take a firmer stance in setting limits.
The main idea behind effective parenting is to know your child well–both their strengths and weaknesses–and help them harness their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. This requires that you create a relationship of mutual respect and trust. You create this relationship by using their mistakes as an opportunity to guide them, instead of simply trying to make them conform. I understand that as a parent there are time constraints that you are dealing with, given all the things you need to accomplish in a day. With this in mind, I would like to reference a Chinese proverb that says “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”
For your child to able to thrive in the world they must develop the character strengths of resilience, perseverance, flexibility and adaptability. We teach them these qualities by using the challenges they are facing as opportunities for collaborative problem solving. For example, if your child is not completing their homework assignments, we need to start by determining why. A discussion with your child might go something like this:
Mom: I heard from your school that you have not been turning in assignments. Could you please help me understand why?
Son: I don’t understand the material, OR I hate the teacher, OR I don’t find the class interesting, OR I dunno. (*note: each of these answers indicates a different problem that needs solving)
Mom: Hmm. Okay. Let’s think about this together. (observe the kind and non-judgmental response) Is there anything that I can do to help? Is there anything that you can think of that would improve this situation for you?
These types of discussions may not provide immediate solutions. There is often a process of trial and error involved. Problem solving is the lesson we are attempting to teach. If you stick with it, ask for assistance, and are willing to try out different possibilities, you will ultimately find a viable option. In the case of the child struggling with turning in assignments, we need to determine if there is a learning challenge, an attitude challenge, an emotional challenge, or a need for greater self-discipline and organization.
As children learn that they can overcome their challenges, they develop self-esteem and confidence. Self-esteem does not develop through parents overpraising their child’s every effort. Self-esteem is an inside job, earned by the child through their recognition and acknowledgement of a job well done. When a child learns that they have the power to harness their creativity towards finding solutions to obstacles that they encounter in their world, they learn to trust themselves. When you can finally observe them doing this on their own, you know you have prepared them well.
It is important that parents clearly define their expectations with regard to their teenager’s behavior and responsibilities, both at home and away from home. As a parent, you act as both a mentor and a role model. Your responsibility is to teach your child the skills they will need to succeed in the world prior to leaving your home. In some situations, parents have not had the previous experience of entering into a similar discussion with their own parents. Therefore, I am more than happy to work together with you and your child to facilitate these discussions.
In my 6-week Effectively Parenting Teens Class, I propose a style of interaction with your teen that honors the authority of the parent while accommodating the teen’s need for personal autonomy. By the end of this intensive 6‐week course, you will be able to help your teenager become more responsible, communicative and independent.
- Understanding Yourself and Your Teenager
- Improving Your Response to Your Teen
- How to Communicate Respect and Understanding
- Encouraging Cooperation and Problem‐Solving
- Using Consequences to Build Responsibility
**Recommended for parents with children between the ages of 11 and 19.
Contact Sandra Dupont MFT for more information: (310) 951-5678