Parenting and Discipline
As most parents and teenagers will tell you, adolescence is often a difficult and trying time. Being an effective parent can be one of the most rewarding tasks in life. It also can be one of the most difficult and challenging.
Parenting skills and discipline styles vary widely from family to family, and can be a major source of problems and conflict. For a long time our society has expected all kinds of people who deal with children, such as teachers, social workers, counselors and psychologists, to have special training, but parents have been left to fend for themselves.
The need for providing education and support for parents of adolescents is becoming recognized because parenting today's teens is more difficult than in previous years. Teenagers have always been exposed to activities, information, and people that challenge their families standards and values, but never so much as today. Farreaching technological and sociological changes now present new challenges that most people, especially parents, are not well prepared to meet. Unfortunately, children do not come with instruction manuals, and many parents who do well during their children's' infancy and childhood find their teenage years to be a time of conflict and frustration. Parents whose own teenage years don't seem so very long ago are finding their children growing up in a changed world. Traditional authoritarian approaches that may have worked for their parents, do not work as well for today's parents.
Almost all parents want to improve their relationships with their teenagers, but many don't know how to proceed. It is difficult to make the transition from parenting a child to parenting a young adult. Misunderstandings and lack of information abound. Some parents assume that adolescents are rebellious by nature and impossible to live with. Permissive parents believe the best approach to living with teenagers is to "weather the storm" until their teens leave home. Other parents assume that teenagers can be forced to obey a parent's will. Authoritarian parents believe that family harmony can be achieved by "getting tough", giving lots of orders in a loud voice and making sure teens follow those orders to the letter.
Neither the permissive parenting style of "weathering the storm" nor the authoritarian parenting style of "getting tough" is likely to improve most parent/teen relationships. In fact, both approaches increase the likelihood that family life will deteriorate because neither approach encourages teenagers to become responsible for themselves.
Democratic parenting is an alternative approach that is based on principles of mutual respect in terms of human dignity and worth. This means valuing teenagers as unique individuals who need love and respect, and helping them to develop self discipline and responsibility by permitting choice. Using reward and punishment prevents teens from learning to make their own decisions, suggests that acceptable behavior is expected only in the presence of authority, invites resistance, and makes parents responsible for their teen's behavior. Allowing teenagers to make choices and experience the natural and logical consequences of those choices gives them responsibility for their own actions. Making choices and decisions for adolescents that they can make for themselves reduces their self-respect and responsibility.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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