Wholeness Healing Today

Parenting Teenagers

Our society has seen a variety of changes over the years. Some of these changes are quite alarming and have been very influential in the lives of teens. For instance, drug and alcohol use and sexual activity have increased among teenagers and these behaviors are occurring for the first time at younger ages. These risky behaviors suggest more complex problems and dangers for teenagers. The experiences and challenges that teenagers currently encounter are likely very different than those of their parents. However, parents are also facing greater challenges as they attempt to fulfill their role in parenting their teenagers.

According to authors Cline & Fay in Parenting Teens with Love & Logic, there are a variety of approaches in attempting the feat of parenting teenagers. One parenting style they describe is labeled the ‘helicopter parent.’ These are parents who are constantly hovering over their child, ready for action and prepared for rescue. This type of parenting may have worked fine when their teen was a child, as it was the parent who was available and prepared when the child fell and hurt himself or intervened when others tried to take advantage. So why doesn’t this approach work when children mature into teenagers and later into adults? These children are often robbed of learning opportunities that failure and consequences can teach. If a parent has been there to shield children of feeling the disappointment and pain of their own mistakes, the pain and disappointment may be much greater when they are facing adult consequences. For instance, a teen may develop into an adult who experiences jail time for bad checks because he didn’t know such ramifications existed. His parents may have deflected those types of consequences for him when he was a teenager.

Even more extreme than the ‘helicopter parent’ is the ‘jet-powered attack helicopter parent.’ This type of parent takes drastic measures to assure a model child has complete advantage without any inconvenience or any defeat. This parent may even attack those in authority over their children such as their child’s coach, teacher, or principal. These teenagers certainly become unprepared adults when their boss does not give them the promotion they had hoped for and mom and dad are unable to impact the decision.

There is also the ‘drill sergeant’ parenting style, which is characterized as very disciplined and demanding. This style also utilizes punishment versus consequences, which only breeds resentment among teenagers. What is lost is the teen’s ability to make his or her own decisions based on his voice in his head. Parents often believe that this style worked well for their own parents. As Cline and Fay indicate, “Children were expected to fit in more than think for themselves.” However, as society has experienced all its changes, there are more complexities and less defined roles which outdate this parenting style.

The ‘laissez-faire’ parent often claims that it is better to be your teen’s best friend. However, this parenting style also has a variety of flaws. The teenager has no accountability and the parent assumes his child is already equipped with all the skills he or she will need as an adult.

However, the ‘consultant parent’ is suggested as an improved parenting approach for raising a teenager. These parents create safe options for their teen and encourage him to be his own decision maker by asking questions and offering choices. This promotes ownership within the teen for problems he is facing; this also can prevent resistance and rebellion. These parents also encourage exploration of their expectations with their teen. For instance, the parents may ask the teen what he believes would happen if he were to come home drunk.

While the other parenting styles may have worked marginally when the teen was a child, it’s likely the same approach will fail as a child grows through adolescence into the teen years. The brain is changing in its ability to think abstractly. The teenager needs practice in developing these new reasoning skills by assuming responsibility and solving his own problems with parents beside him through communication and guidance. For more ideas, suggestions, and information on parenting teenagers, check out the book Parenting Teens with Love and Logic by Cline & Fay or attend our Love and Logic classes.

Cline, Foster and Faye, Jim (1992, 2006). Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. Colorado Springs, CO. Pinon Press.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work.  She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.


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