Parenting an adolescent can feel intimidating. When all the parenting rules and tricks you learned as your child grew seemingly go out the window overnight, where do you turn? Considering what your child needs most as they enter their adolescent years and the different parenting styles can help you figure out a strategy that lets you parent your child effectively and lovingly.

What Do Adolescents Need From Their Parents?

Mother and daughter hugging against a rock wall.
Image by Eye for Ebony is licensed with Unsplash License

You’re not alone if you’re thinking hard about parenting styles again when your child reaches adolescence. Maybe parenting hacks that have worked for you in the past are ineffective overnight. You may need to change your parenting style, which can be a tough adjustment for everyone involved.

As with any stage of a child’s life, there isn’t one right way to navigate these years. After all, every kid is different, and every parent is different. How you parent comes from various factors, such as your personality, your relationship with your kid, and even your own childhood experiences. You’ll find strategies that work for your family’s dynamics and personalities.

Still, every adolescent needs certain things from their parents. Sure, your kid might suddenly seem like a stranger who took up residence in your home when they reach this age, but in reality, they need many of the same things they needed when they were younger. That includes guidance, support, consequences, limits, and of course, your love.

Most parenting styles can fit into one of four specific parenting types. Considering parenting styles in the context of adolescence can give you insight into how to parent your child during these years.

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting means creating rules without any family input. Parents who use this type of parenting say things like, “because I said so” and “because I’m the parent” without making room for explanation or discussion. These parents tend not to display affection or warmth, instead using tough punishments, so children comply with rules out of fear. This type of parenting style does offer some benefits when it comes to adolescents since it gives clear boundaries and limits, which can in turn create a sense of security.

However, it also comes with many drawbacks. Authoritarian parenting leaves no room for open dialogue. As a result, your child likely won’t feel comfortable coming to you with concerns. That, in turn, puts you in the scary spot of having no idea about what’s going on in your child’s life. Additionally, authoritarian parenting doesn’t give your kid the chance to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, traits needed to function well as an adult. Without any positive feedback or praise, kids of authoritarian parents grow up feeling inadequacy and fear.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting sits at the other end of the parenting spectrum from authoritarian parenting. These parents look great on the surface. They’re warm, and they’re involved in their kids’ lives. Kids need more than this, though. Children may enjoy the total freedom that comes from parents that don’t give any rules, but in reality, they crave the structure, discipline, and adult boundaries that will ensure their safety.

Permissive parents try to avoid confrontation at all costs — they strive to be their child’s friend when what the child really needs is a parent. The lack of structure and discipline children in these households experience mean adolescents don’t have a chance to learn self-control. With the expectation of immediate gratification for everything they want, children of permissive parents can struggle a lot in their teens, both socially and in school.

Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parents don’t deal with their children’s emotional and physical needs. These parents don’t communicate with or listen to their kids, and they may even create an environment at home that feels unsafe. This parenting style can create a lot of damage to children of any age.

Even though teens are often viewed as self-sufficient, they can still suffer just as much from this neglectful parenting style as younger kids do. Uninvolved parenting can lead to risky behaviors like smoking and drinking in teens as well as truancy and poor physical health.

Authoritative Parenting

Not to be confused with the authoritarian parenting style, authoritative parenting builds a positive balance between rules and love. This healthy structure includes both the boundaries and consequences typical of authoritarian parenting and the nurturing warmth typical of permissive parenting. The combination allows adolescents to thrive since they get the positive feedback they need to feel loved and the structure they crave to learn healthy boundaries.

Authoritative parents allow their family to develop rules together. Kids have input into the rules of their household and thus understand the reasoning behind those rules. When rules are broken, parents give consequences consistently but with love. This parenting builds kids’ self-confidence and self-esteem thanks to the praise adolescents receive when they do something well and the affection parents show openly.

Authoritative parenting lets adolescents have the freedom to choose their paths while still giving them the learning experience of having consequences for their choices. This mix helps kids hone problem-solving skills they’ll need as they grow into adults. At the same time, adolescents benefit from an environment that encourages open communication. They know their parents are authority figures that still offer a safe listening ear. Research has shown that authoritative parenting creates the best results for adolescents, as they feel empowered by getting a voice in making decisions.

While there is no one right way to parent your adolescent, certain parenting styles create an environment that allows your child to thrive as they grow to take their first steps toward adulthood. When you find a way to balance structure and discipline with love and encouragement, you give your child the tools to succeed as a teenager. Do you have parenting tips and tricks to share with other parents starting to parent an adolescent for the first time? Drop us a line so we can share your ideas with the Crème de la Crème community.