How is your parenting style affecting your teenager?

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As a parent, are you a helicopter, lawnmower, truck and trailer or microlite in your approach?

Parenting teenagers is incredibly challenging. In my 18 years as both a headmaster and rector at two different schools, I have come across many different parenting styles and in my mind there are five categories.

Firstly, missing in action – parents who, sometimes as the result of a marital break-up, work commitments or just an inability to relate to teenagers, ‘go AWOL’ at key stages in their child’s life. Potential behaviours from the child as a result of this style are inappropriate social conduct outside of school, attention seeking and a lack of sibling self-esteem.

A complete opposite to this is the helicopter – parents who are continually ‘hovering’ over the top of their child, constantly relaying messages about the direction they should take and quickly ‘landing’ to rescue their child from any perceived threats. The child as a result displays learned helplessness, a lack of independence, self-confidence and poor resilience and grit.

A more aggressive style is lawnmower – parents who are prepared to push their child as hard as they can through even the toughest conditions to get what they perceive is the ‘best outcome’ for them. As the child gets older, they often get negative ‘push back’ generating either rebellion or disengagement from the activity or goal, as they don’t see that they own the issue.

Truck and trailer – parents who are attached at the hip to their child. They have a close relationship, but pay for it in the long run. Their child hasn’t experienced the boundaries or restrictions that they would often appreciate in order to excuse themselves from things they don’t, in their heart, feel that comfortable with; they view their parent as a ‘mate’ and when told ‘no’, don’t see why they should obey.

Lastly, Microlite – parents who circle overhead, sometimes behind and other times ahead of their child. Not in constant contact, but have the ability to ‘call up’ or even land if needed. Potential outcomes is that while their child knows someone is present to help, they need to do it on their own. This approach encourages independence, resilience and decision-making.

As parents, we all know that certain situations dictate different strategies that need to be adopted for a circumstance at hand. Sometimes we have to be hands-on and exercise control; other times absent to give them the space to get on with it. The key point is that we cannot be one type of parent at all times, otherwise, we aren’t really doing our true job of mentoring, providing boundaries, and making our children accountable for their actions.

Your teenager, above all, craves fairness, transparency, consistency and guidance. We are working in a very dynamic time with constant change all around us. No one really gave us any lessons on parenting teenagers, but we need to be aware of the potential outcomes of our decision-making, or at times lack of, on the current lives and future pathway of our children.

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Grant Lander