This is the second part in a series excerpted from my book God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Teen. You can learn more about parenting in my books God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Child or God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Teen.
A Parenting Style Case Study
Imagine you’re putting clothes into your teen’s dresser. When you open the drawer, you see a pack of cigarettes. Here’s how parents of the four parenting styles might react:
1. Dictator parents would erupt in a volcano of righteous indignation, saying something like, “Go throw these away this second!
Then come back in your room. You’re grounded for a month. No phone. No friends can come over. You will not leave home except to go to school.”
2. Champion parents would take a deep breath and perhaps recall one of their teen indiscretions. These parents would seize the opportunity to teach or coach their teen. They might say, “I know you want to grow up, and I know being independent and acting cool are important to you. But you know how unhealthy smoking is. You also know that the rule in our home is absolutely no smoking at anytime. Can we talk about it a bit?”
3. Best-friend parents would believe their teen should be allowed to express his or her impulses freely. Making this an issue could make things sticky, so they’d choose to pass by this opportunity to help their teen make a wise decision or solve a problem.
4. Marshmallow parents would overlook or ignore the incident—hoping against hope the problem would just go away.
Which parenting style do you lean toward? How about your spouse?
If you’d like to determine your particular parenting style, you can find a parenting style self-tests on my website. Just look under the “Assessment Tools and Web sites” section for the “Assessing Your Parenting Style.” If either or both of you aren’t champions, you can seek resources to help you become a highly healthy parent.
Balancing Love and Training
As your teens grow older, the need for discipline and the way discipline is administered change. If you’re too soft—overemphasizing love and failing to teach obedience, your teens will disrespect you.
If you’re overly authoritarian and oppressive, your teens will shut you out of their lives.
The goal is to balance love and training, mercy and fairness, warmth and firmness, tenderness and jurisdiction.
If you didn’t mess up when you were a teen, you have nothing to worry about. Your teens will be perfect angels. Your days of maintaining discipline and training your teens are over. All you have to worry about is paying their college bills and saving money for their weddings.
Then again, if you weren’t perfect in high school—like yours truly—you can’t expect your teens to sail through those years.
I view any discipline during the teen years as midcourse corrections. Your teen is flying fast toward the target—adulthood—and you’re handing him or her the plane’s steering wheel for longer and longer stretches of time.
You’re still the captain, and there will be occasions when you need to take the controls during turbulent times.
You never know when it might happen. Our son, Scott, went off to college.
He entered Samford University, located in Birmingham, Alabama, with nineteen units of college credit and a high grade point average. Since those nineteen units counted toward graduation, Scott assumed the high grades he earned with those credits would be dovetailed into his GPA at Samford.
He’s a bright young man, and he figured he could academically skate during his first semester. He didn’t even make a 2.0, which means he had a few D’s to go with his few C’s.
The academic dean sent him a letter saying that if grades didn’t improve the following semester, he wouldn’t be allowed to register for classes again.
For some reason, Scott didn’t think those academic standards applied to him. He had those A’s and B’s from those college courses he took in high school, right? Didn’t those grades count? Nope. The dean was serious. When Scott continued to deliver grades south of the 2.0 border, Samford University declared him academically ineligible.
Scott’s options were:
- dropping out and never coming back to Samford,
- applying to another college and never coming back to Samford, or
- taking a semester off and applying to be reinstated.
If Scott chose the latter option, Samford wanted him to work or travel—to do something worthwhile.
The reapplication process involved an interview and submitting an essay on what he had learned during his “sabbatical.”
Scott wanted to come to Colorado Springs and live with us. Barb and I prayed about what we should do. I have to be honest: Barb wanted to allow him to come home, but I didn’t think it’d be wise.
We agreed he needed to understand there were consequences for his behavior. To be asked to sit out of college for a semester and land back in his cushy bedroom didn’t sound like much of a consequence to us.
So we practiced a little tough love. “Scott,” I said, “you’re going to have to find a place of your own and support yourself.”
He gulped. As he studied his options, Scott decided to move to our old hometown in Kissimmee, where he found a job as a substitute teacher at the high school he had attended. Then he found a place to live.
Here’s one of the neat things that happened. A week or two after landing on his feet in Kissimmee, Scott gave Bill Judge a phone call. (If you recall, Bill was my mentor and accountability partner when we lived in Florida.)
“Mr. Judge, you know how you used to meet with my daddy every Tuesday morning and help him out?” Scott asked.
“Why yes, I sure do,” Bill replied.
“Would you meet with me every Tuesday morning?”
I thought that was so cool when I heard about it. Scott had seen mentoring lived out by me, and now he decided he wanted the same type of accountability during a pivotal moment in his life.
Scott served his sentence, so to speak, and returned to Samford a changed young man. That’s called staying the course—for him and for us.
What Scott went through was a mild form of rebellion. He wanted to do what he wanted to do. He experienced the consequences of his actions, and I’m sure he’ll never forget the lesson.
To learn more, you can read these other posts:
- The ABCD’s of Parenting – Part 1
- The ABCD’s of Parenting – Part 2
- The ABCD’s of Parenting – Part 3
- The ABCD’s of Parenting – Part 4
- The ABCD’s of Parenting – Part 5
- The ABCD’s of Parenting – Part 6
- The ABCD’s of Parenting – Part 7
Here are three other posts that may be helpful in nurturing highly, healthy teens: