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When Do You Need To Step Up As A Parent

In my previous blog post, I wrote about how you can teach children self-discipline and why you should. According to Dr Gordon, an American clinical psychologist, the best way to do this is to teach them problem-solving abilities by involving them in the decision-making process. That makes them feel responsible for the outcome. I did mention, however, that this theory does not apply to some situations and that you sometimes need to step up as a parent and be authoritative. But when exactly is that moment and what does it mean?

Authoritarian vs. Authoritative Parenting

The first thing we need to do is to distinguish between these two concepts. Authoritarian parenting means that you want your child to obey your will. There are a lot of rules and boundaries that they have to accept. If they do not obey, they get some sort of punishment. There is no possibility to negotiate and let them make decisions for themselves.

Authoritative parents also have rules but they also consider the needs of the child. The rules are always supported by arguments. The development of the child is taken into consideration and also his wishes. But sometimes you need to take charge as a parent.

Life-Threatening Situations

You have probably witnessed many times a parent – or you have been that parent – who is crossing the street with a screaming toddler by the hand. I have four kids, so I’ve been that parent quite a few times. First, I always tried explaining that we have to cross the street and the dangers of it. And often enough they disagreed, so I had to take them by the hand screaming and angry. That is a simple example when you need to use your authority.As the kids get older, the more those situations get complex and dangerous. It becomes increasingly difficult to protect them. Let’s be honest: taking a toddler by the hand against his will is not really difficult in comparison with a 16-year-old asking for your permission to go to a party where alcohol is served. There are a lot of examples and the one is scarier than the other: biking with earphones on, biking in the dark without lights, biking drunk, driving drunk, speeding, driving and using the phone, getting into a car with a drunken driver, unprotected sex, binge drinking, drug abuse, smoking, eating disorders, etc. We all know that keeping them home all the time is not an option. But what can we do to lessen the risk and up the safety?

The Adolescent Brain – Get To Know It Better In Just 6 Steps

The Brain and Development Research Centre is situated at the Psychology Department of the University of Leiden in The Netherlands. At this department, they conduct different studies about the reasons for certain behaviour, therefore also about the risk-taking behaviour of teenagers.

Barbara Braams from Lab on Vimeo.

The most important discoveries are, that the pre-frontal cortex (at the frontal of the brain) is developed later than the amygdala (in the middle section of the brain). The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking and self-control. The amygdala controls the emotions. It actually means that the emotions are fully developed, but the control over them is not – that is why they react so impulsively.
This is the point where we as parents have to step in and show our leadership. Not as an authoritarian but as an authoritative parent. The following 6 steps are a helpful guide to achieving that.

6 Steps How To Act As A Leader To Your Teenagers

1. Educate yourself about the youth culture.

Be alert and informed. The best way to do this is to keep the lines of communication with your child open. Besides that, look up information on the Internet about drugs, alcohol and other trends in going out. When you engage in a conversation with your child, you can let them know you are informed. That earns you credit and trust.

2. Be open and curious.

Do not close up because of your fear.

3. Do not judge.

Try not to judge. Try to control your emotions and be neutral, but give your honest opinion. It is not easy, but it is possible.

4. Ask about your kid’s opinion/experience.

The easiest way to get information is first-hand.

5. Keep the conversation short and not too personal.

Teenagers have no patience for long talks. Try to have it in an unconstrained atmosphere, for example in the car, while going for a milkshake.

6. Share your knowledge.

Tell your kid what you found out and where. Feel free to send them links, they mostly learn digitally anyways. They will take a look, believe me, just out of curiosity. Maybe not immediately, but they will take a look.

Personal Example

My 16-year-old son is having his high school exams in 2 weeks. He is already free from school 2 weeks. We have been telling him repeatedly to make a schedule and learn at least 3-4 hours a day. He trains and has a part-time job. In the past 2 weeks, he did not succeed in it. Now I told him that he needs to make this schedule and we will discuss it. He will be majorly responsible, but I will supervise the process. We could not let him carry the responsibility for this all by himself. He is not aware of the long-term consequences yet and we are.

Steering Lovingly

Their behaviour is necessary and normal in the process of becoming independent. Our children need all the help they can get to get through this period safely. Maybe they don’t behave like they need it, but in this crucial moment of their lives, we need to show healthy leadership. Open communication is essential because if we are open, we can get an idea of what is going on. If you know what is going on, you can act upon it, especially by giving them information. It is their choice what to do with this information, but don’t be fooled – it does influence their choice for sure. Positive feedback is essential, too. We have to keep warning for danger too.When they are little, it’s easy – we take them by the hand and cross the street and be done with it. As they get older, it is getting more complex.If you have a kid with special needs, for example, one with ADHD, the challenge grows.

Interesting links:

Do you have any other examples of when it is necessary to use parental authority?

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