Parents are the Architects of
Responsible and Confident Teens
Michael Thompson, Ph.D. is a more-than-qualified clinical psychologist when it comes to advising parents how to deal with children. The author of nine books and a frequent guest on the Today Show, the Oprah Show and CBS’ 60 Minutes, Thompson offered sound advise to parents on September 16th for the Glenbard Parent Series held at Glenbard South High School.
With much humor and insightful antidotes, Thompson explained how parents might be the architects of responsible and confident teens. Though he was quick to point out that parents cannot take all the blame, or all the credit for their teen’s character. Much depends on a teen’s growth through development.
Initially, a child’s instinct is to hold on to his/her parents. The first three years of a child’s life is about attachment. Parents and siblings are the center of the child’s world. The connection between parents and their child is the foundation, a “secure base,” from which a child can develop. The frameworks that support that development are the child’s parents, friends, extended family, religion and school.
Thompson defines a responsible teen as “One who has gotten enough from his/her family to meet the moral needs of school.” In order for this to happen parents need to understand how children initially relate to their family and to have an understanding as to what kind of “family structure” they are providing.
Thompson defines the different types of family structures using Kantor and Lehr’s descriptions of normal family styles.
1. The “Closed Family” exercises values such as: preparation, certainty, unity and discipline.
2. The “Open Family” exercises values such as: responsiveness, latitude, cooperation and tolerance.
3. The “Random Family” exercises values such as: free choice, challenge, spontaneity and creativity, but this is done in an irregular fashion.
Parents need to spend time with their teens and it doesn’t have to be “quality time.” They need to have expectations and give their teen a chance to act in a responsible manner.
Thompson indicated that the clarity about values is expressed through discipline. While he believes that clarity is the most difficult to achieve, he believes that for discipline to be effective it must be “clear, quick, consistent, warm and personal.”
Thompson referred to Diana Baumrind’s study: “The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and drug abuse.”
Four prototype families are described:
1. Authoritative requires high demands and high responsiveness.
2. Authoritarian requires high demands and low responsiveness.
3. Permissive requires high responsiveness and low demands.
4. Rejecting-neglecting requires low responsiveness and low demands.
Baumrind also defined six parenting style sub-types:
Baumrind’s findings were that the least drug use occurred in Directive and Authoritative families. Democratic families produced more drug using teens but they were also competent which protected them somewhat from their drug use.
Good-enough, Nondirective and Unengaged families produced higher levels of drug use and lower levels of competence.
What completes the structure is for parents to listen to their teen. This means that a parent not talk even when the impulse strikes. Then they need to acknowledge that their teen is different from them and avoid the dangers of generalizing from their own experiences, accept that difference, and then love that difference.
By Suzanne Burdett, a Glenbard parent