You say yes…I say no: how parenting style may affect teens’ behaviors


As Groucho Marx once said, “Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.

If only getting older were so simple.  For some teens and their families, the teenage years are filled with stress and turmoil. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, the child is becoming an adult, moving from dependence on parents to independence and greater self-reliance. This transition may involve indecision, anxiety, conflict and rebelliousness. If you are a parent of a teenager living through these experiences, hopefully you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

In early adolescence, they may argue with you. Teens begin to analyze the world around them and compare their values with those communicated by friends and the media. As a result, they may argue with their parents and challenge their authority. The same child who idolized his or her parents just a short time ago now thinks of them as ordinary human beings, capable of making mistakes.

You are educated when you have the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.”  - Robert Frost

In middle adolescence, they may ignore you. During this period your teens are more likely to ignore you than to disobey you. They spend more time with friends and away from home. To be like their peers, they may experiment with drugs and sex. 

“Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.” - Ron Taffel, Ph.D.

In late adolescence, they may actually tolerate you! During this phase, teens may start thinking more seriously about their future careers and relationships. They may become more tolerant of their parents, and actually return to many of their parents’ values and views.

“As a man, I've been representative of the values I hold dear. And the values I hold dear are carryovers from the lives of my parents.” - Sidney Poitier

How can we help children grow up to become independent and responsible adults? Take a look at your style of parenting as it may play an important role.

 If you are an authoritative (balanced) parent you may...

  • Focus more on guiding than controlling behavior
  • Set firm rules that are realistic for your child’s age and abilities
  • Explain the reasons for rules
  • Allow for some “give and take”
  • Forgive and teach more often than punish

Children of authoritative parents will likely grow up to become assertive, responsible, independent and cooperative.

Or is your parenting style authoritarian (strict)? You may tend to...

  • Be controlling and demanding 
  • Set rigid rules, which may be unrealistic for your child’s age and abilities
  • Not explain the reasons for rules  (“Because I say so”)
  • Expect 100% obedience
  • Punish your child for not meeting expectations

Children of authoritarian parents may not develop the ability to make decisions independently.

Perhaps you are a permissive parent who tends to...  

  • Not be demanding
  • Set few rules
  • Rarely correct your child 
  • Act more like your child’s friend than a parent

Children of permissive parents often grow up feeling that their parents don’t care.

More evidence that parenting style seems to make a difference:  researchers at Brigham Young University found a link between parenting style and teen binge-drinking.  They surveyed 5,000 adolescents about their drinking habits and their relationships with their parents.

  • Teens with authoritative (balanced) parents were least likely to be binge drinkers
  • Teens with authoritarian (strict) parents were more than twice as likely to be binge drinkers
  • Teens with permissive parents were nearly three times as likely to be binge drinkers.

Parenting is not easy - especially when living through the process of adolescent development with your teenager. If your parenting style is authoritative (not authoritarian or permissive), odds are that your teenager, who argued with you and ignored you just a short time ago, will turn out just fine. 

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” - Mark Twain

Read more from the Healthy Kids blog »