Postures In Parenting II: Parenting from Above and Beneath
- Monday, March 15, 2004
This article is part of a continuing series on parenting styles. In the first part of this series we underscored the importance of forming an alliance with your teenager and offered a quiz for you to identify your primary parenting style.
In this article we will examine two of the four "postures in parenting", looking at their strengths and weaknesses with suggestions for ways that you might use this parenting style to form a stronger alliance with your teenager from a posture of hand-in-hand parenting.
Parenting from Above
Goal: Tell what you know. Get things under control.
Role: Instructor, disciplinarian, policeman.
Fear: If I don't get my child under control, there's no hope.
Response to Parenting Challenges: "You will not do that again." "You will do exactly as I say."
Teenager's Response: Overt or covert defiance and deceitfulness.
MOTHER: I want to talk to you about what happened at school today. What were you thinking - smoking pot at school? Don't you know what that does to you? It destroys brain cells. It impairs memory. You'll end up flunking out of school. You already are failing in three classes. Don't you realize that smoking pot is against the law? Do you want to end up with a criminal record?
DAUGHTER: I just got them from some kid at the park. I don't know who it was. It's not that big of a deal. Everyone was doing it. I promise I won't do it again.
MOTHER: You're right you won't do it again. You are grounded until we decide differently, and I am calling the school to put a halt to you going off-campus at lunch.
DAUGHTER: Great. Now I won't have a social life at all.
MOTHER: Good. I don't want you to have a social life if it's going to get you in this kind of trouble.
The mother in this scenario is right. Her daughter made a foolish, destructive, illegal choice. She is right to impose consequences. She is right to suspect her daughter's social life. This mother uses her knowledge and parental authority to talk to her daughter, dispense discipline, and demand answers.
The end result is predictable. These two will be in a standoff - even further apart then before the drug-use incident. Mom may feel a sense of control in the immediate, but she will be frustrated that she doesn't understand why her daughter is using drugs.
Neither mother nor daughter will trust each other. Mom won't trust her daughter to avoid temptation without her tight control, and the daughter won't trust her mother to know and hear about her life without imposing tighter controls.
Parents need to be armed with information about drug and alcohol use. However, information used for the sole purpose of "catching" and controlling our children will put us in the role of "police mothers. What is missing from this scenario is not the mother's lack of knowledge about drugs, but her lack of knowledge about her daughter.
A mother using both knowledge and understanding might say, "It makes sense to me that you would smoke pot right now. I know that you are going through a lot and feeling a lot of stress, and that marijuana takes away the pressure for a little while. But we have to find another way to help you deal with the pressure. Pot is illegal and potentially damaging." Acknowledging your daughter's challenging world may open the door to further discussions about what is really going on and how you might help. A parent who tends to parent from above must temper knowledge with understanding.
"Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding! Throw your arms around her - believe me, you won't regret it; never let her go."
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