Common style of parenting teens. The first style is called “control.” Think a brick. It’s rigid, heavy, limited in space, has rough edges, and can be sharp and cutting. The brick symbolizes the control style of parenting. Many parents think it’s their responsibility part of their jobs as parents to control their teenagers.

Parenting of kids, brick symbolizes control style

Parents seem to believe that if they don’t make their teens do things for their own good, then they are being permissive parents. These parents use some form of punishment or rewards as their primary method of control. With teenagers, the most common punishments are grounding, withdrawing privileges, taking away allowances, using physical and emotional abuse, and withdrawing love and approval.

Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick

Trying to gain control makes parents feel that they have done their job. However, controlling parents do not consider the long term results of their methods. This kind of parenting invites children:

    1. To think might makes right.

    2. To believe, “I have to give up myself to be loved by you.”

    3. To avoid contribution unless there are external rewards.

    4. To manipulate for bigger rewards.

    5. To rebel or comply.

Short-term parenting can be exhausting. In this style of parenting, the parents’ responsibility is to catch their children being bad so they can dish out the punishments and lectures. It is also the parents’ responsibility to catch their children being good to dish out the rewards.What responsibilities are teens learning?

If all power is taken away from teenagers, they will never have the opportunity to learn responsibility or to make their own mistakes and learn from them. In addition, these teens will never have the opportunity to discover and set their own limits. How can teens learn to be responsible if parents continue to take that role? One of the best ways to teach children to be irresponsible is to be a controlling parent.

Example: A parent attending one of our workshops challenged us on the issue of giving up control. He explained that his fifteen-year-old daughter habitually came home later than the curfew he had set for her. The last time she came home an hour late, he grounded her for a week. When he was asked what he thought she learned from this, he said,

“She learned that she can’t get away with this behavior.” When asked how he felt about this, he said, “I feel good. It’s not my job to be her buddy. It’s my job to be her parent.”

Further exploration revealed that even though he had hated it when his parents grounded him as a teen, he now believed as a parent that it was his job to set rules and restrictions and to punish children when they disobeyed. He felt a sense of accomplishment that he had done his job, although he admitted that grounding did not solve the problem.

His daughter continued to come home late, and he continued to ground her. He said, “Come to think of it, I acted like my daughter and continued to defy my father as long as I lived at home. I didn’t keep curfew until I left home and felt like getting home early so I could get a good night’s sleep.

And I still don’t want to have anything to do with my father. I don’t want that kind of relationship with my daughter. Okay. I’m ready to learn alternatives.”

We know many parents won’t want to hear this, but any form of control or punishment is very disrespectful to teenagers and extremely ineffective for the goals of long term parenting. It is sometimes appropriate to withdraw privileges from children under twelve or thirteen when the withdrawal relates to the misbehavior, is respectfully enforced, and seems reasonable, by advance agreement, to both parent and child.

However, by the time children reach adolescence and see themselves as adults, they won’t see grounding or removal of privileges as respectful or reasonable.

Danger permanent apron strings

Another danger of the controlling parenting style is permanent apron strings. Children who never escape the control of their parents may decide that their whole lives revolve around doing what they think their mother or father would want. They often grow up to become approval junkies who find other people to continue the job of controlling them. This can be devastating to marriages, parenting, friendships and jobs.