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Are you a Power over/under parent or an empowering parent?


Your teen becomes frustrated with homework and “flips out” once again. She is crying and screaming and disturbing the family. You tell her to calm down and just finish the homework or she will lose the use of her phone. She escalates as do you. The house is now in chaos.

Sound familiar? Does this happen frequently in your home? You have done everything that you can, but your teen is so emotional and manipulative and won’t listen to you. You have tried everything.

Let me ask you a few questions.

Do you feel that you and your teen have a connected relationship?

Do you use control, punishment, and coercion to get your teen to behave and do what you want?

Does your teen feel safe to come to you and talk to you?

If you answered no to questions 1 and 3 and answered yes to question 2, it could be that your parenting style is not effective.

Parenting Styles

Parents learn to be parents from their own parents. It is generational. One common misconception is that if how your parents parented you, that style should work for you. Children are unique individuals and what might have worked for one teen may not work for another. Behaviors are the result of nervous system reactions. To change behaviors, it is necessary to first calm the nervous system. Punishing emotions is not effective. Behaviors are often the result of overwhelming emotions.

Parenting styles are either “power over/ender” parenting or empowering parenting. Power over parenting involves power, rigidity, demanding, without attending to emotional needs. Power under is avoiding any conflict through no enforcement of boundaries or leaving your teen to fend for themselves. There is no empathy or compassion in either of these styles. Empowering parenting on the other hand is collaborative and democratic. It is providing connection and safety to your teen. It is seeing them as humans with their own thoughts and feelings. It is helping teens learn problem-solving, emotional regulation, empathy, and compassion.

Let’s break it down.

Parenting will be responsive or demanding, and flexible vs. inflexible.

• To be responsive: A parent’s ability to foster individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and acquiescent to children’s needs and doing so intentionally.

• To be demanding: A parent’s power over their children to make children become integrated into the family whole, by their maturity demands, supervision, disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys.

• To be flexible: The ability of parents to remain engaged with their teen, especially when working through chaos. It involves letting go of self-critical thoughts, comparisons, judgements, and rigid rules.

• To be inflexible: Unwillingness to let go of rigid rules and demands. Power over parenting.

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting is high demand and low responsiveness. They use hostile control or the use of punishment to obtain compliance and obedience. They have an unwillingness to explain rules and boundaries and an unwillingness to hear teen’s opinion or obtain input. Rules must be adhered to, and teens must behave the way the parent demands. These parents have and inability to use empathy or compassion and inability to be affectionate and are very critical of their teen. Teens are expected to accept parental judgement without questioning and are expected to accept all values and goals of the parent without input. This style limits the teen’s ability for problem-solving, making judgements on their own, and decision making and lowers self-esteem and self-efficacy. With this style, teen experience mental health struggles, including, depression and anxiety, internalizing behaviors, they are emotionally withdrawn, they can be rebellious towards all authority and display behavioral problems and conduct problems, temper tantrums and are at high risk for substance abuse.

Permissive parenting (Lenient or indulgent)

Permissive parenting uses low demandingness and high responsiveness. There are very few rules and boundaries and a lack of enforcing those rules and boundaries. These parents don’t like to say no to avoid disappointing their teen. Teens cannot follow rules, have little self-control, possess egocentric tendencies, “It’s all about me”, and struggle with relationships and social interactions.

Neglectful parenting: Uninvolved, Disengaged

These parents show low demandingness and low responsiveness. They do not set firm boundaries or high standards and indifferent to their teen's needs, uninvolved with their teen’s lives. These parents may struggle with their own mental health and have often experienced abuse or neglect in their own childhood. Teens are more impulsive, struggle with emotional self-regulation, will have more delinquent, conduct, and substance abuse problems and will experience more mental health problems and are at a higher risk for suicide.

Authoritative Parenting (Democratic parenting, Empowering parenting)

These parents show high demandingness and high responsiveness. They high expectations for achievement and maturity, and are warm and responsive. Rules are set, boundaries enforced through the use of open discussions, guidance, and reasoning. These parents have high flexibility, provide explanations to children in regard to rules and boundaries, which allows children more awareness, and teaches values, morals, and goals and discipline is outcome oriented as opposed to coercive. These parents are affectionate and supportive, respect their teen’s autonomy, allow freedom and independence and there is bidirectional communication. Teens feel cherished. appear to be happier and more content, are more independent, are more active, have higher academic achievements, have good self-esteem, and have good social skills and interactions. Teens have better mental health including less likelihood of depression, anxiety, suicide, conduct problems, substance abuse, exhibit less violent tendencies, are securely attached and more connected and there is a good parent-teen relationship.

Where do you stand. As you see, empowering parenting helps teens learn problem solving, conflict resolution, and emotional regulation. Empowering parenting support the teen’s brain development.

Remember, that teens are unique individuals with unique needs. Ask yourself this, are you supporting their brain development and preparing them for adulthood or are you controlling to the point where teens feel unsupportive and unsafe?

If you want to change, I can help.

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