Parenting Style Matters: Raising Adolescents

Support and guidance within loving relationships in the home is extremely important to the development and well-being of teens. Adolescence is a stage of extreme physical, emotional, and intellectual change. In spite of popular beliefs and the myth that the stage of adolescence is marked by parent-teen conflict, scientific studies continue to show otherwise. The common belief that teen friends and peers have leverage to over-ride the influence of parents is exaggerated.

The widespread view that parents are not important during adolescence is troubling. It shows a lack of understanding of this stage of life. It’s detrimental to our kids and our society as a whole. Parents may feel ill-equipped to deal with and help their kids through the physical and psychological changes of adolescence.  The perception that teens, “need their space” and the idea that peers are extremely important may have parents moving back from their teen.

The opinion that adolescence is a turbulent time in parent-teen relationships is supported by a large number of topic based self-help books. The stresses of life can make this convenient to buy into. On top of this, the media generally supports the notion of troubled times ahead for parents with teens. It’s no surprise that parents may be anxious about this stage of raising kids. The truth is that while parents and teens may disagree on everyday matters, they rarely disagree on fundamental values.  

Here’s What You Need to Know  

Family relationship and positive parenting trumps other influences.  

The family relationship and positive parenting practices that include supervision, communication, and monitoring, are vital and stabilizing forces throughout this significant period of change from childhood to adulthood (Steinberg, 2011).

Quality of relationship matters –big-time: Parents may be surprised to know that the quality of the relationship with their teen carries a lot of influence and even outranks other factors such as the size or make-up of their family, parenting style, or even income. This fact overrides age or sex and crosses other boundaries such as marital status, ethnicity, and social and financial background. In short, teens who feel loved and supported by caring and involved parents, have a significant overall sense of well-being and fair better psychologically, socially, behaviorally, and health-wise than peers who do not (Steinberg, 2011).

Communication and watchful attention is a must: Parental communication and monitoring can have a protective effect on teen involvement in risky peer relations and behaviors such as smoking, alcohol, drug use, and sex. Predominantly Caucasian studies show that a sense of connectedness between parent-family and adolescents is a huge advantage. More specifically, the catalyst to prevent negative behavior depends on the ease of communication fostered through parent-adolescent relationship (DeVore & Ginsburg, 2005).

Parenting style matters: With this in mind, the importance of parenting style is unmistakable. Parents influence adolescent thinking patterns and the ways they deal with problems. Parenting style sways how teens either hold their feelings inside, or are willing to talk about them.  According to De Vore and Ginsberg’s findings, “Authoritative parenting generally leads to the best outcomes for teens.” The authoritative parent may also be influential to the choices that adolescents make about choosing friends and what peer groups to associate with. Don’t confuse Authoritative, with Authoritarian parenting style. The names are similar but they are very different. Authoritarian Parents set extremely high expectations and offer little affection and guidance.

What is Authoritative Parenting?   Authoritative parenting is a style where parents listen to their kids and relate lovingly and warmly, with limits and fair discipline. These parents set reasonable demands and are approachable and respond thoughtfully. Authoritative parents may have high expectations for their children, but they also give their kids the resources and support they need to succeed. The authoritative parenting style has proven to be the most effective in raising kids. Kids raised by authoritative parents have abilities to set positive boundaries for themselves, have self-confidence, and happier attitudes.

Parenting takes a lot of effort. Parent-teen friendship with set limits is a benefit to adolescent development. Parents, who exhibit warmth, trust and loyalty, and who are willing to discuss rules and consequences tend to have a greater moral influence over their teens than those who do not, “even in the face of potentially negative peer influence (Galambos, Barker & Almeida, 2003).”

Parent-teen friendship has the potential to create a strong bond, more influential than peers, especially when it comes to moral or behavioral issues. It’s important though, that parents do not treat this friendship as an equal relationship and fall into permissive or to neglectful parenting.

But, don’t do this: Within this special parent-teen friendship, be careful not to share personal details that may cause distress and erode your base of communication and trust. Doing so may leave adolescents vulnerable to insecurities, confusion, and careless choices. “Kids do better when their parents show affection and enforce age-appropriate limits on their children’s behavior (Dewar, 2009).”   

Striving for a healthy adolescent-parent relationship should be a priority and is necessary for the well-being of your child. Gradually nurturing independence and talking things through with one another enhances intellectual development and promotes social maturity. Involved, interactive parenting stimulates reasoning abilities, moral judgement, empathy, and healthy choices regarding friendships and social relationships. This generally leads to strong family bonds and similar ideals and attitudes into adulthood.

Here’s a fictional letter from a mother to her son to show you what an authoritative parenting style might look like. You should be able to recognize these qualities: A loving and warm tone; established expectations; fair and reasonable demands and boundaries; nurturing independence; listens to her son’s opinion and encourages discussion.   


Dear Cody,

I’m so glad you talked to me about what was bothering you. It’s so important that you do that. Remember, we’re on the same side. Dad and I aren’t trying to spoil your fun; we only have concerns about what is best for you. I understand that our expectations about who you hang out with bothers you, but it is so important to have friends with good morals and values.

We want to be fair and consider your feelings. You and I have always been able to talk about all kinds of things. It would be really good if you could also talk to your dad more about problems or issues that you are dealing with. Give him a chance honey. You might be surprised to know that a lot of the time he can relate to what you are going through. Dads have a different perspective than moms do. We both love you.  

As we see that you are making good choices, we will feel comfortable giving you more freedom in making your own decisions. It’s a process we are both going through. We will try to be more open to your feelings and ideas.

As you know, there have been things going on in our family that have been difficult for all of us lately. But, let me reassure you that dad and I and your sisters will always love you, and each other. We’re a team. I’m confident that things will get better.      

As for your schoolwork, if you feel that I’m harassing you, it’s not the case at all. I’m only trying to have a reasonable discussion with you to make sure you are not having difficulties that need to be addressed. You do spend a lot of time playing your computer games online. As long as you keep up your homework and still involve yourself in other things, we can live with that for now (Wagner, 2008).  

As for your curfew, we want you in by twelve; first because it’s reasonable, and second, we are concerned about drunk drivers on the road late at night. Remember, your friends are always welcome to come here.

I’m so glad you explained the situation about Ashley to me. While I don’t particularly agree with all of your actions, dad and I are proud of you for your caring attitude and for trying to help her. We can talk more about this later. Maybe there is something more that can be done for her.

I remembered recently that you mentioned an interest in taking mixed martial arts classes. I called today to find out some information about it. It sounds great. If you are still interested, we can follow up on that.  

How about we all go out for pizza and a movie this weekend?

I love you like crazy… mom xo


It’s  Your Life. Make it Good. If you have a specific situation that you need help with, you may be interested in Heart-to-Heart –affordable, confidential, objective advice to help you make well thought out confident decisions. 

Sherry Van Dolder



DeVore, E. R., & Ginsburg, K. R. (2005). The protective effects of good parenting on adolescents. From Parents Encouraging Responsible Choices (website).  

Dewar, G. (2009). Should parents be friends with their kids? From Parenting Science (website).

Galambos, N. L., Barker, E.T., & Almeida, D. M. (2003). Parents do matter: Trajectories of change in externalizing and internalizing problems in early adolescence. Child Development, 72(2), (pp. 578-594).

Steinberg, L. (2011). Chapter 4. In Adolescence (9th ed.), (pp. 119-147). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Wagner, J. (2008). Reading 14: When play turns to trouble: Many parents are now wondering: how much is too much? In F. E. Stickle (Ed.), Annual editions adolescent psychology (8th ed.), 2012. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.