Is there such a thing as a "bad seed"? Or is there innate innocence that gets corrupted by home environment and peer pressure? We've recently seen many examples of teen trouble that have left us digging for answers.
Dr. Ellen Slicker, professor of professional counseling at Middle Tennessee State University and a private-practice psychologist, says "children are born with a particular temperament so they have a predisposition to be easygoing, shy, difficult, or challenging." Then you add parents and the home environment to the mix.
Slicker says we tend to parent as we have been parented. If our parents were not particularly responsible and caring, we will tend to reflect those characteristics. It is this mixture of nature and nurture that has a great deal to do with how our children develop.
Slicker cites her own research delineating the four parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent and neglectful.
"These four parenting styles are determined by looking at the amounts of 'responsiveness' (involvement, warmth, nurturance) and 'demandingness' (behavioral control, limit setting, monitoring) that appear and are predominant in the way parents interact with their children."
Slicker believes every child should receive "authoritative" parenting. "These can be considered responsible parents who are warm and reasonable and who consistently monitor their children and set limits on their behaviors," she says.
The professor cites Dr. Gerald Patterson of the Oregon Social Learning Center, who has found that parental monitoring is the single best deterrent for delinquency.
Authoritarian parents, on the other hand, are demanding but lack warmth. "This type of parenting often causes resentment and anger in children and can produce both bullies and victims," Slicker says. Neglectful parents "demonstrate neither responsiveness nor demandingness. These kids, having no parental limits, make up their own."
Indulgent parents love their kids to death but are short on limits and discipline. "Their kids are likely to run the family," she says.
In her practice, Slicker says she most often sees indulgent ones trying to take back control of their family.
What kind of parent are you?
Consider what style of parenting you use. Are you authoritarian? Indulgent? Is it based on how you were raised? Have you modified the approach your father took? Are there changes you can make to become more successful?
As Slicker notes: "Children would be better adjusted as individuals in the world if they came from a strong family unit where parents take their roles seriously. These parents monitor their children and apply logical consequences for inappropriate behavior consistently and unapologetically. Expectations are clear and parents are firm but kind. Children crave limits to help them feel secure and loved."
Raising successful, well-adjusted children is an important responsibility requiring forethought, capability and follow-through. Perhaps we need a license for parenting as we do for driving, hunting and fishing.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc.com. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.