Tag Archives: teens

How Attachment Parenting Produces Independent Kids

By Zoe Claire, originally published on www.unnecessarywisdom.wordpress.com. Reprinted with permission.

1095865_74207826Children are in our care for a limited amount of time, generally spanning two decades. During that time, their needs change drastically yet gradually from year to year. I’ve always found it odd that the principles of Attachment Parenting are criticized as promoting dependence in children when, if you analyze the proper development of independence in childhood, the attachment style would be considered the ideal method for raising competent adults.

Attachment style parenting is based on Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting. These principles are designed to guide decision making with a focus on infancy. But the overwhelming theme of the attachment style is the sensitive responsiveness of the parent toward the child. This responsiveness is directed at meeting the child’s needs in a loving and respectful manner.

The meeting of needs is a critical concept.

The end result of meeting a child’s needs is varied yet always positive. A child whose needs are consistently met learns that his voice is heard, his communications are valued, his needs are worthy, he can rely on the world to be a safe and secure place, he can trust his parents both for comfort and guidance, and he is competent.

We are most effective leaders when we teach from a place of love and trust.

Think about a time when someone tried to change you or what you were doing. How did you feel? Now think about how you felt about that person. Did you believe the person had your best interests at heart? If you did, you probably felt positive about the experience, whether you accepted the advice or not. If you believed the person did not understand you, did not care about you, or was only trying to promote their own interests, then you probably felt bad about the experience and certainly rejected the advice. We can only create true change from a position of love and trust. This is a truth of humanity.

Why do so many people worry about Attachment Parenting leading to dependent kids?

Those who don’t understand API’s Eight Principles of Parenting can often confuse meeting a child’s needs with stifling independence. An infant is at the beginning of her experience as a human. She begins her life without the ability to help herself in any way. She is entirely dependent on her caretaker. One aspect of meeting her needs is understanding what her needs are. She has not reached the stage in her development yet where she is capable of independence or desirous of it. The securely attached parent recognizes this need and attends to her accordingly.

The result of this sensitive attendance to the child’s needs is a child who has a secure foundation to begin her journey toward independence.

How does Attachment Parenting foster independence?

The drive for independence is as natural to humans as breathing, sleeping and eating. The securely attached parent is able to recognize when the child needs and wants independence and not only allow him to stand on his own two feet, but encourage him as well.

Independence occurs gradually, throughout the two decades of childhood. We do not need to force it upon a child before she is ready and should not hold her back when she is.

Responsive parents can see when their 2-year-old is demanding to pour her own milk and allow her to so. This is meeting a need. It’s a new need, different from those in infancy, but a need nonetheless. So she is allowed to develop necessary skills as she is ready.

As soon as a child is capable of caring for himself, he should be allowed to do so.

Connected, responsive parents can observe when their child is ready for independence and are able to encourage him. He wants to dress himself? Allow him. It doesn’t matter what he wears. It matters that he is able to care for himself. If he still needs to be close to his parents when he sleeps at night, that’s okay, too. It’s about fostering the child’s desire for independence. It’s about meeting needs. His need for independence is as legitimate as his need for security. Both are met with sensitivity, predictability and love.

What the child learns as she grows is that she is capable and secure. She learns that independence is a positive experience for her, as she masters each new skill. She learns that all of her needs will be met, regardless of what they are or how someone else feels about them.

As the child progresses through childhood, her need for independence will increase while her need for physical closeness to her parents will decrease. But the confidence she has in her parents is what links the two.

What does Attachment Parenting look like in the teen years?

I’ve seen articles proclaiming that parents must detach from their children during the teen years. I believe this is a misunderstanding of what attachment is. The attachment is the relationship, the sensitivity, the unconditional willingness to meet the child’s needs. A securely attached parent is able to recognize that the child’s needs during the teen years have changed and will continue to change to adulthood.

The securely attached teenager has experienced life with his parents knowing that when he speaks, he will be heard. He knows that his ideas, thoughts, opinions, and experiences are valued by them. He knows that he is competent. He knows that he can seek independence and he will be supported in his efforts. He knows that he can go to his parents for emotional support and they will be there for him. He knows that they know him well, they always have, and their primary goal is to support him. He knows this because that has been experience since the day he was born.

Think about this teen for a moment. This is what all parents want. This is a teen who knows when she has a problem, she can trust her parents as a resource. She will talk to them about it. She doesn’t rebel. She has nothing to rebel against. Her parents are allies in her life. They always have been. Nothing magically changes because of her age. They are still watching her, listening to her, anticipating what she needs from them and responding to her with sensitivity. She will take their advice more often than not. She knows that they want the best for her. They don’t disregard her, brush her aside or bully her. They never have. Sure, she might make mistakes. Everyone does and teens are more susceptible due to their inexperience and youth. But she has parents to guide and teach her. And she is still willing to accept their love and support.

We all want the same things for our children. We them to be happy, successful, independent, competent, kind, loving, empathic, responsible adults when they leave to go out into the world. We are not always so sure how to get there. While we all have to find our own way as parents, this I do believe: you can never go wrong meeting your child’s needs, no matter what the needs may be.


Playful Parenting with Older Children and Teens

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and attachment parenting leader (API of Portland, Oregon USA)

Young children play effortlessly. Kids are naturally predisposed to play, and it doesn’t take much to engage a child in a silly game or role-play. Through play, kids express feelings, needs, thoughts, and ideas that they might not yet have the words to articulate. Playing together lets parents connect and communicate with kids beyond a conversation and provides insight into their world.

But how does playtime change as kids get older? How can parents adapt their approach to playful parenting after kids outgrow the desire to get silly, wrestle, and pretend? How can we achieve the same results with our teenagers that we can by playing “tickle monster” with our toddlers?

Emily Troper is an early childhood educator, a founder of Continuum Learning Community in Portland, Oregon USA, and an attached mom who says that play is a big part of her family’s life. Troper has four children ages 6 to 19, and though she says it can be difficult to find ways to play that suit all of her kids, it is important enough to continue to try. Troper shares some of her family’s insights on how they continue to play together and what playtime looks like in a house with teenagers.

Physical Play

Physical games don’t lose their appeal for kids, but they do become more organized. While young children enjoy the rough-and-tumble play of wrestling, tackling, being tossed, rolled, or carried, older children (and their developing logical brains) enjoy sports, games, and other organized activities. Basketball, golf, tennis, jogging, even air hockey or table soccer all release endorphins and cause players to experience a shared, “feel-good” moment.
Interactive physical activity provides emotionally connecting experiences for parents and kids.

Troper says that despite her children’s wide range of ages, they have discovered several games that they all enjoy. She says, “We love the sock game from Larry Cohen’s book [Playful Parenting]. Everyone wears socks and sits on the floor. When we say ‘Go!’ we try to get off the other family members’ socks but keep our own on.” Their family also loves driving go-carts and playing Ping-Pong together.

Verbal Play

As children grow and their brains and language become more developed, jokes are a great way to stay connected. Jokes are interactive, and they keep us thinking and laughing together. A funny joke activates many areas of the brain and releases endorphins when we “get it” and find the humor in it. For Troper’s family, play has become much more verbal as her children have grown older, with mealtimes becoming a new kind of playtime. She says, “We often share funny stories at the dinner table and have a long history of inside jokes.”

Fun Stuff

Besides finding games that the whole family can do together, Troper says it’s equally important to have fun with each of her kids individually. She recommends joining kids in whatever they’re interested. “With my oldest son, we enjoyed watching comedy shows after the younger ones were sleeping and laughing our heads off together.” Whether the activity is playing cards or board games, listening to music, building Legos, or playing laser tag, sharing regular, enjoyable one-on-one time helps parents stay in-tune with their child’s interests and keeps their connection strong.

A Listening Tool

In the early years, play helps express a child’s feelings and is an avenue for parent-child communication. According to Troper, this did not change much as her kids have grown older and outgrown the creative play of early childhood. For her teenagers, playful, enjoyable moments continue to be opportunities for listening to find out what her children might be feeling and needing. She says, “With my oldest son, the pre-teen years were filled with being in the car together in the morning and afternoon. We listened to the music he wanted to listen to and talked about it. It was light and fun, but every so often, deeper subjects would come up and it was a safe space to talk.”

Although parents may not share all of their kids’ interests, taking the time to understand and get involved in them inevitably leads to talking, connecting, and building a trusting relationship. The games may change as kids get older, but the enjoyment of playtime doesn’t end in early childhood. Tweens and teens still like to have fun. They still like to laugh. They still express themselves through their interests. No matter how playtime has evolved, parents can use it as an opportunity to get and stay close to their growing children.

Attachment Parenting Our Teens

By Laurie A. Couture, author of Instead of Medicating and Punishing

So many attachment parents start out so passionate about giving very young children the best start possible in life: Moms birth naturally, spare their sons the trauma of circumcision by keeping them intact, breastfeed for at least three years or longer, carry their babies at all times, cosleep for several years, and they ideally are gentle and nurturing to their young ones as the children begin to assert their wants and express upset emotions.

Sadly, however, something happens between the ages of seven and 12 in far too many families who started out as attachment-minded: Moms and dads stop parenting for attachment and connection and start letting the mainstream lifestyle creep in. This often translates into sending children to school to suffer with all of its toxic elements, passively allowing children to become saturated and enslaved by the media, consumerism, pop culture and peer culture. And most tragically, moms pull away emotionally and physically from their older children.

If children as young as seven to 12 years old are being slowly absorbed into the mainstream cultural ideals of consuming and “individuating,” where does that leave our teenaged children? Very lost and disconnected, for sure!

Even in the Attachment Parenting (AP) community, writings about adolescent children have a negative and anti-attachment twinge to them: Most writings about parenting teens advise that teens should be  “individuating” from their parents and parents should be “pulling back” and “letting go” of their adolescent children. Due to years of “letting go,” parents of teens seem to passively assume that the disconnected behavior of their teens is “natural” and they oblige: They pull away and let go of their child even more.

My beautiful 17-year-old son Brycen is a free-spirited, self-directed child who revels in the freedom of unschooling. His expression of his individualism is unique, evolving and all his own creation. He is busy with endless creative pursuits, music, community activities, and flexible work of his choosing. He can sometimes be gone for days with back-to-back plans with friends. He knows that if he wanted to travel, or manifest an opportunity in his life, I would stand behind him in doing it. Brycen is truly a free child!

The most important essence of his life, however, is that he and I are deeply and closely connected. The parent-child attachment security and his needs are just as much my priority now as they were when he was little. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively, I have not “backed off,” “stepped back,” or “let go.” I have not relaxed my protection of him, diluted my delight in him, or weakened my nurturance of him. Instead, as if he was little, I have remained a loving, nurturing, affectionate, compassionate, protecting, delighted, supportive, and passionate mom to my son throughout his adolescence. In doing so, I have set him free to grow holistically.

What is your emotional reaction to this? Do you feel happiness, warmth, and a sense of bliss? Or do you feel uncomfortable, anxious or defensive — a desire to  give me your contrary opinion?

Our society seems to feel very uncomfortable about parent-teen closeness, especially mom and son closeness. These are deep cultural wounds in the collective unconscious that continue to be part of our culture. Tragically, as a result of this harmful emotionally charged bias, boys are often cast off physically and emotionally by their moms by their eighth or ninth year of life — a decade before they can handle such a disconnect! Teens who are disconnected from their parents are often stuck in a dynamic with their parents of push and pull, love and hate, compliance and rebellion, clinginess and aggression, being controlled and being pushed away.

Let’s return to nature for a moment: Nature’s intent is the only parenting advice we truly need. Our parenting challenges, concerns, and choices can become so simple if we consider, “What is nature’s intent for a child’s holistic development?” Nature is our reference manual, our guide to mammalian and human needs.

Our closest mammalian relative, a primate called the bonobo, is a great example of mother-adolescent relationships in the wild. In bonobos, the mother is intensely affectionate to her young well into adolescence. The daughter stays with the mother for seven years, at which time she leaves her mother and joins a neighboring tribe of bonobos. The son, however, remains dependent upon his mother for ten years and, as an adult, will be joined by his mate to live with his mother for life.

What about humans? In the Yequana tribe of South America, documented by the late Jean Liedloff in The Continuum Concept, adolescents and young adults remain interdependent with their parents until they marry. There is no teenage rebellion, no “individuating,” no mutual disrespect, no parental pushing away, no “letting go,” no “backing off,” and no “casting out of the nest,” even once the teen reaches adulthood. In fact, if an unmarried young adult’s parents pass away, another family in the tribe will “adopt” the young adult into their family until that adult marries. Parent-child affection, physical nurturance (especially during a time of injury or illness), support, and protection continues in many peaceful, nonviolent tribal societies well into young adulthood, until the adult child marries.

But what about the American mainstream cultural phenomenon of “helicopter parenting” happening to Generation-Y and the Millennials? Isn’t Attachment Parenting adolescents akin to Helicopter Parenting? No doubt, people’s fear of the unhealthy parent-child clinginess of Helicopter Parenting is what incites cultural backlash that is even more harmful. The imfamous Tiger Mother method, a new label on the old problem of child maltreatment, is one example (which ironically is opposite of how real tigers parent their young).

Both Helicopter Parenting and the Tiger Mother method are examples of parenting that is grossly contrary to nature’s intent for children. The children of families that interact in this manner are disconnected and insecurely attached. Such youth are all dependent upon their parents in an unhealthy manner, begging to get basic needs met that have never been met. These ways of raising children are stifling, suffocating, mentally crippling, and in the case of children treated harshly, traumatizing. Children parented in these ways will grow up incompletely, to be holistically wounded, unfulfilled, distressed, empty, and stunted. In both of these extremes, children are not allowed to live and learn in freedom and in joy. Their holistic needs are not met and their passions are not guided and nurtured. In these cases, parents live their children’s lives for them, controlling them every step of the way, giving them only a mirage of a relationship and of a life that evaporates when touched. This is not nature’s intent for children. This is youth maltreatment.

Attachment Parenting our teens means keeping the parent-child connection and attachment secure and strong throughout childhood from birth until adulthood. The behavior and emotional stability of our teens will reflect the quality of this attachment. Attachment Parenting our teens means remaining physically and emotionally affectionate and nurturing, available, compassionate, and sensitive. It means allowing them to unschool to keep them free of the toxic, stressful environments of school. It means allowing your teens to direct their own lives, learning, healthy interests, and passions while you support these endeavors as passionately as you did when they were much younger.

Editor’s Note: The Attached Family invites various views on Attachment Parenting, and this author’s choice of schooling for her child is one of them. Attachment Parenting International takes no stance on schooling and believes that children in formal school settings, as well as homeschooling and unschooling, are equally able to maintain a strong parent-child attachment.

Attachment Parenting means listening to your teens everyday and getting excited about what they are excited about. It means talking openly and honestly with them about things they want to know such as puberty,  masturbation, sex, sexual orientation issues, moral principles, social justice, world events, life and death, philosophy, and spirituality. It means treating teens with respect, dignity, humanity, and care — not speaking to them with sarcasm, cynicism, irritation, and disgust. It means understanding the incredible hormonal changes happening to your children that might mean they appear less responsible or helpful than when they were younger: Be sensitive to and celebratory with them of the amazing metamorphosis their bodies and brains are experiencing! It means protecting them online and in the community from sexually explicit media, predatory adults (men and women), drug addictions, media addictions, and sexually dangerous situations through dialogue, discussion, and honesty about your feelings and principles.

Attachment Parenting means allowing your teen children to unfold as they are, not what you wish for them to be. It means letting go of controlling them but not letting go of nurturing them. It means guiding them in life and cultivating a loving, peaceful, and interdependent relationship with them, where they feel free to branch out, return, branch out again, return, and fly when they are ready. It means holding them in an embrace of unconditional love and emotional support — an attachment bond that will last a lifetime!

Teens and Sex from an Attachment Perspective

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifeCenter.org.il

You cannot understand sexuality without first understanding the attachment dynamic, psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld explains. The pursuit of proximity is one of the primary emotions that drive our behavior. The main way that the immature seek proximity and closeness is through the senses — being physically close: the most primitive way of attaching. On the heels of closeness through the senses is being the same as; by being the same as the person they are seeking contact with, they are holding that person close. This is also an immature way of attaching, for it does not allow room for individual expression. Following sameness, closeness is pursued through belonging and loyalty, still a rather shallow way to hold a person close as it does not leave enough room for your own personhood.

When a person matures and develops the capacity for deeper relationships, they can hold a person close without physical proximity or having to be the same as. They can feel altruistic love and psychological intimacy; they can share the essence of their being. There is mutual respect, caring, and being careful when someone entrusts his heart to you. This kind of relationship becomes eternal.

Adolescence is a time of becoming a sexual being. Teens have a new awareness of themselves, and touch itself becomes sexualized. Sometimes, the only way teenagers can experience contact and closeness is through sexual interaction — when they have not developed the capacity for deep relationship. A large part of teenage sexuality today is about sameness: being alike. If the norm seems to be sexually active at the age of 15, there’s huge pressure on the teen to imitate, emulate, be the same as his friends, and therefore to become sexually active. Adolescents and children of elementary school age are being exposed to sexual images and pornography through advertising, television, and the internet, and attaching to images and superstars who are highly sexual. This contributes to promiscuity and increased sexual activity, as the immature seek to be like the images they attach to on the screen.

Attaching through belonging and loyalty in the sexual arena creates a huge problem with girls obeying and showing loyalty to please boys, creating intense feelings of possessiveness and jealousy. Kids have no idea of how attached they become; how crucial it is for them to be significant to another. Boys might need to be significant in the eyes of other boys and therefore, in order to get status and recognition, must become sexually active. Instead of sex being part of the context of a deep, caring, long-term relationship, it is being divorced from love and turned into a cheap, shallow, and selfish way to serve the adolescent’s need for attachment.

One’s sexuality is only as developed as one’s capacity for relationship. The greatest expression of sexuality is in the context of marriage, when the potential for all the elements of attachment can be fulfilled. (However, not everyone grows up as they grow older, and even in marriage, one’s capacity for relationship might be superficial, and so the expression of sexuality will also be superficial. )

Dr. Neufeld, who has helped rehabilitate many teens from their addictions, explains that when you understand the nature of relationships, you see that sexual liberation is a myth, as there is no such thing as sexual freedom. The desire for sexual interaction automatically brings the desire for fusion and union. It’s meant to create an exclusive relationship because this connection involves incredible vulnerability. Teenagers are shocked to discover that some kind of union has taken place that there is no way to get out of without getting hurt. The greatest wounding comes from separation, being rejected, being ignored, losing your specialness. These painful feelings trigger defenses in the brain that lead to numbing out of feelings, tuning out perceptions, and a hardening or toughness, which actually fuel the need to pursue closeness through the senses. We are fooling ourselves if we think that the answer is teaching teens to use birth control or condoms, for we are ignoring the emotional pain and psychological problems that are involved.

A teenager’s safest bet is strong relationships with his parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches. These relationships are hierarchical, and are not sexualized. The teen, as well as younger children, should have his attachment needs met in the context of his relationships with the important adults in his life. This is what prevents the sexualization of relationships with peers, and buys time for the teen to truly mature and develop the capacity for a deep, meaningful relationship.

As Dr. Neufeld puts it, “Sex is ‘super glue’ and is meant to bind two people together.” With greater understanding of the reactions of the brain, science is coming to a very conservative approach towards sex, concurring with the ancient wisdom about creating the right context for sexual relationships.

The Room of a Teenage Boy: A Look at AP with Teens

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifeCenter.org.il

Shoshana HaymanThe sign on the door was hardly welcoming. It read, “Warning! Restricted Area. No Trespassing. Use of Deadly Force Authorized!”

I was invited in. The younger siblings in the house tried to prepare me before entry, thinking I’d be taken aback at their brother’s taste in décor. It was a small room. The walls were painted the color of a cloudless blue sky on a summer’s day. However, only thin strips of blue paint were showing between the larger-than-life sized posters of Led Zeppelin and the Bratz.

The dresser on one wall held an impressive stereo and a stand of CDs that included a variety of discs from rock to blues. A guitar leaned against the dresser. It was easy to imagine listening to Led Zeppelin at full volume, with guitar in hand, feeling yourself part of the spike-haired, ominous-looking group of musicians looking out from the posters on the wall.

The opposite wall held two shelves of books about baseball and several trophies won at little league games. I suddenly recalled that at the assembly at the end of his seventh-grade year, this boy gave a talk about the lessons of morality that can be learned from the rules of baseball.

A large poster with a picture of Albert Einstein hung among the posters. Alongside Einstein’s image were his profound and thought-provoking quotations about life and the universe. Behind the door was another bookcase that held a Bible, a prayer book, and several books about philosophy and religion.

If I could change the sign on the door to this room, I’d hang one that reads, “Maturation Unfolding. Occupant is in the Vital Process of Integration. Please Enter with Respect and Honor.” Continue reading The Room of a Teenage Boy: A Look at AP with Teens

Do Consequences Work with Older Children?

By Camille North, editor of API Links

consequencesSome years ago, my oldest son forgot his shoes on a routine trip to the grocery store. We’d struggled with the “shoe issue” for a while, and I hadn’t come up with a workable solution to help him remember to bring his shoes when we had errands to run. Frequently, we’d have to double back to the house to retrieve a pair, and I’d be impatient and irritable. This day, I decided to let him take charge. We arrived at the store and, sure enough, his shoes were nowhere to be found. He ended up wearing his little sister’s flip-flops for the (mercifully short) shopping trip. He never again forgot his shoes.

Do consequences work with older children? The whole concept made perfect sense with young children. However, the idea becomes more nebulous as your children get older and become more logical, inquisitive, intuitive, and analytical.

Why Use Consequences?

What are your goals for discipline? Do you simply want your child to obey you? Or do you wish to guide rather than punish, to help your child develop the skills and tools to deal with obstacles and succeed in life? Continue reading Do Consequences Work with Older Children?

Dr. Isabelle Fox on Divorce and Older Children

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Isabelle Fox, PhD
Isabelle Fox, PhD

Ideally, marriage lasts forever, but for a variety of reasons, many families today will experience divorce – an event that is as difficult on older children and teens as infants and young children for whom psychotherapist Isabelle Fox, PhD, advocates no overnight visitations with a non-primary caregiver until the child is at least three years old. Just because an older child is able to articulate her feelings and comprehend the concept of divorce doesn’t mean the event is any less traumatic.

“Older children and divorce is also complicated,” because the child has developed a strong attachment to each parent and being forced to deny attachment with one parent is devastating, said Dr. Fox, author of Being There, renowned expert on API’s Principle of Providing Consistent and Loving Care, and member of Attachment Parenting International’s Advisory Board.

Dr. Fox spoke during the second day of API’s 15th Anniversary Celebration gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, last weekend, in a special Hot Topic session, “Custody and Separation.” The session was attended by parents, therapists, and others who work frequently with attached parents dealing with marital separation.

How Divorce Affects Older Children

Parents don’t think about how difficult their divorce will be on their children. Older children and teens are more likely to blame themselves for the divorce or to wonder why their parents don’t love them enough to stay together. Continue reading Dr. Isabelle Fox on Divorce and Older Children

The 4 Parenting Styles: What Works and What Doesn’t

By Dr. Maryann Rosenthal, co-author of Be A Parent, Not A Pushover, reprinted with permission from DrMA.com

Parenting stylesI believe it’s that overall style or pattern of action — rather than a specific decision — that will most affect a child’s behavior. Generally, psychologists have found that there are two main components of parenting styles.

One is responsiveness, or how much independence you’re willing to grant. The other, for lack of a better word, is demandingness — how much strict obedience you require. How much obedience parents demand, how much freedom they grant, and how these two behaviors mesh go a long way toward defining the parents’ style.

These parenting styles fall into a generally accepted four broad categories. Though different researchers give different names to them, the styles usually are said to be: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Uninvolved.


Authoritarian parents are very strict and controlling. They have a strong sense of justice and of the need for obedience. They’re big believers in clearly stated rules. If their kids don’t “see the light” (behave as ordered), then those teens will “feel the heat” (be punished). Such parents take a dim view of being challenged. Give-and-take with their children is discouraged.

Thus, these parents are highly demanding but not very responsive. Researchers believe children of authoritarian parents tend to be timid, have lower self-esteem, lack spontaneity, and rely to an unusual degree on the voice of authority.


While retaining authority and control, these parents are warmer and more communicative than Authoritarian parents. Authoritative parents seek a balance between the teens’ desire for independence and the parents’ desire to be listened to. These parents are demanding and responsive. They’re assertive but not intrusive or restrictive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible and self-regulated as well as cooperative.

The best-adjusted children, researchers have found, often have parents with an Authoritative style. Both the Authoritarian and the Authoritative parents have high expectations for their children, but the Authoritative parent encourages more freedom of expression. So the child more likely develops a sense of independence. Such kids tend to develop into more competent adults than children brought up in the other styles.


Permissive parents, while often warm and accepting, make few demands on their children. They’re lenient, avoid confrontation, and allow considerable self-regulation. They may worry about thwarting the child’s creativity and sense of self. They’re much more responsive than they are demanding.

Sometimes the Permissive style is based on confusion. The parents are so out of touch with the pre-adolescent and adolescent world that the best they can do is to try to be a pal to their child. So they tend to give their kids what they ask for and hope that they are loved for their accommodating style.

Other Permissive parents want to compensate for what they themselves lacked as children. Perhaps they grew up in poverty and/or had parents who were overly strict. So as a result, seeing themselves as an ally to their child, these parents bend over backwards to give the child both the freedom and the material goods they lacked. Yet other Permissive parents act conditionally. They view the maturing child as a mini-adult and give him or her what he or she wants, provided the child satisfies certain parental demands. Making good grades, for example, may be linked to freedom and material benefits.

Or, at its most lax extreme, permissiveness may take the form of indifference. The parents are just too busy, poor, troubled, or self-involved to exert much control. They may give material goods and freedom in return for the child’s implicit promise not to demand much from the parent.


The uninvolved parent demands almost nothing and gives almost nothing in return, except near-absolute freedom. This style is low in both demandingness and responsiveness. At its worst, it can verge into neglect.

How would these parenting styles work in practice? For example, a teen wants to go with a bunch of friends on a weekend outing to Mexico where, the parent suspects, wild partying is on the agenda because of younger drinking-age requirements there:

  • An Authoritarian parent might say: “No way! And if I ever catch you going down there without my OK, you’ll be in big trouble.”
  • An Authoritative parent may respond: “No, I don’t want you to go down there right now with your friends. But let’s you and I go down soon, though, and check it out. If it looks OK, maybe you can go later with your buddies.”
  • A Permissive parent would say: “Sure, go and have fun, but be careful.”
  • An Uninvolved parent may reply: “Whatever.”

Parenting style has been found to predict child well-being in a number of areas, including social skills, academic performance, and the degree of problem behavior. The Authoritarian, Permissive, and Uninvolved styles can carry a high cost:

  • Children of Authoritarian parents, for example, may do well in school and not engage in problem behavior, but they tend to have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression. They may grow up to be highly anxious people who don’t realize their full potential because, figuratively speaking, they’re always looking over their shoulder for that overly-demanding parent.
  • The children of Permissive parents may come to feel entitled to privileges and material goods. If the parents try to regain control, the older child probably will perceive that effort to be a power struggle. He or she may fight back in dangerous ways, including sexual rebellion, unsavory associates, or substance abuse. Thus, they’re more likely to be involved in problem behavior and perform less well in school, though they have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower levels of depression than Authoritarian children.
  • And Uninvolved parents, of course, can sow a lifetime of havoc by their indifference or inability to deal with their children.

Authoritative parenting, which balances clear, high parental demands with emotional responsiveness and recognition of the child’s need for autonomy, is one of the most consistent predictors of social competence. Thus, the child of Authoritative parents typically does well in school, develops good social skills, and avoids problem behaviors.

Studies show that the benefits of Authoritative parenting and the disadvantages of Uninvolved parenting are evident as early as the preschool years and continue throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. A recent study of 1,000 teens, for instance, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse evaluated a “hands-on” (roughly equivalent to the Authoritarian or Authoritative styles) approach versus a “hands-off ” (akin to the Permissive or Uninvolved styles) approach to parenting and found that teens living with “hands-on” parents are at only 25% of the risk for drug abuse than those living in “hands-off ” households. Similarly, 47% of teens in “hands-on” households reported having an excellent relationship with their fathers and 57% an excellent relationship with their mothers. By contrast, 13% of teens with “hands-off” parents reported an excellent relationship with their fathers and 24% with their mothers.

“Moms and dads should be parents to their children, not pals,” said Joseph Califano Jr., former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, in summing up the study. “Mothers and fathers who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of children smoking, drinking, and using drugs.”

Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International advocates a certain approach to parenting in order to develop close, healthy emotional bonds between the parent and child, and this looks different in different families, but it is ideal for attached families to strive toward the science-backed Authoritative parenting style.

Regain “Control” of Your Teen

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Get control of your teenHas your teenager stopped listening to you? Do you routinely catch him telling lies, or does she continually break curfew? You may be finding yourself tempted to make tighter rules and to pass out punishments when these rules are broken. But Christina Botto, author of Help Me with My Teenager!, says this strategy is likely to backfire.

“It is possible to regain control by restricting your teenager and forcing him to do as you say. You can monitor their every move and bombard them with questions,” writes Botto in her ParentingATeenager.net article, “Trust vs. Control.” “Your teen, however, will most likely respond by avoiding you and family time, lying, dropping grades, or even running away from home. He also will be very frustrated, feel confined, and count the days until he is 18 and out of the house.”

What most parents are looking for is not to control their teen’s every move but to discourage their teen’s inappropriate behaviors while encouraging more mature behavior, like coming to them for advice and input. Because of our culture’s tendency to punish, it’s easy for parents to get caught up in this approach, when the most effective way of “regaining control” is not to punish or to control but rather to find ways to reconnect while guiding good decision-making.

As parents begin to let go of their control on their teen, however, Botto said many parents are left wondering how much independence is too much. Parents know they need to continue to teach, they know their teen is not yet at a point of being completely independent, but they don’t know where to set boundaries without seeming too controlling. That feeling of unease can lead parents of teens, just as with parents of younger children, to becoming overly permissive or controlling.

To help parents find the right boundaries for their teen, here are a couple tips to try when faced with an area of conflict:

  • Allow your teen to make some decisions, such as what type of clothes to buy or when to do homework. This boosts confidence in himself and his decisions, as well as allows parents to gain confidence in his choices. This give-and-take in trust strengthens your attachment bond.
  • You may discover your teen is more mature in her decision-making than you thought, or you may realize this is not so. When she does make unwise decisions, this gives you the opportunity to support and guide her, which when done appropriately and compassionately also strengthens the attachment bond. Don’t scold or punish. Instead, work together to talk about and problem-solve the situation. By discussing the problem and analyzing the facts, your teen will gain confidence in your ability to empathize with her and offer helpful advice. And by allowing your teen to join you in problem-solving, you’re boosting her confidence by giving her the opportunity to come up with her own solutions.

Dealing with an Angry Teen

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Angry teenDo you find yourself getting frustrated with your teen? So does every parent at some time. What about anger – has your relationship with your teen turned into a fight for control, and it seems that all your exchanges with your teen seem to be out of anger? For many parents, this is the sad reality of their relationship with their teenager.

Why So Angry?

According to Christina Botto, author of Help Me with My Teenager!, in her ParentingTeenager.net article, “Today’s Angry Teens,” a teenager’s anger is borne out of immature coping skills to daily stress. In addition to seeking independence and less parental control, which results in a stubborn and argumentative adolescent, teens are trying to deal with everyday stress as well as a host of emotional issues including:

  • Changes in their bodies
  • Trying to establish an identity
  • Dealing with friends
  • Positive and negative peer pressure
  • School demands
  • Too many extracurricular activities
  • Parental expectations
  • Feelings of being treated unfairly, such as being accused of something they didn’t do
  • Not getting a chance to voice their opinions to authority figures

In addition, some teens are dealing with high-stress situations such as separation or divorce of their parents or a chronic illness in or death of a loved one.

“It’s no surprise that our teens might become overloaded with stress,” Botto said.

Anger is an Immature Coping Mechanism

If we think about it, adolescents are dealing with these stresses for years. As adults, most of us would have difficulty dealing with these types of emotional stresses long-term, too. Both adults and teens are prone to develop depression in these situations, and while depression is often marked by despair and hopelessness, it can manifest itself as anger.

“Depression and anger are two sides of the same coin. They are the behaviors most used by survivors to cope with their damaged lives,” according to Suicide and Mental Health Association International.

A teen’s anger is borne out of her poor coping skills:

  • Getting angry is a way to feel in control – Botto explains how getting angry is the only way most teens know how to avoid feeling sadness, hurt, or fear.
  • Teens have unreasonable expectations – When a teen is unable to get what he wants when he wants it, he feels out of control, which makes him angry.

Teaching Our Children Healthy Ways to Express Anger

Anger is a healthy, normal emotion if expressed in a way that doesn’t hurt the teen or others around him. But because teens have difficulty in regulating their strong emotions, they may also have difficulty in expressing their anger in an appropriate way. As parents, we need to focus on modeling and teaching our teens how to handle stress – and anger – in a healthy way.

Botto said it’s easy for parents to lose control of their own emotions when dealing with their teen’s anger: “Parents are often caught by surprise and react by either yelling or arguing back, or punishing their teen for showing their anger. Instead, parents need to see this show of anger or rage as a signal that their teen is battling with or facing a situation they cannot handle on their own, or is overwhelmed by the demands of his or her daily live.”

Her advice to parents is to:

  1. Ask your teen what unresolved conflict she is facing.
  2. Listen to your teen.
  3. Focus on her feelings.
  4. Understand the situation from your teen’s perspective.
  5. Help your teen work towards a solution.
  6. Show your teenager that you care.

Danger Signs
Not all teens express their anger in the same way, just as is the case with adults. Parents should be on the lookout for:

  • Withdrawing, which is indicative of a teen who is repressing his emotions and can result in depression and psychosomatic disorders.
  • Turning to alcohol and drugs, or other forms of self-medicating.
  • Defiant or destructive behavior, include violence toward others and self.

If these danger signs develop, your teen may need professional help to resolve his anger issues. Unresolved issues can cause lasting damage to your teen’s critical thinking ability, ability to have a close and loving marital relationship and friendships, and ability to learn how to self regulate his strong emotions.