It is sometimes very difficult to decide how much independence and/or freedom you should allow your teen at any given time. We know that one of the primary developmental tasks of adolescence is to learn how to make good decisions independently of parental guidance, but it is not always easy to assess how well this task has been negotiated. "Behavioral autonomy", as this developmental task is referred to, is a necessary skill for functioning in the adult world.
Imagine this scenario: You've just instructed your six-year-old not to go inside anyone's house without first coming and asking for your permission. Next thing you know, you're standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and you look out the window just in time to see your child enter the neighbor's house across the street with her little friend of the same age. You think to yourself, "What is wrong with that child? Didn't I just tell her not to do that?" Yes you did, but for some reason it didn't completely take.
Remember when you were nine or ten years old and you had that elaborate doll collection? Or maybe it was baseball cards . . . or trains . . . or model cars? If you did have a collection of some sort, you'll also remember that you used to spend hours arranging and rearranging your treasured items in a number of ways including by color, size, order of favoritism, etc. You would view your collection over and over in its various prioritized arrangements. Each item would have a specific meaning to you, and the space occupied by the item would also have some implication as to the degree of importance or appreciation you had.
Each of us has our own parenting style that is unique to our particular personality characteristics and philosophies on how children should be raised. Generally, these styles encompass some basic ideas on discipline, relationship building, and expectations. Often our parenting styles are greatly influenced by those we experienced at the hands of our own parents when we were children. We are likely to incorporate into our own style some aspects of our parents' styles. For example, most of us have had the experience of finding ourselves repeating key phrases our parents used, or maybe employing a disciplinary technique that is most familiar to us.
Since this is opening article for The Successful Parent, it seems appropriate that we begin our discussion by trying to identify some of the most basic ingredients of the parent-child relationship. In other words, if someone were to ask "What are the three most important aspects of parenting?", what would our answer be? To my way of thinking, the basic building blocks of all parent-child relationships are love, limits, and empathy. Okay, that sounds great, but what exactly does it mean? Let's look at some basic definitions and then consider how each element contributes to children's overall development.