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Resolve to Be a More Balanced Parent

Learn how a balanced parenting approach can benefit the whole family.

Key points

  • Research proves that a balanced parenting approach can be effective.
  • Studies show that parents who use a balanced approach with their teens saw improved school performance and better mental health.
  • As you enter the new year, consider ways to integrate a balanced approach in your own family.
kerkezz/Adobe Stock
Source: kerkezz/Adobe Stock

At this time of the year, many of us resolve to improve our lives and the lives of people around us. For some of us, making “physical” promises may have us deciding to be more active, learning a new skill, or picking up a new hobby. For others, it may be about making “mental commitments” like having more patience, being more empathetic, or expressing more love. But who among us wouldn’t want to commit to learning more about parenting and communicating with our children as they continue their journey towards adulthood?

There is a seemingly endless supply of headlines touting the latest parenting styles in popular culture. And there is no shortage of celebrities and parenting enthusiasts advocating for the latest and greatest approach. Maybe you’ve heard terms like free-range, helicopter, drone, tiger, or even unicorn parents. While each parenting style has its own benefits and drawbacks, one in particular stands the test of time: balanced parenting.

How to be a balanced parent

A balanced parent offers plenty of love and support to their children. They strike a balance between warmth and rules. They give young people the freedom to make their own choices but don’t hesitate to step in when the situation calls for it. They prioritize open and honest communication, set sensible boundaries, and encourage respectful behavior. I refer to this style as lighthouse parenting. Parents serve as a stable force on the shoreline, guiding their children to safety and preparing them to navigate the waves and rough waters on their own.

Now, you might be wondering, “How do I apply this approach with my own child?” As an example, let’s look at how this style supports school success. While lighthouse parents may at times celebrate their young person’s academic accomplishments, they also offer them support and comfort when they fail. They help their children learn from mistakes and bounce back, correct problematic behaviors when necessary, and set clear expectations for their effort. That balance of love and care with rules and boundaries helps young people learn accountability and consequences and builds their motivation and confidence. It also makes them more open to parental guidance and more likely to make responsible decisions on their own.

Balanced parenting and brain development

Parents play an essential role in the lives of young people. A balanced approach is one of the best ways to support teens’ developing brains. Teens have highly active reward centers that seek out new sensations. They need to test limits to maximize learning and development. Parents can provide them with boundaries to allow for safe exploration. Rules are most effective when young people understand they exist to protect and not control them. Enforcing rules while keeping communication open and demonstrating love is the best recipe for a well-adjusted, resilient young adult.

Balanced parenting works

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the parenting advice out there today. Rest assured that decades of research prove balanced parenting works. Studies reveal that parents who use a balanced approach with their teens saw improved school performance, higher self-esteem, better mental health, less drug use, safer driving behavior, later and safer initiation of sex, and less violence. Young people with balanced parents tend to be healthier and better prepared for adulthood.

Other parenting styles tend to fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some focus on loving attachment, and others are more concerned with encouraging independence. Some prioritize rules and obedience, while others take a more hands-off approach. It’s also important to acknowledge there are parenting styles along the spectrum that are deeply rooted in cultural values and community experiences. Each young person will have specific needs, and each family will have distinct circumstances. A balanced approach allows parents to build on their own unique strengths and incorporate new skills to ensure the best possible results for their children.

This New Year's: Resolve to find your balance

As you enter the new year, think of ways to integrate a balanced parenting approach in your own family. Consider how you handle essential conversations with your teens and how you communicate expectations and enforce rules. Remember that the best way to help your teen navigate rough waters on their own is to prepare them at home. There will be times when parenting comes easy and other times when it feels like a challenge. But deciding to be a more balanced parent is a resolution that can benefit the whole family for years to come.

This post was co-authored by Eden Pontz, executive producer, and Taylor Tropea, communications associate, at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication.

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