The Kid is Running with the Wrong Crowd Part 2

For those of you who recall my last blog post I was talking about why kids can fall into the wrong social group and noted research that found that “the most powerful predictors of later delinquency were parenting variables — specifically, those related to harsh, inconsistent discipline and poor supervision” (Loeber & Dishion; 1983).

When consistency and appropriate parental monitoring are not present in the early years, the child becomes confused about what behaviors are and are not acceptable. During the first three to five years of a child’s life, he/she does not possess the vocabulary to express this frustration to parents, and therefore acts out his/her frustrations. The parent then disciplines in a harsh or inconsistent manner, causing the child to act out his/her frustrations again. This becomes a vicious cycle.

Now, this is not to say that when parents discipline a child harshly it isn’t effective at the time. Chances are good that the discipline strategy we employed worked at the time; but if we are not reasonable and consistent with our discipline, there is a high likelihood that our children will have significant behavior issues as teenagers.

So, what can we do with our teenager if no one told us about this whole fair and consistent thing when we were raising the kid?

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By the time a child reaches the teenage years, many of his/her behavior patterns are ingrained, but this does not mean changes cannot be made. What all children need, teenagers included, is firm, fair, and consistent consequences for their inappropriate behavior. It’s never too late to work on becoming a fair and consistent parent. If you are not sure what steps can be taken to help your teenager with problem behaviors, don’t be afraid to consult a professional counselor or psychologist. Sure, you may feel a bit embarrassed that you need to speak with a counselor about your child, but isn’t the embarrassment you feel for that brief time worth the chance to help you deal more effectively with your teenager? Over the span of the next ten years, which do you think will be more stressful — your visits to the counselor, or your constant battles with Travis? And which could be more costly — bailing him out of trouble, or paying for a few counseling sessions?

If you can’t afford private counseling, go to the library or the Internet and find books and articles that deal with parenting. Speak to teachers and get recommendations of publications that deal with parenting. Information is power, and the more information you have about parenting, the better chance you have of raising a healthy, behaviorally sound teenager.

As teachers it is important that we are aware of the issues our students bring to class and the ego tortures parents lay on themselves when their child begins to struggle in school. Most parents want their children to have happy, healthy school experiences. They may be completely unaware that parenting issues when the child was a toddler are now affecting high school behavior. As child advocates, teachers should try to help these parents gain the help and skills they need to parent more effectively. Not all parents will be open to parenting discussions and bringing it up may even be a bit uncomfortable for teachers, but it is our responsibility as educators to do what we can to help our students and at times this will mean parenting discussions.