Everything that happens in life is within a context. No one grows up in a bubble. Interactions shape how we’re socialized, how we develop given the genetics, family unit and socio-economic/demographic environment we’re delivered into. The Positive Parenting workshop at OCPOA Ohio Chief Probation Officer Association Conference covered the importance of building relationships and collaboration to affect change in an adolescent’s life- especially with regard to substance abuse, behavioral issues, and making the right changes. Presented by Home Remedy, LLC, Emily Coen, MT-BC, LPCC-S, Burton Griess, PC and Mary Kay Bulmer, LSW, LCDCIII made the point that, “Every individual has a story, every family has a history. We cannot expect to help or support families if we do not know what makes that family unique.” Often, the negative behavior which is causing a problem is the target for change; not pointing a finger at the child-or parent. The therapist asks, ‘why?’
Because any change has to occur within the context or family system, each person will have a different understanding of what the biggest concern is and a different view of family strengths, struggles, values and what works or doesn’t work. The therapist role is establishing respect and listening. Griess presented four parenting styles from Diana Baumrind research: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and uninvolved. This has proved helpful in understanding a family system. Here are some examples: For Tony, Pop set the rules. He was old world, old school and rigid. You knew where you stood; no negotiation. Tony became deceitful to get around it. This ‘my way or the highway’ style is authoritarian. By contrast, Jackie’s dad held a high profile sales job and was gone much of the time. Her mom was busy with her own career and Jackie often nuked her own dinner which was left in the fridge-or not. Mom would flatly say, ‘that’s interesting’ while checking text messages when Jackie tried to tell her about the day at school or added, ‘whatever’ when asked permission to go out with an older guy. This is ‘uninvolved parenting’.
Authoritative parenting might be represented by Bob whose son Jamal knew what was expected of him and strived to live up to Dad’s standards. His parents often came to his games, or school events, and even hosted cook-outs that his friends found inviting. They were engaged in his life and he looked up to them. Rachelle’s folks crossed the line in allowing her to hold overnight get-togethers, giving her more responsibility than she could safely handle (including beer), and friended her pals on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. This is known as permissive parenting. In understanding a teen’s context, one looks at not only the home, but school, community, peers and the maturity/personal characteristics of a child. A behavior plan which holds folks to accountability includes identifying the behaviors, expectation and consequences- both positive and negative.
In decreasing risk factors and enhancing a pro-social environment, it’s important to model high nurturing, enlightenment and positive influence in the home environment. Coen and Griess stressed that socializing should be encouraged in the home, and parents should have names and contact information of peers and families. Because the peer environment is so important; identify ‘red light’, ‘yellow light’ and ‘green light’ friends, they advise. Positive parenting should include meaningful interventions- which can include short consequences-such as removing a cell phone, and setting measurable goals. Clear expectations and matter of fact explanations are more effective than responding in an emotionally charged way. Negative behaviors are often used to manipulate parents if a child develops maladaptive personality traits over time. In hitting the ‘reset button’ through counseling and new insight, self-control, peace, respect , and hope return.