A Perfect Parenting Balance

Layla Loew, Writer

Coming from a teenager, parenting advice might seem a little ridiculous. With only 18 years on this earth, my experience with taking care of a child is slim. However, being parented my whole life gives me a bit of insight into what works and what clearly doesn’t.

No teenager wants to admit that they need discipline, but it’s true. Without a stable structure of some sort, a child can suffer consequences ranging from bad behavior to drug, or alcohol abuse. Too much structure, on the other hand, can be just as damaging. A total lack of control can make a teen feel hopeless and trapped, resulting in a whole array of mental disorders that develop over time.

The perfect balance is a mixture of discipline and independence. Giving children the independence to develop their own self-discipline through experience. According to the article, “Freedom and Discipline in Children,” by Rick Ackerly, he describes his success with fire drills at the last school he taught at. Fire drills are a chaotic necessity of running a school, yet Ackerly has discovered that the drills they did once a month produced a run-through that even the firemen applauded. As Ackerly puts it, “discipline is essential to the constructive exercise of freedom.” Freedom and discipline aren’t opposite sides of the spectrum, they go hand-in-hand to instill positive habits in the developing minds of children.

It is commonly understood that the world is a dangerous place for unsupervised children, but that doesn’t mean they should be sheltered from it completely. A mother of two in New York city was labeled “America’s Worst Mom” for letting her nine-year-old son ride the subway alone. After being brutally threatened to be arrested for child endangerment, Lenore Skanzy was inspired to write a book to offer advice to “helicopter parents.” In Jane E. Brody’s article from The New York Times, “Parenting Advice From ‘America’s Worst Mom’” Brody offers some statistics to debunk the idea that children should be shielded from the necessary opportunities to learn and grow. Brody includes that Dr. Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College, “links the astronomical rise in childhood depression and anxiety disorders… to the decline in free play among children.”

Seeing as how these mental issues have become five to eight times more common than they’ve been since the 1950s, as Brody reports, parents must be aware that too much discipline can have debilitating long-term effects. In other words, parents need to learn how to trust their children to become resourceful and responsible on their own. In order to become functional young adults, we must be trusted to navigate the world on our own.