How much parents are involved directly affects their children's attitudes about school and the future. Higher parental involvement predicts positive attitudes about school, better grades, and better career decision-making skills. However, there are appropriate and inappropriate levels of involvement that can either help or hinder your children's journey. The key is balance!
One of your greatest challenges is to keep from creating ambitions or goals for your children that may not be there. One of adolescent children's greatest fears is that their parents will be disappointed in the direction they choose. How do you help them discover who they are and what they want to do with their lives without coercing or pressuring? How do you provide the interested ear, resources, support, and advice without becoming over involved?
One way to examine your involvement is to think about your parenting style. Some researchers have identified four types of styles:
- Indulgent parents are more responsive to their child's needs and desires than demanding.
- Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive but not particularly responsive to their child's expressed needs.
- Authoritative parents are both demanding, having high expectations, and yet responsive to the child's needs.
- Uninvolved parents are neither responsive nor demanding; they are simply not there.
Authoritative parents, those that are balancing high expectations with high levels of responsiveness, provide a warm and open family environment, yet set clear standards and promote independence. These attributes result in more active career exploration on the part of their children. Most of us probably try to be just this type of parent, but depending upon the specifics of a situation, we may be too responsive, too demanding, or not involved. It is good to be able to reflect upon one's own reaction to particular situations and work to achieve a better balance between responsiveness and demands when warranted.
As you create opportunities and offer experiences that help your child explore and learn, balance these efforts with healthy distance. Over enthusiasm can lessen your child's own enjoyment. Children need time to explore, learn, succeed (and fail) by themselves.