“We’ve had a 400 to 500 percent increase in adolescent anxiety and suicidal behavior over five decades, and part of the reason is that a lot of parenting has gone in a lot of directions — the parent is not involved or the helicopter parent who is fighting all of the kid’s battles, and those are both disaster parents.”
The magic is in the middle, Bradley said.
But it’s difficult for a parent to figure out what the middle is, especially because the middle changes depending on a child’s age and the stage he is in.
Bradley suggested that parents start teaching their children to stand up for themselves with their words as soon as possible. So if they have problems, instead of rushing in to help them, he said, ask them what they think they should do to remedy the situation.
“Let them sort out their answers, and throw out more questions,” Bradley said.
So if a child thinks that a good remedy would be to punch the other child, a parent could say, “’What do you think will happen if you punch him,’” Bradley suggested.
One way to help a child figure out the best way to stand up for himself effectively is during your own battles with him, said Lucie Hemmen, California-based clinical psychologist and author of “Parenting a Teen Girl.”
Your kids are arguing with you, in part, because they’re practicing a new skill that’s important to master.
“Instead of crushing them with your paternal trump card, give them feedback about what is working and what isn’t in the teen’s communication,” she said.
For example, Hemmen said, when her children badger her, she shuts down, and they are foiled. She explains that she isn’t listening because she feels bullied by their tenacity. But, she tells them, if they give her the information that she needs to consider their request, and time to think it through, they may get the answer they need.
While teaching arguing skills at all ages is great, there are times when parents do need to step in and take over the situation more tangibly, said George Glass, co-author of “The Overparenting Epidemic.”
When a child is being consistently bullied or scapegoated by other kids at school and he has tried other approaches, it may be time to step in and ask the school what it has done to help.
“The normal response in this era is for the parent to jump in and to contact the teacher,” Glass said. “Help your child learn how to ask for help or to talk to the other child first. If your coaching and listening to their response does not work after several tries, then you might consider talking with the teacher.”
A red-flag situation, for instance, is when the child tries to fix his situation but is unable to do so, the parent feels the school is not taking the issue seriously and the adults aren’t effective in calming the child’s stress, Hemmen said.
“Certain environments are just not a good fit, and if your child feels emotionally or physically unsafe without enough adult support, a new environment should be considered,” she said.