Parenting sweet spot

Interesting (and somewhat encouraging) NPR story on how parenting can affect childrens’ likelihood of binge drinking.  It’s good to know that what we do as parents might actually matter.  Basically, really lenient parents and really harsh parents are most likely to have children who engage in problem drinking.  Here’s the details:

The teens who were being raised by so-called indulgent parents who tend to give their children lots of praise and warmth — but offer little in the way of consequences or monitoring of bad behavior — were among the biggest abusers of alcohol.

“They were about three times more likely to participate in heavy drinking,” says Bahr.

The same was true for kids whose parents were so strict that no decision was left to the teenager’s own judgment.

“Kids in that environment tend not to internalize the values and understand why they shouldn’t drink,” says Bahr. They were more than twice as likely to binge drink.

The social scientist in me loves this really cool U-shaped pattern of dependent/independent variable.  The parent in me would like to think I’m actually doing a good job on this.  Kim and I are certainly more towards the lenient side, but I think the description of the “parenting sweet spot” describes what we are at least trying to do:

The parenting style that led to the lowest levels of problem drinking borrowed something from each of the extremes. From the strict parents: accountability and consequences for bad behavior. From the indulgent parents: warmth and support

Bahr says these parents tend to be more balanced.

“They recognize their kids when they do good things and praise them, but they offer direction and correction when they get off a little bit,” he says.

It also recommends talking to kids about alcohol as early as 4th grade to help them develop healthy attitudes.  Check on that.  I’ll report back to you on David in 6-7 years and let you know how it’s gone :-).


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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