Question: Dear Luise: We adopted a permissive parenting attitude early in our marriage. We have two teen-age daughters who are now ages 15 and 17. We keep doubting ourselves as they come up against difficulties…sometimes handling them better than we could expect and sometimes stumbling and falling. What is so hard is that they are very different. The eldest is cooperative and has a sunny disposition. Our younger girl is argumentative, explosive and rebellious. The eldest is about to graduate from high school and plans on entering junior college in the fall. Our youngest is drawn to a crowd of kids who like to live on the edge, experiment with drugs and alcohol and generally act out in one way and another. Can you give us any suggestions on how to deal with her, after cruising so smoothly through shark- infested waters with our eldest? Thank you. Leslie and Bill
Answer: Dear Leslie and Bill: Tough call. Raising kids is getting harder and harder. Too much opens up for them too soon. Please know that you are doing a great job. Your kids are still in school, and it sounds like they have stayed within the parameters of society and out of the courts. That’s no small accomplishment.
There’s probably a lot going on between the girls since their personalities are so divergent. Your youngest probably has not liked living in the shadow of “Miss Perfect”. Your eldest may feel like an unpaid sitter with a sister so prone to getting into difficult situations. The dynamics between siblings is often hard on everyone concerned.
There are many levels of parenting with love and logic, which is at least one definition of being permissive. You have to walk a fine line between allowing them to grow up and make their own choices and being seen as neglectful. Also, one style doesn’t necessarily fit all kids. Your eldest may have thrived on any parenting style that was supportive and your youngest may have decided long ago to resist everything that came down the pike.
Counseling is a great tool if you can find a counselor that reflects your beliefs and is willing to support all of you, both individually and as a unit. It would allow your youngest to be heard outside the home by a third party. Sometimes this is extremely helpful. It would also give both parents an opportunity to vent and seek direction when the going gets tough…and it always does. No one ever raises a family and says, “Well, that was sure easy!” So why not beef up your permissive parenting skills with the help of a carefully selected professional? Blessings, Luise