Parenting versus Policing

Guest post from Josh Shipp

Let’s discuss the important difference between parenting and policing.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: most parents either tend toward being too permissive (and lose authority because they don’t enforce rules) or being too authoritarian (and lose authority because they’re not loving enough).

Every parent I’ve ever met (myself included) tends toward one of these two extremes.

Here’s how to navigate that minefield.

I. POLICING PARENTS: Advice For Parents Who Tend to Be More Authoritative.

If you want to be more effective as a parent, you’re going to have to do something that’s not always easy. You need to spend time intentionally ENCOURAGING your child and being PATIENT and LOVING WITHOUT PERFORMANCE CONDITIONS.

Not by barking orders at them.

Here’s how most kids spell love.  T-I-M-E.

They need time with you. I call it: The “Be With” Factor.

Just “Be With” your kid. When they have a difficult time communicating their feelings and seem distant — taking time to be with them is pretty much all you can give. And that’s pretty much all they need. I would sit down and intentionally make a list of questions that you genuinely would like to know the answer to.

1. Who is your best friend? What makes them your best friend?

2. Who is someone in your school that you have a hard time getting along with? Why?

3. Who is your favorite teacher at school? Why?

4. What is your favorite song? Play it for me. Why does that song mean so much to you?

Being a parent means being “a student of your kid.” And for teens, it’s all about the “be with” factor.

So “be with” them.

Believe me. They need time with you and want time with you and need your approval and love more than you can possibly know. YES, even when they don’t exactly articulate it.

II. PERMISSIVE PARENTS: For Parents Who Tend to Be Less Authoritative.

Parents in this camp generally feel as though things are happening in their home that make them feel out of control. Often their teen is openly rebellious or defiant or disrespectful, and the parent is at a loss for what to do.

The key to setting boundaries is to involve your entire family in the process, getting everyone on the same page. Literally. I call that page, “The Family Contract.”

Here’s how you can make Family Contracts work for you.


First off, I want to be as clear as I can. Family Contacts, to work, must be written with all the parties involved. Kids. Parents. Everyone.

The Contract must have three sections. Privileges, expectations, and consequences.

SECTION 1: Privileges.

This outlines what kind of age-appropriate privileges parents will provide the kids. In other words: freedoms.

SECTION 2: Expectations.

Just like your kid will have not have any problems listing privileges they desire, you likely won’t have to brainstorm too long to figure out what kind of behaviors you want to see from your kid in your home.

SECTION 3: Consequences.

Simply state that the consequences for these expectations not being met. It’s important this is determined in advance, to help you follow through.

No matter which side of the spectrum you line up on, there is good news. If you take these steps to counteract your natural parenting tendencies, you’ll see your influence actually grow because your relationship with your teen will be so much stronger. And you’ll be parenting from a position of influence, love and empowerment.

Your Teen’s #1 Influence?

Guest post from Josh Shipp

It is nearly impossible for me to overemphasize the importance of good cyber behavior among teens. Actually, that is a lie.

It is easy for me to overemphasize the importance of good cyber behavior among teenagers.  For example, I could say, “The primary cause of World War II was a lack of good cyber behavior among teenagers.”  That, obviously, would not be true.

That being said, every parent of a teenager knows this instinctively: the internet and mobile devices have fundamentally changed the relationship between information, time and space, especially for teenagers.  And especially since the time when you and I were teenagers.  When I was in high school, I used to write notes to girls I liked. Using paper.  And a pen.  And then I had deliver that note to her.  In person. To most teenagers today, that’s the equivalent of using smoke signals.

If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know that their world is very, very social.  And one of the primary outlets of their communication and their lives is social media. For example, here are some fascinating/horrifying statistics:

  • The average teen sends 60 texts per day
  • 88 percent of American teenagers have a cell phone
  • 95 percent of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80 percent of those online teens are users of social media sites
  • 12 percent of the ENTIRE Internet is pornographic in nature
  • 19 percent of teenagers say that they have been bullied in the last 12 months either in person, online, by text or by phone
  • 24 percent of teenagers have participating in “sexting” – sending sexually explicit pictures or texts to someone else

And that’s just counting the stuff that’s fairly easily quantifiable.  Teenagers on social media also have to navigate through other issues that are complex, like friends who are engaging in dangerous behavior like drugs or alcohol or self-harm, cyberbullying and all sorts of other issues.

All pretty depressing, right?  Well, no.  Because this next bit of raw data is the one that you most need to read.

  • Teens rely most heavily on their parents for advice about online behavior and coping with challenging experiences.

That’s right.  Parents in the United States are still the primary gatekeepers and managers of their teens’ internet experience. Parents are the most often cited source of advice and the biggest influence on teens’ understanding of appropriate and inappropriate digital behavior.

Most parents I know truly want to help their teenager, but sometimes feel paralyzed.  “What exactly can I do,” they ask me. Here’s my answer.  It doesn’t really matter: just do something.

Here’s what we know: the most effective parents are the most hands-on.  The teenagers who said their interaction with social media was mostly positive, and who felt equipped and prepared to deal with challenges of the new internet age had parents who did many of the following:

  • Talked with their child about ways to use the internet and cell phones safely
  • Talked with their child about ways to behave toward other people online or on the phone
  • Talked with their child about what you/he or she does on the internet
  • Talked with their child about what kinds of things should and should not be shared online or on a cell phone
  • Checked to see what information was available online about their child
  • Checked their child’s social network site profile
  • Checked which websites their child visited
  • Friended their child on social media
  • Used parental controls or other means of blocking, filtering or monitoring their child’s online activities
  • Used parental controls to restrict their child’s use of his or her cell phone
  • Enacted a formal cell-phone contract

There are three things every kid needs to know:
1. You are loved unconditionally.
2. You are valued by your parents.
3. You are capable of accomplishing anything you put your mind to.

You can never over-communicate these three things. Being involved in your child’s life means being involved in the things that matter to them, and social interactions, no matter where they happen, truly matter.  Talking about those experiences shows that you value your teen.  And helping them successfully navigate through that gives them the tools to let them know that they agency in the world to accomplish positive things in their life.

So go out there.  Talk to your teen.