Psychologist: Children Need Structure More Than Warmth

Psychologist: Children Need Structure More Than Warmth

by TeachThought Staff

A relationship without rules leads to chaos. Rules without a relationship leads to rebellion.

This often-quoted from author Andy Stanley does well to capture the need to support the growth of children by balancing affection and structure. Child psychologist Lisa Damour recently spoke with about this balance, and it is her take that the need for structure supersedes the need for warmth and affection.

‘Adolescents actually want structure from their parents, despite their protestations to the contrary. Permissiveness and inconsistency from parents can be unsettling and provoke anxiety.’

Damour continued, “They can get warmth from their teachers, from their friends’ parents, but they can only get structure from parents, describing the ‘sense’ of being a teenager to defend the premise.

“Being a teenager feels like you’re out of control and you’re surrounded by people who are out of control,” she said. “You don’t want parents to be out of control.”

Damour has a teenage daughter of her own and offers some advice to parents about providing that structure to teens.

  • Frame rules around safety. Kids are more apt to follow guidelines if they understand the rules’ purpose is to keep them safe. Insisting they obey for reasons of morality or hierarchy (eg “because I’m your father!”) is more likely to backfire.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of apologizing. It tells teenagers they’re respected, and it helps builds trust.
  • Stress is a normal part of growing up, and it helps teens grow and become resilient. It becomes a problem when they have no downtime, or opportunities to relax.
  • Technology should be introduced to kids as late as possible, and be kept out of their bedrooms.’

You can read the entire article on Quartz.

Psychologist: Children Need Structure More Than Warmth