Parents have greater influence over their teens than they believe

New research from suggests that, whereas 3 out of 4 parents believe that their teenage child’s friends and classmates have the most influence on when they start drinking alcohol, teens that were questioned say that it’s their parents that have the biggest impact on the choices they make.

The same seems to be true for a number of other aspects, though the survey was commissioned by Coors, which is why there’s a focus on underage drinking.

In any case, Dr. Peter Benson of Search Institute says these conflicting beliefs demonstrate the crux of a key issue facing parents of teenagers: What parents say and do makes more of a difference than they think it does.

“Here’s a situation where teens say their parents really matter, but the parents clearly aren’t feeling confident that they influence their kids’ behaviors,” said Dr. Benson. “Parents can take progressive steps toward supporting their teenagers in making healthy, responsible choices by nurturing Developmental Assets. This includes talking to them about everyday things as well as their deeply held values, modeling and expecting children to live with positive values, and helping them connect to lots of caring, responsible adults who help steer them in the right directions.”
Developmental Assets, grounded in research, are the essential building blocks of healthy development. Asset building includes family support, instilling a sense of safety, setting boundaries, and promoting honesty in young people.Although 62 percent of parents surveyed in the Report label themselves “inconsistent communicators” when it comes to serious conversations with their children, most parents want to be approachable.

The way forward, Dr Benson says, is for parents to develop a healthy communication by talking regularly to their teens about everyday life, taking their questions and concerns seriously, and talking about what’s important to them.

89% of parents said they spend at least one day per week catching up with their teens, while 57% say they have dinner together at least five times per week.