I recently came across a study called “Parenting is the Key to Adolescent Mental Health” by Jonathan Rothwell. In it, Rothwell and his coworkers at Gallup held a survey of over 6,600 parents and 1,500 adolescents and found some very interesting data.
“The findings are clear. The most important factor in the mental health of adolescent children is the quality of the relationship with their caregivers. This, in turn, is strongly related to parenting practices – with the best results coming from warm, responsive, and rule-bound, disciplined parenting.”
Greater than wealth, education, or race, these factors are shown to have a more profound effect on the mental health of our children. As stated in the article, we do have a surging adolescent mental health problem in our nation. So, the question that I ask myself is how can I best protect and set my kids up for success when it comes to their mental health? Let’s look at what the study mentions and see what God’s Word says about those subjects.
1. “Rule bound, disciplined parenting…effectively discipline their children, while also displaying affection and responding to their needs.”
The study describes this style of parenting as authoritative – very different from authoritarian – and claims that the data shows it clearly helps build strong family relationships and is shown to protect the mental health of children the most. It’s interesting because throughout Scripture parents are called to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22.6) and teach diligently to our children all the commands of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6.6-9) – or in other words give clear “rule bound disciplined parenting.” Those rules and discipline coming from God’s Word, which instructs us on how to live.
Paul challenges fathers in Ephesians 6.4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Here you have a very clear instruction of what’s being described in the study. A disciplined, but gentle approach that “displays affection and responds to their needs.”
2. “Parents who think highly of marriage…who give high ratings to their relationship with their spouse.”
When you study a scriptural understanding of marriage, you’ll see that God uses the marriage covenant to describe our relationship with him through Christ. You have concepts like the bride of Christ, the marriage supper of the lamb, and so forth. The point I’m making here is that marriage is viewed with upmost importance by the Lord. If it’s important to the Lord by default it must be important to us. Spouses who make their marriage a priority will most certainly establish a healthy family dynamic and show their children what a healthy family dynamic looks like.
So how are we valuing our marriage? What do we do to make sure we take time for and prioritize each other?
Over the next few weeks we’ll post blogs looking at these two subjects specifically and give some more practical advice.
Practical Tip: Start thinking about ways that you can lead your home with discipline, but also with grace, and work to make your marriage the priority of your home.
Parenting styles used in the article:
Authoritative: Warmth and involvement, reasoning and induction, democratic participation, good nature/easy going
Authoritarian: verbal hostility, corporeal punishment, nonreasoning, punitive strategies, directiveness
Permissive: lack of follow through, ignoring misbehavior, self-confidence
If you’re a nerd, like me, and want to read the in-depth academic study, click here.