Children are not born knowing social norms or what morals are. For most children, these concepts come through family teachings. The way a parent interacts with her child will set the tone for what the child thinks of deviant behavior. Parents should find the right amount of involvement in their children’s lives so as to fully address deviance problems without being overbearing.
Too Little Involvement
The less a parent is involved in her child’s life, the less she can address her child’s problems. Often, bad parenting is more of a lack of parenting than anything else. Some parents might have a fear of adding fuel to the fire by addressing a deviance problem through a discussion, discipline or contacting the school. But the avoidance of addressing the issue is actually a bigger source of fuel with which to inflame the child’s misbehavior. A relationship that employs open communication to both address possible problems and deal with them is more likely to prevent and solve problems of deviance than one that avoids conflict.
Too Much Involvement
Unfortunately, addressing conflict alone is not enough to prevent deviance. Knowing what battles to pick can help keep you from becoming an overbearing parent. While some parents might believe that having a hand in all of their children’s affairs would be a strong preventative measure for deviance, research, such as that performed by Ginesa Torrente, et al., has shown that parents that are highly demanding tend to raise children more prone to deviance. When children feel they lack control in their lives, they sometimes find ways to lash out against the rules, satisfying their sense of self-efficacy.
The Parent as a Role Model
Even into the teen years, children look to their parents as moral, emotional and behavioral guides. Parents show their children the proper actions and responses to the difficulties the world throws at them, and children are watching. When a child witnesses a parent fly off the handle at the fast food clerk for messing up an order, she learns that anger is an appropriate response to witnessing a mistake. Likewise, children who have deviant parents are likely to mimic deviant behaviors, often not understanding what is inappropriate about such actions.
Just as the parent has a strong influence on creating deviant behavior in her child, she has a strong influence on correcting deviant behavior. One crucial strategy for fighting off deviant behavior is setting clear limits and expectations. Upon witnessing a deviant act, a parent should voice her disapproval with the act, talking about why such an act is inappropriate. After a thorough explanation and summary from the child, the parent should set a limit on that behavior and non-violent consequences for future infractions. A child who swears at adults, for example, should know after the parent-child discussion that such an action is disrespectful and that a reoccurrence of that action will not be met with a mere warning.