Child psychologist says kids need structure more than affection

When it comes to what your kids need most, you might say it’s love. Sure, they need food, help with their homework and rides to school, but the most important thing is that they know they’re loved, right?

Not according to one leading psychologist. Dr. Lisa Damour, a psychologist who specializes in adolescent girls, says that structure is the most important thing parents can provide to their children.

Darmour concedes that, ideally, both affection and structure will play a pivotal role in parenting but argues that kids can get the former from sources besides mom and dad.

mom dad and children photo
Flickr | photosavvy

“They can get warmth from their teachers, from their friends’ parents, but they can only get structure from their parents,” she told Quartz.

Despite the fact that teenagers may rebel against the rules you set forth, Quartz says they actually crave the structure that rules provide and that, more importantly, it helps them develop into competent adults. When kids get plenty of affection but no discipline, it ultimately does not work out in their favor, according to Damour.

“They may enjoy a lot of warmth at home which is, of course, a great thing,” Damour explained to the Daily Mail. “But they can struggle to to manage the demands of the outside world if their parents don’t have or maintain rules and expectations.”

In addition to providing structure and clear expectations for your children, Damour advocates mutual respect between parent and child. In today’s world, it may be tempting to track your teen’s every move on social media, but Damour says that parents should “not always assume that it’s best to have as much information as possible.” That means you don’t need to refresh their Instagram page again to ensure that they are where they say they are.

teenager texting photo
Flickr | Jeff Kontur

Of course, plenty of parents and experts would argue that warmth and affection are critical for raising well-adjusted kids. Indeed, Mental Health America lists “unconditional love from family,” as necessary for a child’s mental health.

Many experts, including Darmour, believe children do best with “authoritative parenting,” which includes both a lot of affection and a high degree of structure.

“Children and teenagers need both warmth and structure at home,” Darmour told Daily Mail. “Some days most parents find themselves being more structured, and on other days they’ll find themselves being very warm. It’s the mix of the two that we hold out as the ideal in parenting.”

As the mother of a teenage girl herself, Damour acknowledges that at the end of the day, there’s no one right way to parent. “There’s a million ways to get this right,” she told Quartz.

What do you think? Do you think it’s more important to give your children boundaries or affection?