Responsibility is part of life, and it’s something you want to instill in your teen as soon as possible. Often, as parents, we have to be intentional about the messages we pass on to our kids. It isn’t enough to be decent people and love our kids: we’ve got to have some tough love, too.
Each of the following ways offers a great chance to teach your teen responsibility. Without responsibility, they’ll be ill-equipped to handle the dangers, sorrows, and problems of real life. When you teach them to be responsible now, you’re creating a better future for them.
This one might sound like it’s for your benefit! After all, if your teen is doing regular chores, you’ll have less to do around the house. Chores aren’t just great for you, however. They teach your teen about responsibility, and they help prepare your teen for adult life. Your teen should know how to change their own oil, do their own laundry, how to budget for groceries, and more–all before they graduate. Set up a chore chart and give them several weekly tasks. As they get older, alter the tasks from “sweeping” and “cleaning the bathroom” to “buy your own groceries this week.”
Trust Them More
When your teen is fifteen years old, you don’t want to trust them. They make terrible decisions. (Sometimes.) The idea of letting go and letting them choose their own path might make your hair stand on end. The more you trust your teen, however, the more they’ll rise to the occasion. Trust is a gift you can give your teen, and your trust will inspire them to be trustworthy. You can show your trust by saying, “it’s up to you” more often.
Say Thank You
When your teen is doing well, show them you know it. Reward your teen when they’ve been doing a good job. If they’ve been getting good grades, finishing their chores, and getting to bed at a decent hour, give them something they’ve been hoping for, like a day trip or a gift card. When you say, “Thank you,” to your teen, they realize their diligence is for something.
Show You’re Watching
Your teen might have a particular passion, like drawing, computer coding, or swimming. While some parents ignore their teen’s hobbies, you should invest in the passion of your young adult. If your teen is a competitive swimmer, talk to your spouse about swimming pool construction in the backyard. When you support your teen’s passions, you provide them with further incentive to grow.
If you shield your teen from every one of life’s consequences, they’ll never grow up. You might think you’re being kind by protecting your teen from negative consequences, but in reality, you’re about to throw them into a harsh world, with no ability to swim. Start letting your teen reap their negative rewards, within reason. Don’t call the cops if they steal a five-dollar bill from you, but have them stay home from that movie with their friends because they spent their allowance and didn’t budget wisely. It sounds harsh, but if they’re living independently in two years, the best thing you can do is prepare them.
Volunteering offers numerous benefits to anyone–but especially to teenagers. Not only will community service help them earn a scholarship or two, it can make them more compassionate people. If you worry that your teen is too self-absorbed, volunteer with them on the weekends. Volunteering is good for their intellectual development, as leaders and workers, and it’s good for their health, as well.
Expand Their Horizons
Your teen may be comfortable with art and hate math, or it may be the other way around. Your job as a parent is to encourage development. Help your teen expand their horizons, and enroll them in after-school classes that teach them new things. A STEM education should be part of every high schooler’s journey, even if they decide it’s not for them. A summer art class will help them grow the other half of their brain, even if they don’t choose a career as a sculptor.
You might not enjoy the thought of your teen becoming independent. Once they’re fully matured, they leave the nest, and you might want to delay that moment. The more you encourage independence, however, the better you prepare them for the real world. Help them get their license soon, and go with them to a car dealership to find a car they can afford. Let them set their own schedule, decide their own homework routine, and choose between friend time and an after-school job.
Trust Their Individuality
You may have a clear picture of what you want your teen to do, but it might clash with their own ideas. You might want them to be a doctor, or at least get a bachelor’s degree, but they have their heart set on automotive & diesel technology degrees. If your teen loves engines and working with their hands, they’ll make good money and enjoy their work. Even if you don’t understand their beliefs, dreams, and interests, don’t interfere. Trust their individuality, and give up on your preconceived notions of what they should do.
Create Clear Goals
Whether your teen is fourteen or eighteen, you should both have clear goals and expectations. Don’t let the expectations in your family be inferred. Make it clear to your teen, through conversations, what you expect of them. Make it clear that their college decision is their own, that you expect them to be home by 11, and that their R-rated movie choices are on their own heads. When you teen knows what you expect, they can create a goal around it.