You’ve heard it before. Helicopter parents micromanage, preventing their teens from even breathing without their permission. Submarine parents don’t manage enough, abandoning their teens to wander the world without much guidance. No matter the style, most parents would agree that they’d like to help their teen be self-sufficient when they grow up.
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3 Ways to Help Your Teen Be Self-Sufficient
Each parenting style has its stereotype, but at the root of each is the same: We all want our kids to grow up and be successful, happy, well-adjusted adults. Here’s how to help them navigate that path:
Give Them Responsibility
From a young age, kids need age-appropriate responsibilities to practice taking care of themselves and contributing to the world around them. According to Linda Rosenberg McGuire, an educator, and parenting coach, sometimes it’s a parent’s fear of not being needed anymore that prevents them from allowing their teen to grow up.
In an Empowering Parents article, McGuire encourages parents not to do for their teens what teens can and should do for themselves. Instead, slowly relinquish control and give your teen some responsibility: A few examples she gives include:
- Assign mealtime or laundry to your teen one or two nights a week.
- Instead of waking them up, insist they use an alarm and get themselves ready in time for school or work each morning.
- Make them in charge of completing all paperwork needed for employment or testing for getting their driver’s permit and license.
- Allow your teen to stay home alone for a night or weekend.
- Allow them to have their own smartphone, and sit down to discuss rules and responsibilities of that privilege
Each of the scenarios allows teens the opportunity to practice some of the life skills they’ve been taught, often with the consequence (good or bad) resting squarely on their shoulders. But slowly passing over the reins doesn’t mean you can’t step in and help once in awhile.
For example, before your teen gets their driver’s license, consider helping them find and use free, online resources that include up-to-date permit practice tests for their home state, future college town or even an upcoming vacation destination. Additionally, you could help arrange in-car driving lessons from a paid professional, who can teach from a neutral position and isn’t as emotionally invested as you.
Give Them Opportunity
In some ways, it’s easier to take care of your teen rather than teach them to take care of themselves. You know what I mean — he doesn’t make his bed right, there’s the possibility he will ruin your clothes while doing the family’s laundry, and his idea of making dinner is haphazardly putting together PB&J sandwiches. The same goes for emotional progression.
Help your teen be self-sufficient, instead of letting your teen fight their own battles or even fail, sometimes you want to jump in and save them from that awful teacher or mean friend. But if you do, they never will. So, act now. Give your teen the opportunity to struggle, learn and succeed with grace, or fail and bounce back.
- Encourage them to try out for a community sports team or school play.
- Encourage them to ask others out on dates.
- Encourage them to apply for jobs and take as many interviews as they can.
Teach your teen, in word and by example, the right way to handle things. Then, practice biting your tongue, swallowing your opinion, and sitting back and (gasp) just watching your teen respond to life’s challenges.
Give Them Respect
Without realizing it, you may be patronizing your teen in the way you speak to them, which can slow their emotional progression and overall development. According to Todd Kestin, a teen coach and mentor, if a battle of wills turns into a tug of war, parents need to drop their end of the rope. Otherwise, teens will push the limits, often doing things out of spite or just to prove they can.
In a Huffington Post article, Kestin wrote, “It helps some parents to hear that a teen’s behavior is only a symptom of his emotional state, so looking past the behavior and drilling down to what’s behind it can take some of the mystery and disappointment out of your teen’s unexpected behaviors. Sometimes teens will make immature decisions out of their emotional need to move forward, not realizing the decision isn’t necessarily a healthy one.”
Instead, when a power struggle arises, treat your teen like the person they’re trying to become. You might be surprised at how easily they fill the role.
There are many ways to help your teen be self-sufficient. What ideas have you tried?