How are you handling raising responsible teens in your home?
Would you describe your journey as calm and collective? Or, would you say things have been feeling like the wild wild west?
No matter which end you find yourself on, even if you’re somewhere in the middle raising responsible teens is a brand new chapter of parenting that doesn’t come with a manual.
Strategies that worked when my teens were little, were no longer having the same effect. I thought I could just coast in the same parenting gear from adolescent to teen and it would all just work out.
Not so much.
My husband and I went to the drawing board several times as we navigated this new season of parenting. There were some plain, hard parenting moments, and to our surprise, there have been some sweet life-changing moments as well.
I’ve shed happy and sad tears. But, through it, my teenagers and myself as a parent have both learned and grown in infinite ways that I could not help but share a few of the valuable lessons I’ve learned about raising responsible teens.
I’ll be sharing about:
- How to raise responsible teens
- What defines a responsible teen
- Should teens be given more freedom
- 5 Practical tips to help you raise responsible teens
Table of Contents
HOW DO YOU RAISE RESPONSIBLE TEENS?
Raising responsible teens is such an individual case-by-case process. I’m sure we all wish we had the one “magic” formula that would work for all teenagers.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case – but there is quite a bit that myself and many other parents have learned along the way.
Most of us would agree, that teaching anyone especially teenagers requires patience for sure. Raising two teenage daughters (at the time of this post) has taught me that for them to learn responsibility I first had to have a clear reasonable standard and definition of responsibility for our home.
First, take time to think about what your responsible teenager should be doing. Think about what you consider age and developmentally appropriate for your teen.
I strongly recommend not comparing your teen to other teens and assuming they should be doing the same things.
Some teens value different interests than other teens. Finding out what your teen values may be a good starting place. From there you may want to add in other principles and life skills that they need to start working on and developing before leaving home.
Starting with a conversation before setting expectations may help your teen grow in their responsibilities. This can set a good foundation for helping your teen understand and establish their priorities.
WHAT IS A RESPONSIBLE TEEN?
A responsible teenager can be measured according to your family’s culture, morals, and values. This also includes understanding and obeying rules and laws; respecting authority and conducting themselves appropriately.
Before raising teenagers, I used to think this would mean I would have perfect teenagers. My experience has taught me a responsible teen does not equal a perfect teen.
I have witnessed my teenagers handle themselves responsibly in not-so-perfect situations.
When a teenager can recognize a decision they made has caused a negative outcome and decide to make a better choice next time that’s all a part of the journey to responsibility.
I learned this as a parent when I recognized that responsibility grows with time. It’s a learning process that should get better as teens get older.
As I continue to work towards raising responsible teens, I can evaluate how responsible my teens are by observing how they handle their tasks, priorities, and goals daily.
SHOULD TEENAGERS HAVE MORE RESPONSIBILITY?
Deciding if a teenager should have more responsibility is a part of our control and some are out of our control.
Let me explain.
Yes, as parents we can decide if we will give our teens more responsibility with some things like driving the family car (with their appropriate credentials), staying out later with friends, or increasing their allowance. It’s easy to watch how your teen handles those situations to determine if they are ready for more.
But, some responsibility naturally comes with being a teenager. The older a teen becomes, the more homework they will have, relationships to juggle, and more on their schedule to keep track of. As a parent, those things are out of our control.
Of course when teens show they can handle more parent-given responsibility we should be comfortable to trust them with more. And the natural responsibility that comes with age, the best we can do is to be supportive by offering advice and suggestions to help them navigate that process.
HOW DO YOU TEACH TEENS ACCOUNTABILITY?
I have found one of the most successful ways of teaching teens accountability is by showing genuine interest in my teen’s social life, and activities.
Asking genuine questions about friends they are spending time with allows me to show I care and that I’m also concerned.
Constantly building this foundation, helped me to realize that teenagers are more comfortable sharing details of their life such as where they are going or who they are going with.
This does not mean that I always agree with their plans and I share my opinions with them, but there is open dialogue. This also includes the goals and priorities they have shared with me. When I’m made aware of a goal they are working towards through general conversation I can check in on the progress they are making.
Teaching teens accountability is a process that requires consistent fine-tuning. But keeping open and honest communication as much as possible is usually the precursor before accountability.
5 Tips for raising responsible teens:
1. TEACH TEENS HOW TO HANDLE FREEDOM:
Based on your teen’s actions you can determine how much freedom they can handle.
If your teen is thriving and handling their responsibilities appropriately, then thankfully your teen is off to a great start and can be trusted with more freedom.
But, if you notice your teen is starting to make poor decisions, mishandle responsibilities, or prove they are not ready for certain freedoms talking with your teen may help them better understand the responsibility that is necessary to handle more freedom.
I often tell my children that age and freedom come with plenty more responsibility.
When teaching teens responsibility, I have also learned to not be afraid if they don’t do everything perfectly.
It’s natural for teens to make mistakes at times as they encounter common teenage issues.
Some lessons they will learn by listening to their parents and some lessons, unfortunately, they will have to learn by experience.
There may be times when teens want more freedom faster than you are ready for them to have. They may sometimes intentionally make decisions they know are not pleasing to you as a parent such as lying, breaking curfew, experimenting with drugs, cigarettes, or other lifestyle choices you don’t approve of as a parent.
Using your best parental judgment to handle each situation according to what’s appropriate for your teen and prayer are some of the best ways to guide your teens through the process of responsibility and freedom.
Don’t be afraid to share some of the real-life experiences you’ve experienced as it pertains to lessons you’ve learned as a teen about responsibility and freedom.
Good or bad.
2. TEACH YOUR TEEN THE IMPORTANCE OF SCHEDULES AND ROUTINES:
Helping your teen understand how important daily schedules and routines are will play a major role in their adult success.
Honestly, I wish I would have focused on this more when I was younger.
Thankfully, I get to teach these invaluable lessons to my children now.
Helping your teen understand the importance of daily time management is key for allowing them to maximize and reach their goals.
Teens need to understand that time wasted is time they can never get back.
You can support your teen with their schedule by helping them plan extracurricular activities, prioritize homework, and agree to part-time job work hours that are sustainable for them as a teen.
Personally, my teens are not huge fans of paper calendars but prefer digital or online apps to plan and keep track of important dates and that’s okay. What’s most important is working together to create a schedule with built-in routines that will set them up for the best opportunity to succeed as a teen.
Since we know as parents that to thrive in the “adult world” we have very little margin for excuses when it comes to managing our responsibilities.
Whatever it takes to help your teen not to forget class assignments, important dates, appointments, etc. encourage them to do what’s necessary. If it means setting cellphone alarm reminders, waking up earlier, or going to bed an hour earlier; teach teens how to problem-solve before a situation spirals out of control and in some cases is too late to fix.
3. APPRECIATE WHEN YOUR TEEN HELPS AROUND THE HOUSE:
When a family can work together to help a household run smoothly is one of any parent’s dreams come true.
I know there are specific expectations we have for our teens to help around the house. Some may include cleaning up after themselves, helping with making breakfast, pitching in with pet chores, etc.
Research shows that children who are assigned chores show higher levels of self-esteem are more responsible and better able to deal with frustration.
Encouraging your teens to help with household duties not only lightens your load but, as a parent you are helping your teen prepare for life responsibilities they will face as adults.
I also believe when teens understand the importance of contributing to their home life they can see beyond themselves and become more proactive with volunteering in their school or neighborhood community.
This may include service activities such as volunteering at a community soup kitchen, helping at an animal shelter, or peer-to-peer mentoring in their school environment.
So when your teen goes above and beyond what’s expected of them acknowledge their good deeds and let them know you appreciate their efforts. And, let them know that even if they do not see the full rewards now as a teenager they will reap the benefits of doing good later on in life.
4. GIVE YOUR TEEN REAL-LIFE SKILLS:
Life skills are just as valuable as educational skills to be able to survive in today’s world. As parents, we put tons of emphasis on book knowledge (which we should) but we can not ignore how essential life skills are for teens to have before leaving home.
I’m grateful that I have been able to show my teenagers a real-life example of the many skills required for home management.
And likewise, every day you live out before your teens is an opportunity for them to see first hand how to handle adult responsibilities with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, paying bills, nurturing and caring for a family and children, working or running a business, and countless other tasks.
But, teaching life skills to your teens does not stop with you doing all the work. Allow your teen to learn how to wash their laundry, help cook meals, manage their own money from a part-time job, practice completing paperwork (with your approval), etc.
As our teens got older we would share the cost of a grocery haul for the week. We explained how much utilities cost. And sometimes, I even share lessons that some may consider unnecessary such as learning how to cook from scratch.
While the stakes and risks are low, learning how to develop strong reliable life skills before leaving home is the best place for teens to make mistakes.
It’s important during this time not to shame teens during their learning process but help them learn and gain wisdom and truth from their experiences.
5. TEACH TEENS THE REALITY OF CONSEQUENCES:
Teaching teens or any aged child the reality of consequences is not always fun nor easy. As a parent, it’s quite natural to want to protect our children from the harsh realities that consequences may bring.
As we watch our teens grow into young adults it’s hard sometimes to fully accept that they are no longer our little babies.
But, I would much rather watch my teen learn before leaving home that when rules are broken there are consequences. It’s also better for them to realize now rather than later that excuses or poor choices may lead to loss, missed opportunities, or tough situations to deal with.
And, I know as a parent we will still rescue our teens as much as we can (I’ve been guilty myself). But I also understand that there are times I have to allow my teens to take responsibility for their actions.
We don’t want to do our teens a disservice by teaching them avoiding consequences is acceptable in life as they grow up.
There are natural consequences that come with certain choices. For example, if a teen wakes up late for school and doesn’t get dressed and ready in time, they naturally will miss the school bus.
And some consequences will have to be created by the parent. For example, if a teen stays out later than allowed, the parent may choose to shorten the time they can hang out with friends.
Fortunately, if we continue to instill truth and wisdom in our teens they may very well avoid many of these pitfalls and make better decisions.
Most teens enjoy their freedoms and privileges and don’t want to lose them to negative consequences.
RAISING RESPONSIBLE TEENS:
As you can see raising responsible teens requires some pretty heavy-duty parenting skills. We want to raise our teens responsibly without overwhelming them. And while in the process we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves as parents either.
My husband and I have learned that’s it much harder to parent when you are stressed, tired or worried as a parent. I know it may be challenging at times, but maintaining peace of mind as a parent is key to helping you think clearer and make better parenting decisions for your teens.
Encourage trusted family members, friends, counselors, church family, etc. to be a support system for you and your teen as you encounter rough patches of parenting…especially parenting teens.
Although, I have to admit that parenting my teenagers has taught me some of the best parenting lessons I could ever learn. One of the biggest is how important it is to develop and nurture your relationship with your child. Bonding is so important, and not just when they are newborns. And even as they get older and you feel as if there is “no time” to sit and bond with your child, taking small pockets of time wherever you can take them during the day is monumental for building a strong foundation for the teenage years.
MORE TIPS FOR RAISING RESPONSIBLE TEENS:
- Remember that no matter how much you teach and encourage your teens to reach their full potential, you should never feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed if your teens make decisions that you are not proud of as a parent.
- Always reach out to your teen’s doctor, counselor, or professional help if you feel you need external help with your teen’s behavior.
- Never underestimate the power of prayer. Reading Stormie Omartian’s book The Power Of Praying For Your Adult Children may help with ideas as to how to pray for your teen now and as they become adults.
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