As parents, we develop a knee-jerk reaction when it comes to rescuing our child from danger. But what if rescuing becomes a crutch for them and they fail to accept responsibility for their actions? What then? I recently came across an interesting article on parenting that talks about the importance of handing teenagers control and allowing them to face the consequences of their own decisions. This does not mean allowing them to be in physically harmful situations and look the other way. Rather, it is more about the everyday experiences they face at home and school.
Allowing your child to make good decisions takes patience and lots of practice. It is a learned process. Give them responsibilities early. Get an alarm clock and let them wake themselves up for school each morning. Have them keep a calendar and be responsible for letting you know in advance if they will need a ride to or from an activity. If they fail to communicate this with you in advance, they may not be able to go. It will be the last time they forget!! If they are given a gas allowance and they fail to budget their money and run out early, resist the urge to give them more. Managing money is a skill that is never too early to learn.
The main idea here is to stop helping teens so much–the way you may have when they were younger. This is not an easy task, especially when parenting is all about being a responsible parent who controls and protects their children. Now is the time to allow your teenager to make mistakes. Parents must make room for their maturing teen to make mistakes and then deal with the natural consequences of their decisions. You will help them the best when you let them fall down a bit in the process, and then let them figure out how to get back up. Remember, they are still under your watchful care. What better time to learn from their mistakes? Once they are out in the world people may not be so forgiving.
Avoid over-controlling: This happens when otherwise loving parents protect their children from the consequences of their mistakes, or by having too-strict rules and limits. Over-controlled teens are more likely to have problems with peer dependence, relationship enmeshments, and difficulty setting and keeping boundaries.
According to Mark Gregston, author and parenting expert, the following are some ways you can avoid rescuing your child, thus, instilling accountability and responsibility.
Handing teenagers control and allowing them to face the consequences of their own decisions means:
- They may get an “F” on their homework when they don’t turn in homework. When they get enough F’s, they will flunk the class. If they flunk the class, they will have to make it up in summer school. If they don’t make it up in summer school, they won’t graduate. (Believe me, I’ve seen it happen just this way.)
- They may have to walk to school, pay for a cab, or miss an entire day when they don’t get up in time to make the bus. If they miss school, they miss the fun after school or this weekend as well. Don’t write the excuse that gets them out of the consequences.
- If they serve detention at school, then let them miss the football game on Friday night as well.
- If they use the Internet to promote an inappropriate image or lifestyle, disconnect it for a period of time.
- Should they be arrested and it is obvious that they or the friends they were hanging around with are at fault, let them sit at the police station for a while. Don’t bail them out right away. Sitting in jail can have a sobering affect on their thinking and force them to reevaluate their life’s direction.
- If they are ticketed for speeding, not wearing their seat belt, being out past the local curfew, or other infractions of the law, let them figure out how to pay the fine, as well as how to get to work or school the next day, since they will not be driving your car.
- Let them help pay for their insurance and gas when they are ready to start driving. Don’t even get them their license until they can pay their portion of the first quarter of insurance.
- Pay for college as long as they maintain their grades at a level you both agree. If grades become unsatisfactory, then let them pay for the next semester. If you are paying for college, tell them the schools you are willing to pay for. If they wish to attend elsewhere, they can pay for it
- If they spend their money foolishly, don’t buy them the things they need. Let them figure out how to pay for those things (like extra gas money). Doing without may teach them to stop spending foolishly.
- If they are experimenting with drugs or alcohol, require them to pass periodic and unannounced drug and alcohol tests as a requirement to live in your house.
- Let them decide how to pay for college next semester if this semester they spent more time partying than studying. And don’t finance an apartment or a car if they continue with that lifestyle. Let them decide how to finance that lifestyle themselves.
- Turn off the TV, remove the TV, or cancel your cable if staying up late at night or viewing inappropriate content is a problem for them. Loss of the TV is an appropriate consequence. This is also true for social media, cell phones, iPads, computer use.
What it doesn’t mean is that you are a being bad parent by allowing these consequences to happen. Letting them experience consequences for poor reasoning is the best thing you can do for a teenager.