The habits people develop as teenagers often transfer to adulthood. Many parents want to let their kids be kids while they can, but failing to instill some sense of responsibility can leave teens ill-equipped to handle the demands of adult-life. Responsibility doesn’t necessarily equal burdens or stress. In many ways, teaching responsibility can empower young people and help them develop a sense of independence, self-confidence, and determination.
Tips for Encouraging Responsibility in Teens
Every parenting style is different, and many fall somewhere between the two extreme stereotypes of helicopter parenting and free-range parenting. Find an entrance into responsibility that works for your family, and use these tips to make learning about responsibility a rewarding experience:
Conditioning is key to building an innate sense of responsibility. Consistency is especially important for teens who tend to search for instant gratification and avoid harder decision-making. A teen who does not see results is less likely to follow through with responsible behaviors.
Take incremental steps.
Decide where your child will begin taking responsibility, establish consequences/rewards, and allow your child to chart his or her own course. New responsibilities may include checking account management, a part-time job, more freedom in reasonable social activities, and independent time management. As a teen gains mastery and demonstrates strong decision-making skills, move onto new levels of responsibility and independence.
Use positive reinforcement.
Added responsibility can lead to both positive and negative life experiences. For responsibility lessons to stick and create positive pathways in a teen’s developing mind, they often need to associate responsibility with benefits such as increased freedom, financial gain, decision-making power, and the innate sense of gratification that comes from doing the right thing.
Remember that actions speak louder than words.
All children (and many adults) consciously and subconsciously emulate the people with whom they spend the most time. Strive to let your child see you consistently making responsible choices in the home and in the family.
Taking ownership for both successes and failures shows maturity. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone knows how to recover with grace. Instead of using negative criticism to discourage irresponsible behaviors, encourage your child to take ownership for mistakes and to feel confident in taking the actions needed to make the situation right.
Lessons in responsibility during the teenage years can come from the home, school, the community, and friends. While every teenager develops at a different rate, all parents can take steps to instill a sense of positive responsibility that will serve their child well into adulthood. Ask the team at Green Hills Pediatric Associates for more ideas on appropriate levels of responsibility for your teen at your next appointment.