By Neil McNerney, Parenting With Purpose
When it comes to our teens, we all want the same thing. We want them to grow into responsible, independent adults who are self-supporting and can contribute to society. But how do we lead them into adulthood without doing too much or too little for them? In this column, I will be give you some specific advice on what to do and what not to do to prepare them for being an adult.
Don’t wake them up in the morning.
In my work with teens and their parents, this is the most crucial issue that causes difficulties for teens. Just about every teen should be able to wake himself up in the morning. By 14, most teens should be able to set an alarm clock and learn how to push through the comfort of the blankets and get up. If your teen cannot master this life skill, college will be extremely hard just because he cannot get up for classes.
If you have a teen who relies on you in the morning, and you find yourself going in multiple times to wake him up, I would suggest an incremental approach to changing this habit. Start by telling him that you will begin going in only one time in the morning to wake him up. If he doesn’t get up and misses the bus, he will need to find another way to school and suffer the consequences of an unexcused tardy. In addition to the logical consequence of being late, I would also suggest there be a consequence at home that afternoon, such as no technology, etc.
After a week or so of reminding him one time, then let him know you will not be waking him anymore and that he will have to get up on his own for now on, or suffer the consequences.
Trust me that I understand how difficult this can be as a parent. It is so much easier (in the short term) to just go in their room and yell at him! But in the long term, it does not prepare him for life. Will he be late a few days? Will he have to run to the bus without breakfast a few times? Probably. But your teen is better off if you intervene less in the mornings before it becomes a bigger problem when he is out of the house.
Don’t do their laundry.
Teen is old enough to do their own laundry. Since it is an essential skill that she needs to have when they leaves the home, it is important that they get into the habit now. For many families, though, laundry is not done separately, but in large batches. That’s fine; just start with the concept that it is their job to fold their own laundry and to put away.
Don’t check their homework every night.
At what age should you be not checking their homework? It depends a lot on multiple factors, but I can make a pretty good estimate that most of us are too involved in our child’s homework. The very fact that you are taking the time to read a parenting article is evidence that you are an involved parent. But one of the things about raising an adult is to become less involved.
Since I have literally written the book on this topic, I will be writing a more detailed article soon. In the meantime, I am going to ask you to think about spending a bit less time monitoring your teen’s work.
Believe me, I understand the dilemma that this presents. You might be thinking: “If I back off, he will just do less work.” This might very well be an outcome of backing off. But the dilemma is that the more your teen stays dependent on you to get him to do his homework, the more difficult adult life will be. Regardless of how much anxiety it will produce, learning how to back off now will allow your teen to learn how to push through boredom and lack of motivation.
What about fixing their lunch?
If your teen is already fixing his own lunch, that’s great. But I don’t see it as one of the major life skills necessary as a young adult. Getting up in the morning is much more important for future success. So is learning to do their work without supervision.
Less is better.
Doing less for our teens is a new concept for most of us, especially when it is our first experience with teenagers. We have been told for years that parental involvement is key to their development. That’s true, up to a point. The teenage years are a time for us to begin to take more of a back seat, incrementally, and allow our teens to learn what it actually means to be an adult.
Do you have any questions about parenting or relationships that you would like me to address in this column? If so, send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neil McNerney is a licensed professional counselor in private practice and author of Homework – A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out! and The Don’t Freak Out Guide for Parenting Kids with Asperger’s.