Most parents have a vision for their children from the time they are young. This vision usually includes a dream of a cap and gown, their graduate getting a job, moving out, and living successfully on their own.
However, most of us as parents don’t really have a specific plan for transitioning from doing everything for our toddlers to having teenagers doing most things for themselves. In fact, many of the things we do as well-meaning, loving parents actually discourage the achievement of this milestone. Do you know anyone who would rather pay for everything and do all the chores themselves if they had an option to have free rent, a full-time cook, maid, and chauffeur?
Boystown, a one hundred-year-old residential home for struggling kids, encourages parents, “Teens also want to be treated like adults. Parents can do this, first by teaching their teens they are responsible for the consequences of their choices, and second by holding them accountable for these choices.” If we want our teens to be motivated to achieve their own success, we have to transfer responsibility to them for “adulting.” This seems easy enough, but if we check our own homes, we might find that we are unintentionally holding our students back by doing too many things for them. Now is the time to lovingly step back and allow our teens to assume responsibility for things they could be doing for themselves.
Ironically, what we do out of necessity when our children are little, becomes a habit as they grow older. How do we decide when it is time for them to take on more responsibility? Just as we are amazed at our toddler’s ability to drink out of a regular cup at a restaurant when we have forgotten their sippy-cup, we are also amazed when our sloppily dressed son gets a girlfriend and emerges from the laundry room with his shirt and khakis miraculously ironed. YouTube plus a little motivation is an amazing thing. If he was able to iron today, could he have ironed yesterday, or perhaps a year ago? Probably.
So the way to tell if your teen is ready for a task is not to wait until he is magically able to assume it on his own, but to start handing off responsibilities and let him learn under your supervision. With this method, he will have the chance to make a few mistakes along the way and recover in a nurturing environment.
Here are five things you might be doing for your son or daughter that they can probably do for themselves
- Saving them from their “I forgot”s
- Making sure they are on time
- Doing their laundry
- Working out their transportation
- Making their lunch
If you decide to transition any of these tasks to your teen, there are three simple steps to follow.
One is to have a conversation about why you feel this is a job they can handle, and that you are no longer going to do this for them.
Two is to role-play or teach her the skill and make sure she understands. She should also know that she can come ask you questions if she needs help.
Three is to just let it go and not take over when he doesn’t do it perfectly. Here’s to growing those teenagers into successful adults!