How much independence should I be giving my teenage son?

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The teenage years are when our child begins to become more independent and starts to find themselves, and as heartbreaking as it may seem, we need to enable them and give them that independence in order for them to grow, improve their decision-making skills, and make their way into adulthood. As parents, we have to grant them a certain level of trust and make them understand that we do trust them. Although, this could mean less time with them, it will validate them – they will feel valued and more likely to respect us and follow our rules.

How much independence can we give them? Well, they are on their way to becoming adults, eventually they will become completely independent but it starts in smaller steps, and it is important to know and understand what teenagers need.

Teenagers need to:

  1. Develop their distinct identity and a sense of uniqueness.
  2. Develop meaningful relationships with peers and others outside the family.
  3. Maximize their capacity to relate well to the opposite sex.
  4. Gain confidence and skills to prepare for a career, economic independency, and other adult responsibilities.

To address these needs along with giving them the independence, here are some of what WE can do as parents.

  1. Let them choose the clothes they wear, the fashion or style they want to – as long as it’s appropriate for their age.
  2. Give them the freedom to go out with friends but with a reasonable curfew. This way, they can be given a chance to decide on how to spend their time, and show responsibility by coming home when they are supposed to. Mingling with peers can help them to find out who they are and who they want to be. Occasionally, you can allow them to hangout at home with their friends, this will help them realize that you trust their judgement, and their friends are welcome to stay at your place so long as they follow the rules. You can also observe them and keep a watchful eye on until you fully trust their friends.
  3. Allow them (or you can suggest) to work a part-time job or get into sports, school clubs, and other extracurricular activities or organizations. This will expand their horizons, let them step into the world at their own pace, and allow them to explore things that may be of interest to them.
  4. Let them use mobile phones and other gadgets with a limit which should, again, be reasonable. We are now in a digital age and most kids have a phone or tablet, these newer generations grew up with the internet as a part of daily life (where we adults were already grown when it came about). Being connected is a part of everyday life, but it could interfere with school, work, or normal routine and result in a whole day in bed if not managed properly. The best idea is to keep phones off the dinner (or breakfast) table, and set a schedule that you and your teen can agree on that is reasonable – you don’t want them online ALL the time, but they can’t be completely disconnected, you both will need to compromise on this one.

Teenagers need to learn how to make decisions and solve problems to become a capable adult. Let them make decisions, and when they do, remind them of the importance of knowing and finding different options, and understanding and weighing the pros and cons of actions. You may also give your suggestions and thoughts on the plans they have and the steps they’ve taken in a way that won’t make them feel attacked.

It is critical from an early stage that you establish a good relationship with your child, instill values, and priorities in life, it will help them learn to make good choices. You can let them make small decisions even before they become teenagers and give them guidance. Giving your teen the freedom to make their own decisions will help them to become a responsible adult, and seeing them make good choices will help you to trust them…but they cannot make the choices when you keep making them for them, so give some independence to your teen and let them make a few decisions of their own, that is the only way they will learn because honestly, that’s the way we learned, isn’t it?

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