Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Giving Teens Freedom!

Give them all the freedom they want!

Am I nuts??? Whatever am I thinking????

Oh, but did I forget to say that with all that freedom comes great responsibility? 

And if they do not handle it responsibly, the freedom gets reduced dramatically?

This is one of those offers that a kid cannot refuse.  He gets increasing freedom and it is 100% up to him about how much more he gets or whether he loses it.   He has no one to blame but himself if he messes things up.  Yes, he might try to blame his parents because you, after all, will have the final say.  But if you are careful not to micromanage and over-react to the small transgressions, he will know in his heart that whatever consequences he gets are those that he, alone, has earned.

This does not work well with a teen that is behind the 8 ball and already being irresponsible and defiant.  But let’s assume you have a reasonably behaved 13 year old son.  Now is the time to start increasing his freedoms and gradually changing your role from teacher to mentor.

Here are a few suggestions:

Let him know that he is likely to meet more and more people over the next few years and you trust him to pick good friends.  You will not be trying to control who he pals around with.  However if he should ever get into any trouble with friends, you will hold him 200% responsible for any costs associated with said trouble.  YES – 200%; designed to make him accept his choices, not get away with blaming others and pay you back for whatever aggravation went along with mentoring him through the trouble.

Let him know that he is a mere 3 years away from wanting a car.  Let him know you will help him buy the car (if that is possible for you) but he will be responsible for the gas, insurance and repairs.  He will have the freedom a car can bring but the responsibility of managing the costs.  How he gets the money most likely includes getting a part time job as soon as he is able.  (Even 13 year olds can mow lawns, get a paper route or shovel snow.) 

Tell him that his curfew is now 9PM (or whatever you consider reasonable).  He needs to honor that curfew 100% successfully for the next 6 months, at which point you will extend it by 30 minutes.  If he is completely successful, his curfew will be midnight by the time he is 16 – after which you will give him the freedom of no curfew.  The point is if he learns to be responsible now, he will be able to handle no curfew at 16.  Anytime he messes up, the current 6 month period extends 6 more months.  Of course, he still needs to tell you where he is going and who he is going with – you are not abdicating your parental responsibilities.  You are simply giving him more and more opportunities to learn how to handle freedom responsibly. 

Trust me when I tell you how relieved you will be, when he leaves home at 18 for college, a job, or the military, to feel in your heart that he knows how to keep himself safe – and believes that he should!

Your teenager is going to explore some new friends, some risky behaviors - any misguided attempt on your part to monitor his every move is going to result in rebellion and defiance – but when he has a great deal to lose if HE lets things get out of hand, the chances that he will make responsible choices improve by leaps and bounds.

Freedom is a wonderful thing, but as every adult knows, it must go hand in hand with responsibility.  The teenage years are a great empty canvass on which to paint this lesson!

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