This month we celebrate independence. It’s what was called for in July 1776 by 56 representatives in the General Congress. It’s what our teens strive for today. They clamor for more freedom. They plead for bigger responsibilities. They make a lot of noise about having more say-so over their own lives. Is it any wonder we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks?!
Those rebellious rebels
We live in a society founded on the principle of independence. In fact, it is our child’s job to exercise freedom from us. It is not an easy task. Many teens feel trapped, burdened and controlled. Many parents feel surprised, resentful, angry and disregarded. This road can be marked by restlessness, rebellion and rejection. Teens can move quickly between a need to be part of the family and a rejection of its values. Sometimes, it seems their whole purpose is to be confusing, unpredictable and difficult.
Guideposts for the journey
Ultimately, we want our kids to be independent, to be able to thrive on their own, to grow up and be successful. We can help this transformation along by remembering the following:
Responsible behavior gets you increased responsibility. Many teens (and adults!) have not learned this.
Work, get paid; don’t work, don’t get paid. You may have heard radio host Dave Ramsey say this and it’s true. You get rewards for honest, hard work. You don’t get rewarded very often for laziness and substandard contributions.
Make expectations and consequences clear. Allow your teen to participate in creating rules — for staying out, going on dates, balancing study and social activities, using the family car and driving responsibly, among others. These need to be discussed and determined together. While teens can’t set all their own rules and consequences, they do tend to follow rules a little better when they’ve been involved in establishing them.
Teach your kids how to make decisions by considering options and thinking about how their actions will reflect on them and impact others.
Your teen is still an important part of the family and must work within the construct of the family. While resistance is normal, cooperation is essential. Excessive disregard of family members tears at the family fabric.
Be consistent yet flexible in sticking to the rules and the consequences for not following them.
Expect some rebellion. Decide what to curtail and what to tolerate. Excessively strict monitoring of your teen’s actions is nearly as damaging as tolerance of all “independence behavior.”
Building a bridge
Understanding the rules, having a say in their creation, and recognizing the impact their actions have on the family and others helps teens become successful members of a broader society. You can begin to build this transition to independence by the actions you take now and the respectful environment you build together.