With a houseful of teens, I often look back wistfully at the preschool years. Gracious, it was physically exhausting, but I controlled the books they read, the friends they kept and the time they went to bed.
I got used to that control, and truth be told – I like it. But the teen years are a time to slowly release parental control. As teens move through middle and high school, we parents should proactively hand them more control. If we don’t begin to give them control on our terms, they’ll take it on theirs. So, let’s look at 6 ways to pass the baton of control to your teen.
As teens move through middle and high school, we parents should proactively hand them more control.
In our family, our teens drive with us for one year, with growing time behind the wheel, before they can get their license to drive solo. Make sure your teen has a wide experience while she’s learning including driving on highways, navigating congestion and traffic and finding her way without your directions.
After getting their license, ours began to drive alone on short errands, then longer distances, then at night and finally, they could take along siblings and friends. If your child isn’t driving, let him know when and where he’s allowed to drive with peers who have their license. Parents should also review this DUI driving contract with their teen and have them agree to it.
The goal is to help our children when they need it while teaching them to become more independent and responsible for their schoolwork. I found this differed between my children – some were more organized or self-motivated, and others had to be taught how to manage syllabi, calendar due dates and organize notebooks.
In middle school, I actively teach study skills, require study time and check up on deadlines. By high school, my role is more of a guidance counselor. My teens are managing projects and homework on their own and I step in when there’s a problem.
Handing control over schedules in middle school starts with things like when to go to bed, do homework and begin school projects (within limit!). Alarm clocks help teens learn to wake and get ready on their own.
In high school, teens begin learning to juggle multiple classes and due dates as well as extracurriculars. Let them experience the pain of procrastination and not getting enough sleep, within healthy boundaries. By the time they’re driving, kids should be getting up and going to bed on their own, managing a paper or digital calendar and finding a balance between work, school and downtime. Step in when something is off.
In the early years, I signed my children up for activities I thought they’d enjoy. By middle school, many children have clear emerging interests and bents. They may choose to drop some activities to focus on others.
High school opens a door of possibilities to teens – from jobs and volunteer work to clubs and athletics. Encourage your teen to pursue his passions while allowing him to pull back if he wants and help him learn to manage extracurriculars with school, family and church responsibilities.
Helping our teens learn to make wise decisions is imperative and affects every part of their life from food to friends. Don’t hover so closely your teen can’t decide for themselves or make mistakes. Parents are like the bumpers in bowling. We’re there to keep them from going into the gutter but not necessarily ensure they get a strike. Those bumpers get wider as our teens get older.
By high school, they’ll make hundreds of small decisions on their own, but we should stay available for them to come to us for help on big decisions. The podcast, The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman, is a great resource for moms handing over control and teens learning to make decisions.
This is an area taught and caught by teens. Teach your middle schoolers how to divide earnings into spending, saving and giving. Help them find ways to earn and set goals for short- and long-term savings.
In high school, teach your teen about credit and consumer finance along with your financial values. Let them earn some of what they want and need and don’t be too quick to rescue them financially.
What areas are you afraid to give your teen control of?