When it comes to parenting teens, it’s truly a balancing act. While on one hand your teen needs an increasing amount of freedom to learn about herself and her world, on the other hand, too much freedom can lead them down the wrong path or feeling like you simply don’t care.
How can you successfully manage the balancing act and recognize those moments when your teen needs more freedom, and tighten the reigns in those moments when they need it less?
Follow these 10 tips.
1. Work off established trust
By the teen years, you’ve likely already established a baseline level of trust with your teen, and you probably already have a good idea about how responsible, reliable and mature your teenager is. The level of freedom your teen currently has, based on this criteria, is your starting point for increasing your teen’s freedom. Slowly and steadily allow your teen opportunities to increase your level of trust. When they prove themselves trustworthy, increase their freedom. When they don’t, keep it the same, or decrease it. It’s important to remember since all teens are different, the amount of freedom teens have, even within a family, may be significantly different.
2. Have a “this is mine and you are using it” attitude
When it comes to phones, computers, cars, IPods and more, having a “this is mine and you are using it” attitude sends the message that you have the right and responsibility, as the owner, to know what the devices are being used for. Remember that having these electronic toys is a privilege, not a right, and privileges can be easily revoked if trust is broken or freedom abused.
3. Remember protection always trumps privacy
If you suspect your teen is in trouble, take action! If you believe your teen is harming himself or others, look into it. While it’s import to allow your teen privacy, if your teen may be in over his head, it’s your responsibility to find out. While too little freedom can lead to problems, too much freedom can lead to worse.
4. Be involved
Take an active role in your teen’s life. Be caring rather than controlling. Know who your teen hangs around with, support your teen by attending sports games and school events, and make a point to talk to your teen daily about what they’re up to. Families who eat dinner together regularly have children who are less likely to engage in risky social behaviors like smoking, drinking, drugging and participating in gangs.
5. Test their readiness by increasing their freedom
If you think your teen may be ready for more freedom, test your theory. Increase their curfew by a half an hour and see if they abide by it. Ask him to check in with you at a specific time, rather than call him. When your teen passes these small tests it will increase your confidence in your teen and your teen’s confidence in the trust you have for him.
Knowing when to let go isn’t easy. It takes some practice to figure out just how much freedom is the right amount for your teen. Having an open and honest relationship with your teen can help increase trust, which inevitably translates into increased freedom.