Have you ever wondered what you can do to teach your teen personal responsibility?
You’re not alone.
Confession: I’ve woken up my teenager for school every day since he started kindergarten…
This year, it bit me in the butt.
During the first week of my teen’s sophomore year, I forgot to act as his human alarm. Guess what? He arrived at school late and received a tardy. His first-period teacher deducted points from his grade.
Here’s the thing: That was on me, not him.
My parenting failure wasn’t that I forgot to wake him; it was my inability to teach my teen personal responsibility. More important, it was a lost opportunity to foster his independence.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to do ALL the things for your teen. It’s possible to better prepare them for young adulthood by doing less.
And it starts with these five simple tasks every teenager can do on their own…
Teens Can Set Their Own Alarms
Aren’t you tired of fighting your teen to wake up for school in the morning?
If you stop and consider it, why should your teen wake up on their own when you do it for them? Drop the human alarm act like a hot potato! Stop doing it.
It may take a few weeks for them to adjust, but once you stop waking them, either they’ll take personal responsibility for this task, or they’ll face the consequences.
Kids as young as eight are capable of waking to alarms.
After the mishap with my sophomore at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year (see above), I asked my teen to set his own alarm for school. Admittedly, I’m a control freak. Handing over this small responsibility stressed me out. I worried he’d oversleep.
He proved me wrong. Not only does he wake himself every day, but also he hasn’t overslept once since I instituted the new alarm rule.
It’s that simple.
What happens if he oversleeps or hits snooze one too many times? Natural consequences. He gets a tardy and points deducted from his grades. That’s no longer on me; it’s on him.
Your teen will have to set an alarm for college classes or a job soon enough. You won’t be there to open the blinds, pull back the covers, and shake your child from slumber. Better to start now.
Have faith your teenager can get the job done!
Parenting Tip: Ask your teen to put their alarm clock (or phone) across the room so they have to get up and turn it off in the morning. This reduces the likelihood of oversleeping.
Teens Can Pack Their Own Lunches
The kitchen is your domain. Right?
You can be a little “extra” and territorial in your space. Moreover, you probably stick to a routine when it comes to packing your kids’ school lunches.
As the person who cooks food for a family of six, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. For years, I packed school lunches, making sure my children ate plenty of protein, vegetables, and fruit.
One day, when my eldest hit high school, he told me he wanted to make his own lunches. I don’t know about this, I thought. He’ll just pack crap. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Gently, I cut the cord by giving him a set of guidelines for his lunches. My guidelines were:
1 protein + 1 vegetable + 1 fruit + 1 starch + a bottle of water
Harvard School of Public Health put out a helpful healthy lunchbox guide you can show your teenager in order to give them an idea of the nutritious foods they can choose from when they go to pack their own lunch.
Surprisingly, my son put together a lunch similar to what I would have packed for him! He did a fantastic job all on his own. We use these cute bento boxes.
By assuming control over this task, your teen takes accountability for their own food choices and their own lives.
Eventually, our teenagers will be out there on their own, making decisions for themselves every day. And something as simple as packing a lunch? It’s a no-brainer.
So why not give them the responsibility and tools to foster independence, which in turn builds confidence and personal responsibility?
Teens Can Do Their Own Laundry
Every teen should know how to do their own laundry.
After all, you’re not following them to college. It’s our job as parents to teach them basic life skills before they move out and live on their own.
When everything shut down at the start of the 2020 covid pandemic, I created a new chore system for my children.
As part of this new system of chores, I taught my children to do their own laundry.
It’s not difficult to hand over this chore. 😂
Teenagers (and younger ones!) are 100% capable of handling this. I guarantee it!
Grab your teens and give them a how-to tutorial on doing laundry. You might have to answer questions for them as they learn, and they may make some mistakes along the way.
Once they have it down, they have it down.
Create a laundry schedule for your family with different teenagers handling their laundry on different days. Put the detergent and baskets in easy-to-spot places. We use sturdy plastic laundry bins that are easy to carry.
Not only does doing laundry teach teens personal responsibility, but it also teaches them how to care for and respect their belongings.
They’ll need to learn to do this for themselves eventually.
Why not start now?
Parenting Tip: Buy detergent pods to make it easier for the younger ones.
Teens Can Save & Manage Their Money
Think of your teenager as an “adult in practice.”
Part of showing them what it means to graduate into adulthood is teaching them how to earn, save, and spend money wisely.
We started giving our children an allowance for the completion of their weekly chores. In the beginning, we offered them cash. Recently, we switched from cash to Greenlight debit cards.
The debit card allows you to deposit money directly from your own checking account to your child’s debit card. You can track your child’s spending and saving, and you can assign them chores. Your child can create savings goals as well.
I’m in no way affiliated with Greenlight, but I do love their product. As our society moves toward paperless transactions, it makes sense to start the kids early.
Your teenager might have a part-time job or allowance. It’s your duty to teach them how to manage this new cash flow if you want them to learn how to be fiscally responsible young adults.
That means developing savings habits, keeping records of spending and saving, and learning to identify wants versus needs.
They are more than capable of managing their own money if you give them the tools to succeed!
Teens Can Make Appointments with Teachers & Guidance Counselors
Listen, I get it.
When you see your teenager struggling, you want to jump in and solve the problem for them. None of us like to witness our teenagers feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Sooner or later, your teen will need to self-advocate.
One of the ways you can help them learn to be more assertive is to encourage them to reach out to teachers and guidance counselors when they struggle in class or have a problem.
You can practice how to talk to teachers with your teenager.
For example, my high schooler had questions about our state’s College Credit Plus program. He made an appointment with his guidance counselor on his own.
He and I sat down the night before to jot down the questions he wanted to ask, so he would be better prepared for the meeting.
By letting them attempt to problem solve without you stepping in for them, you involve your teen in decisions about their learning. You help them build confidence and make self-advocacy easier out in the real world.
Ask them to make their own appointments with teachers. Also, let them reach out to teachers via email.
I found a helpful email tip for teens and their parents in Your Teen Magazine:
Having your teen copy you on the email (“Cc”) enables you to bear witness to both your child’s communication and the teacher’s response without insinuating yourself into the conversation directly. If a situation does arise where you feel you need to intervene, you can use the email as evidence of prior efforts to communicate.Meredith Gavrin, Your Teen Magazine
At times, communicating with adults can be awkward and difficult for teens. Practice makes it easier when they need to communicate with a boss or college instructor.
As parents, we all want our teenagers to be responsible. We all want to teach them the necessary skills they’ll need to transition to life after high school.
Teach your teens personal responsibility by encouraging them to do more on their own.
- Set alarms
- Pack their own lunchbox
- Do laundry
- Save & manage money
- Make appointments with teachers & guidance counselors
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