Teens and Independence

The goal of rearing children is to produce productive, responsible, and independent citizens that can live a successful, rewarding life.  Often the challenge for parents is to learn to let go of their teens enough to foster independence, but not push them away too abruptly.  Parents should begin early in childhood giving their children opportunities to gain competency and independence by allowing them to make some mistakes and experiment in certain safe situations.  This not only builds a child’s self-esteem which is an invaluable asset to a maturing teen, but it conditions the parent in the art of letting go, which is sometimes very hard to do.

The Game of Tug-o-War
For parents and teenagers alike, the teen years have a definite push-and-pull feel to them.  Teens desperately want to start doing things their own way, but are held back by a certain amount of fear.  Parents also are caught up in the confusion and experience a host of their own perplexing emotions.  In these years of ambivalence and uncertainty, many teens must go through a time of rebellion, defiance, moodiness, and restlessness.  Here are some of the factors that contribute to upheaval in a teenager’s life:
* Changing body and fluctuating hormones
* Struggle with identity
* Peer pressure
* Moodiness
* Social pressures
* Worry about being normal
* Increased interest in sex

Helping Teens Achieve Independence
Some of the defiant behavior that teenagers exhibit can be deflected by helping them gain the confidence to be responsible, autonomous adults. Gradual movement toward independence can be instrumental in building self-esteem and it can be accomplished through minimal effort.
* Give your teen time management lessons.  Help them make a schedule that they can stick to.  This teaches them the importance of punctuality and helps them develop skills involved in estimating the time it takes to get a project done.
* Teach them financial skills.  Lack of money sense is one of the first stumbling blocks an independent teen will run into in the real world .Without a sense of how to manage money, you can expect your teen to return home after a short time out on their own.  It’s imperative that teens learn skills like how to balance a bank account and how to save money. Take teens shopping with you or let them help you pay bills in order to let them get an actual taste of what food and other commodities cost.
* Let them make mistakes. Toddlers learn to walk and run from falling down and getting back up and, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, teens learn from the mistakes they make. The challenge for a parent is to make sure that they experience consequences without putting them in harm’s way.

Parents often worry about erratic and unpredictable conduct in the teens, but behavior such as rebellion and resistance to authority are all a part of the natural passage of a teenager from dependent child to independent adult.  Undesirable defiance and other oppositional behavior will naturally diminish as a teen assumes their new self-governing roles.

About Melissa J. Murphy

Melissa Murphy is in the business of building self-esteem, instilling confidence, and restoring hope in those who have given up on life. She is currently completing her degree in psychology, and has worked as a life coach and faith-based counselor for more than a decade. By bringing her personal life experiences into her work, Melissa is able to help others survive their wounds, heal their pain, and live a life of success despite having incurred overwhelming emotional scars. For the last few years, she has discovered the joys of writing and has published a growing number of articles. Melissa currently resides in the Houston area with her husband and her two wonderful children.

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