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How to Empower Your Teenagers

by Tiffany Raiford

Empowering your teens is an important part of your role as a parent. Before your teen becomes an adult, he must learn to think for himself, make his own decisions, and develop courage and responsibility. Your job is to teach him empowerment by providing him with the opportunities to learn each of these traits. Empowerment is preparation for adulthood, which means you need to empower your teen to increase his chances of living a fulfilling, happy and successful life.

Trust your teen. Your teen develops faith when she knows you trust her, according to Betty Miller, Ph.D., CFLE, County Extension Director for the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Florida and Kate Fogarty, Ph.D, assistant professor at the University of Florida's Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Offer your teen your trust from the beginning instead of making her earn it. Give it to her so that you can show you have it in her, and only make her build your trust if she does something to break it.

Help your teen solve his problems and conflicts rather than taking on the act of solving them on his behalf. According to Betty Miller, Ph.D. and Kate Fogarty, Ph.D of the University of Florida, when your teen solves his own problems and conflicts, it provides him with a feeling of empowerment that helps him develop into a mature, responsible adult. If your teen is having a problem with a paper he’s writing at school, don’t tell him what to write and how to find the information he needs. Instead, encourage him to reread the directions and to think about what the instructions require. Encourage him to do a little more research and dig a little deeper for information, but do not give him the answers or solve the problem.

Offer advice and life lessons when your teen asks for it rather than offer it unsolicited, suggests Drs. Miller and Fogarty of the University of Florida. Remember that even though you have far more life experience than your teen, she doesn’t believe that you know nearly as much as you do.

Allow your teen to take responsibility for his own actions, rather than shoulder the responsibility of your teen’s actions on his behalf. If your teen decides he doesn’t want to put in the work required to make a good grade on his science project, don’t stop what you’re doing and help him improve his half-attempt at the last minute. The bad grade he will receive is just as much his responsibility as the good one he could receive if he put forth the effort to do the work. Parents often play a protective role when it comes to their teen, says psychologist Carl Pickhardt, but this doesn't help to truly motivate him to improve.

Allow your teen to make decisions in his life. According to the University of Florida's Betty Miller, Ph.D. and Kate Fogarty, Ph.D., teens are empowered by taking control of their destiny and responsibility. This doesn’t mean you should give up the role of parent or stop enforcing the rules, but you should allow your teen the freedom to make decisions, as long as they remain safe and healthy. If your teen thinks he is ready to get a job, let him make that decision. Don’t make the decision for him because you don't think he can handle it along with school and sports; rather, let him decide what he can handle and accomplish. He won’t learn the art and importance of good decision making if you don’t allow him to make decisions of this nature on his own. He may not always make wise decisions, but he will learn valuable lessons each time.

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