Teens don't always pay attention to the big picture. Instead, they're more concerned about the here and now, which can lead to chronic irresponsibility. If you want your teen to buck up, take responsibility and think ahead, you'll need to adjust your own parenting skills. You might be the one enabling your teen to ignore responsibility and get away with lazy behavior. Make your teen more responsible by expecting more.
Give your teen responsibility around your home. Whether it's making dinner once a week, watching younger siblings or cleaning the bathrooms, you need to give responsibility to teach your teen to be more responsible. Putting your teen in charge of certain aspects of household life will let him see the consequences of his actions -- or inaction.
Explain the rules and consequences ahead of time so your teen can weigh the cost of irresponsibility. For instance, if his job is to watch a younger sibling, but he spends the time playing video games instead, he'll have his console removed for a week. By telling your teen the rule and the consequences, he can then make an educated choice as to whether he wants to break the rule. You'll need to follow-through with the consequences for the best effect.
Reward your teen's responsible choices with more freedom so he understands the benefits of being responsible. For instance, if he makes his curfew, demonstrate your trust in him by letting him stay up later. If he gets his homework done, he's responsible enough to have more computer time. Create a clear link between responsibility and positive reinforcement via more freedom, which is what most teens crave the most.
Allow your teen to be affected by natural consequences, even if they're unpleasant. For instance, he should learn that if he doesn't hand in his homework, he'll get a bad grade or that not doing his laundry means he won't have clean clothes to wear. According to a 2010 document prepared by the Iowa State Extension Service, "Parents who continue to solve their teen’s problems for them make it more difficult for their teen to become a responsible adult." While it might be difficult, allow your teen to deal with his own mistakes to help foster responsibility.
Set goals with your teen and help him create a plan to achieve those goals. In a 2009 "Psychology Today" article, psychologist Carl Pickhardt suggests encouraging your teen to finish what he starts and keep his promises to improve responsible actions. If he wants to get into a specific college, research the grades and requirements he'll need to achieve that goal. If he wants to make the basketball team, map out a practice plan with him to help get him there. Of course, while you can help create a plan, you can't do the work for your teen -- his success will be up to him.
- Iowa State University Extension: Teaching Responsibility to Young Teens
- Psychology Today: Arrested Development -- When Teenagers Run from Responsibility
- Teen-Proofing: Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager; John Rosemond
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