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What Makes Teens Feel Independent?

by Lori Lapierre

The years are speeding by, and your teen is quickly moving away from childish things toward adulthood. He is expressing his individuality and independence -- perhaps not always with the best results. As a parent, it's your job to prepare him for the real world that lies ahead, while allowing him to enjoy what remains of childhood. Spoiling him is not the answer, but surprisingly, granting additional responsibilities can give him the necessary self-confidence to move out and on when the big day arrives.

Making Choices

Start with small choices. Let your teen know his boundaries -- what chores or homework assignments need completed. Then let him determine whether it can be done before or after dinner, for instance. Allow him to make bigger choices, such as what activities to participate in, how to pay for a desired object, which of two events scheduled at the same time to attend. As he learns from his choices, whether good or bad, he will gain knowledge, experience, valuable life skills and self-confidence in making his own choices as an adult.

Life Skills

Regardless of gender, your teen should know basic life skills. Teach him how to read recipes and cook at least a few basic meals, how to sort and wash laundry, how to budget and organize a checkbook and how to compromise with other people. Ask yourself what your teen should know to be successful when he moves into his own apartment or goes to college -- and teach it to him.

Responsibilities

Letting your teen slide by with no chores or an outside job may seem kind when he's an A student or busy with sports. The reality is, your kid needs to learn to juggle adult responsibilities with recreation and to be a contributing member to both his family and society. Provide him a list of weekly chores that are expected as part of his family obligation. This can range from house-cleaning activities to mowing the lawn or shoveling snow. Additional chores may be encouraged for additional allowance money if he is saving for a particular item. If his schedule allows for an outside job, help him locate a part-time job near home. It should be safe for his age and abilities and should not interfere with his studies. Making him budget his paycheck or allowance will also teach responsibility; after all, he will soon have to figure out how to make ends meet in the real world.

Trust

Trusting your teen can be difficult -- especially if that trust has been betrayed. While you may no be able to give him your complete trust to make difficult decisions or suddenly exhibit perfect behavior, start small. Set out clear rules and consequences, such as no one is allowed in the house when you're gone or he loses a privilege, and then allow your teen to earn your trust by choosing to abide by those rules. If he errs, follow through on the consequence without anger; this allows him to trust that you're consistent but forgiving of his mistakes. Move up to larger things -- trusting him with a cell phone, to drive to an event alone or to attend a concert with friends. While you need to be vigilant for destructive behavior, your teen will build self-confidence in making positive choices and gaining your trust.

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