How to Cultivate Self-Reliance in Adolescents

How to Cultivate Self-Reliance in Adolescents
It’s sometimes difficult to ‘let go’ as our children move into adolescence. However, it’s crucial for us to do so in healthy ways in order to encourage self-reliance and self-confidence in our teens. In doing so, we help them as they grow into self-fulfilled, contributing members of society. Children whose parents are overly strict and do not promote independence are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as use/abuse of controlled substances, promiscuity, delinquency, and violence. However, it’s also true that parents who are too permissive in their parenting approach can inadvertently encourage impulsive and risky behavior. Finding a balance is the key – moderation in parenting, or as adolescent psychology texts term it…authoritative parenting.

Authoritative parents listen to their children and take their desires, wants, and interests into account when making rules and decisions. Despite how it may appear, this is not a ‘democracy’, however. If a consensus cannot be reached, authoritative parents have the final say. A staple in many authoritative parenting homes is the family conference where issues are discussed and all family members have the opportunity to voice their opinions. The key for parents (of any parenting style) is to remain actively involved while also encouraging your adolescent to make more and bigger decisions on his or her own. It’s not always easy…but here are some tips and hints to get you started.

~ Give your adolescent space. Adolescents need privacy. Respect that need. Your teen may retreat to his or her bedroom or go outside to talk with friends on the phone or just to be alone. This need for privacy is normal. Respect your teen’s privacy unless you have serious concerns about his or her health or well-being. The damage done to the trust established between you and your adolescent could be irreparably damaged if you randomly decide to read a journal, search desk drawers, or begin eavesdropping on phone conversations. Although there can never be too much love in a family, there can be too much togetherness. Everyone needs some privacy and time to be alone.

~ Involve your teen in decisions that affect his or her schedule and free time. By acknowledging your adolescent’s burgeoning need for independence, you can decrease battles at home. Discuss schedules, appointments, and family commitments prior to the date so everyone can plan accordingly. Compromise when you are able to show that you respect your teen’s needs.

~ Give your teen more responsibilities at home. Adolescents need to learn that by fulfilling their obligations and responsibilities, they can earn privileges. Teach and encourage your teen to do his or her own laundry, cook simple meals, and participate in other family chores. Then, give your compliments and thanks for the help given.

~ Adjust limits and rules as your adolescent matures. Acknowledge and reward the growth and progress your teen is making with more freedom and greater privileges. Perhaps staying up later, spending more time with friends, or greater choices of activities on weekends would be an adequate extrinsic motivator.

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