Building Teen Independence: Decreasing Rebellion and Increasing Self-esteem, Self-confidence, and Self-reliance
Ivana Pejakovic B.Sc., MA
A big part of building independence is allowing your young teen to do things for him/herself, make his/her own decisions, and make his/her own mistakes. These are natural processes in life and people are wired to desire autonomy early in life. This need for early independence is designed to prepare individuals for adulthood.
Allowing your child to become independent earlier in life can minimize rebellion during the later stages of the teen years. All teens have a need to express their individuality. Teens that are suppressed and are not allowed to express their individuality are more likely to revolt.
In addition, practicing self-reliance via independence will help eliminate public shyness and teach your teen to stand up for him/herself when needed, including peer pressure. Early choice selection will also add confidence and prepare teens for decision making in adulthood.
When fostering independence, teens can try new things and develop feelings of comfort with the self and in one’s abilities. Being independent means your teen will think for him/herself, have confidence, do things for him/herself, use his/her judgement, and avoid becoming spoiled and developing a feeling of entitlement. More importantly, it can empower and increase happiness and life satisfaction levels in your teen.
Many parents may feel confused as to knowing the right time to start fostering independence or how to encourage independence to their teens. If you often find yourself feeling at a loss, do not feel bad. Remember, you are also learning throughout your journey as a parent. Read on for some tips.
How to Foster Independence
At times it just seems like a better idea to do things for your child. After all, you can do it faster, more efficiently, with better precision, and you are more experienced to make better choices. Remember, it also took you some time to come to the stage you are at now.
In order for your child to become faster, accurate, efficient and experienced, you will have to let him/her go through the beginner’s stage. Allow your child to start doing for him/herself as soon as s/he is physically and intellectually capable. Here are some tips for nurturing independence in your teen on a daily basis:
1. When going out to eat, ask your young teen to order his/her food
2. Ask your teen to call and schedule his/her appointments or to order the pizza
3. Let your child clean up after meals and allow him/her to occasionally prepare his/her meal
4. Let your teen prepare his/her own lunch and pack his/her school bag
5. Let your child control his/her homework schedule but monitor the school progress and grades and step in when and if necessary
6. Let your child make his/her decisions regarding social issues but be the first to provide support and advice
7. Allow your teen to feel stuck when making a decision but be there to offer support and advice
8. Allow your child to chose his/her own dress and hair style
9. Let your child earn some of the money you give instead of just handing it to him/her
10. Encourage your teen to get a job that will not interfere with school performance
11. Allow your teen to negotiate his/her punishment and consequence plan; this puts the ball back into his/her court so s/he can choose how to behave knowing what the consequences will be
12. Allow your teen to make mistakes but let him/her know it’s a normal part of learning. There is nothing to feel bad about
Providing Choices and Compromising
Things like clothes, curfews, and other privileges can often cause friction between parents and teens. Parents want one thing and teens another. How to handle this?
To avoid a situation in which either one of you dictates to the other, provide your teen with a few choices and let him/her decide what s/he wants. This way you continue to give your teen independence by teaching him/her to make choices and to pay attention to the consequences of certain decisions.
Likewise, you can compromise. Ask your teen what s/he wants and relate what you want for him/her. Talk to your child about compromising. If your child gives a little and you give a little, you can meet somewhere on the same path (if the situation calls for it). Explain your point of view and let your child explain his/hers too. The earlier you start to provide choices and compromise, the earlier you start to teach your teen how to negotiate with others.