Tips for Raising Responsible Teens

Raising teenagers isn't easy, but teaching basic responsibility is key.

Responsible Teen with Laundry
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Part of the job as a parent of a teenager is to teach them responsibility. In addition to an ever-competitive school environment, teens today have a lot to deal with, including a wide variety of peer pressure, bullying both in person and on social media, dating violence, drugs and alcohol. So how do parents wade through it all and help their teens grow into responsible adults? Here are a few key things

Send a clear message to your teen about what it means to be responsible. Talk to him about what you consider responsible behavior. Tell them about responsibilities you have, both at home and at work, to illustrate why these things are important. 

Model being a responsible adult. When you act responsibly, your teen will be watching and learning, even if you're not entirely aware of it. The same is true if you are acting irresponsibly. 

Develop reasonable expectations of your teen. For instance, just because his peers have part-time jobs, or his older siblings did at his age, doesn't mean he's ready for one. While everyone needs to learn from his mistakes don't set your teen up for failure. Keep the lines of communication open about expectations.

Help your teen set goals and having him learn to work for the things he wants will make him value them even more. Whether it's earning money to buy a car, or earning privileges like dating,  Among these lessons are how to try, how to focus, how to win, how to lose and how to be responsible for the actions they have taken to work toward the goal.

Teach your teenager essential life skills by giving them small responsibilities and building on them. Before giving your teen any responsibility, complete the chore with them the first time, then make them responsible for the task from that point forward. Even simple things like taking out the garbage or washing the car should be demonstrated the first time or two.

Show your teen that you trust in their abilities to be responsible by holding them accountable for their chores and schoolwork. Give your teen everything they need to complete their tasks, including reasonable reminders, and then expect them to do it on their own. Praise them when they complete the task and use logical consequences when they don't.

Use fair and firm discipline. Try not to be reactive and pile on punishment, or your teen may never have the chance to make responsible decisions because they are too busy being grounded.

Allow your teen to make mistakes. When your teen has a problem that you are not directly involved in and allow them to fix it themselves. Give advice at these times, but try not to take over or give direction. If they make a mistake, pick them up and show them how to try again.

Respect their choices. As much as we wish our teens would always listen to our advice, we have to allow them to make their own choices. Responsible adults are confident in their decision-making skills partly because they have grown up in a family where there was this kind of respect.

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