Teenagers need to feel independent and have a sense of autonomy. The line, “Please, mother, I’d rather do it myself,” holds especially true for teens. However, they do need guidelines or principles to follow when being allowed to make their own decisions. An example of this would be when a parent gives a teen the freedom to decorate her room as long as no safety codes are violated.
Teens will be more cooperative when they are included in the decision-making process, their thoughts and feelings are taken into account and when they are given reasons for their parents’ final decisions. Saying, “Because I said so,” when teens ask, “Why?” will only serve to alienate the teen and foster rebellion instead of cooperation.
Teens need to discover for themselves what is important, right, and meaningful in life. When parents recognize that this is a process and respect their children’s right to think independently, they have a better opportunity to be positive influences in their teens’ lives. Parents can then become teachers rather than preachers to their teens, which will encourage an open dialogue between them.
Tips for Parents
- Encourage and allow teenagers to make their own decisions about their lives.
- Set guidelines and principles to follow when your teen is being allowed to make his own decisions.
- Ask for your teen’s opinions and input when making rules and setting consequences within the home.
- Encourage teenagers to think for themselves and allow them to question, challenge, disagree with and explore yours and others’ thoughts, opinions and values. It is important to respect their opinion and input, even though you may disagree or have opposing viewpoints.
- Respect your teenager’s privacy, giving them physical and emotional space. Teenagers need to be able to retreat to their own room and trust that no one will be going through their things without their permission.
- Respect your teen’s emotional space by not eavesdropping on phone conversations or reading her journals, letters or emails.
Maya objected to attending church services every Sunday with her parents. Instead of immediately demanding that she accompany them, they asked her what she didn’t like about going to church. She replied that most of the people at church were hypocrites and that going to church every Sunday didn’t seem to help them be better people.
Instead of disagreeing with her opinion, her father began asking her questions to help her explore her thoughts and perhaps change her conclusions. For instance, he asked her in a sincere manner whether she thought only people who never do wrong should go to church. Of course, he could have explored her thoughts about why certain people seemed to be hypocritical, etc., to help her process her thoughts and feelings about this. Nevertheless, after Maya was given a chance to share and process her thoughts and feelings, her parents could then share their feelings and values as well as their own thoughts about her not attending. Allowing her to express her thoughts about not wanting to attend church services at this time will help foster her sense of autonomy and may influence her to go voluntarily