Some parents love to make choices for their kids. The intent, of course, is all good. They want their kids to have the best without making mistakes. The question is, is this healthy and realistic?
Parents need to practice relinquishing control at an early age...to make age-appropriate decisions only! When kids start going to school, it’s important they can choose their own backpack colour, particular clothing style (with guidance from parents), allowing them to have some choice on their lunches, and even letting them have food preferences.
By making these choices, kids start getting a feel for who they are, what is important to them, what colours they enjoy, and what it means to follow their desires. They also start learning their opinions matter, that you trust them, and that you respect their choices.
So why do parents get nervous when they have to relinquish some control to their teens?
Parents get nervous because teens start challenging them and thinking in a new way. This is a part of developing their identity. When teens start having different opinions, when they start talking back, when they no longer think parents are as important as friends and social activities, parents jump to the conclusion their teens will get off track.
Remember, that it is normal for your teen to challenge your beliefs, opinions, and values. More than anything they are testing their new found and much desired independence. This doesn’t mean they don’t want your input or advice, it means they want you to back off a bit more (alter your parenting to reflect your teen’s age) so they can make their choices. The more controlling you are the more rebellious your teen can become (of course, some kids are more rebellious/ submissive than others). This is natural.
When relinquishing control, however, it’s your job to teach your teen that freedom of choice comes with responsibility and potential consequences. Relinquishing control without these lessons is irresponsible. This means sitting down together to set fair rules that you must enforce. Any slips on your part means you’re not sticking to your end of the deal and not teaching your teen about responsibility.
Having rules and consequences in place, also gives you control over your teen’s behaviour. While he perceives freedom you still have control over what is going on in your home. When you don’t hold your end of the deal, you’ll start feeling out of control and you’ll take it out on your teen. This is unfair to him!
Stay consistent so your teen will know what to expect from you.
Consider these tips when allowing your teen to make choices:
1. Show respect for your teen’s decisions (even if it isn’t how you would do it)
2. Show and speak about the faith you have in your teen’s ability to make the right choice
3. Remember that mistakes are a step closer to success. Most mistakes and failures are not going to ruin your teen’s life (pick your battles)
4. Be a support not a stressor. When you’re willing to offer advice but know when to back off to let your teen think through the dilemma, you show trust and love.
Best Wishes To You and Your Family!
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto