Raising Responsible Teens – The 6 key ingredients

raising teenagers

Sometimes teenagers seem to turn into different people overnight, and parents just don’t know how to handle their changing child – much less how to enjoy the teenage years. Find out the 6 key ingredients to raising responsible teens.

At the heart of raising responsible teens lies the importance of linking independence and responsibility.

It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings – Ruth Crowley (as Ann Landers)

It’s a normal part of growing up for teens to want more independence and for their parents to want them to become more responsible.

Independence and responsibility are best thought of as two sides of the same issue and there can be problems if these changes in demands and expectations are not well managed.

Giving teens extra independence without requiring increased responsibility might result in them becoming unhelpful, inconsiderate and rude.

On the other hand teens can become resentful and angry and socially isolated if parents demand increased responsibility without encouraging independence.

Make these 6 key ingredients your formula for success in raising responsibile teens

raising responsible teenagers

• Taking part in family decision making

• Being respectful and considerate

• Being involved in family activities

• Developing a healthy lifestyle

• Being reliable

• Being assertive

So let’s expand on these key ingredients:

Taking part in family decision making

Teens can learn the skills to make good decisions through family decision making – things like what to cook for dinner to big issues like moving house

For the big, important issues arrange a family meeting. At the family meeting be sure to:

• Explain the issue

• Ask everyone for ideas

• Listen for positive comments and acknowledge them even though your teen may not say much at first

• Avoid censoring or criticising suggestions

• Ignore any minor negative behaviour if you can

Being respectful and considerate

Teens who learn to be considerate with family are more likely to develop good relationships outside home. Here’s how parents can help them learn:

• Be respectful with your teen

• Praise teens when they are polite

• Remind your teenager to be polite in a calm but firm voice

• Help them follow reasonable requests

• Agree on a few family rules and involve teens in setting the rules. For the next few days look to see if the rule is being followed if it is, show how much you appreciate it. If not, stop your teen and get their attention. Ask them to tell you what the rule is and what they should be doing. Ask them to follow the rule and once they do, acknowledge it.

Being involved in family activities

Family activities provide opportunities for sharing and talking. Teens can also learn useful skills for when they leave home. Set aside time together to plan an activity that they enjoy, making sure you’re not going to clash with something else they might want to do.

Developing a healthy lifestyle

Habits formed when we’re kids and teenagers often stay with us.

• Decide what you expect. This might related to diet, exercise, showering, washing clothes or keeping their room clean.

• Find out what other parents expect.

• Once you’ve decided, model it yourself. If kids see you eating well and exercising, they’ll be more likely to.

Being reliable

Reliability is important in building relationships in all areas of life.

• Show interest in your teen’s activities often, not just when they are going out or coming home.

• Encourage them to make a commitment. Eg ‘ I’ll be home between 4.00 and 4.30’ rather than ‘ I’ll be home later’.

• If they keep the commitment, praise them and let them know you appreciate it.

• If they don’t, ask them to tell you what the commitment was, and what prevented them meeting it. Discuss what they might have done differently and what they’ll do next time, but avoid lecturing.

Being assertive

Being assertive means not being pushed around and not pushing others around verbally or physically. Assertive people are confident in their views, wishes and needs and can express them calmly and firmly. They can discuss differing views and opinions without creating conflict and hostility.

• Encourage your teen to state their wishes clearly and calmly without being too timid or aggressive.

• Show them how to ask clearly and calmly when they want something. Also show them how to say ‘no’, clearly and calmly.

• If you see them being too aggressive, or too timid, practise being assertive with them in the same situation. Discuss what they might do or say, and then practise together. Afterwards, ask them what they’ll do next time in a similar situation. Get them to make a commitment to try the way you just practiced and praise them for this

• Don’t forget to praise your teen when you see them being assertive.

Now that you know the 6 key ingredients for raising responsible teens, you should also check out Building your teen’s resilience.

Professor Matt Saunders

Matt Sanders is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Queensland and he is the founder of the Triple P Positive Parenting Programme. The programme has been developed and trialed over three decades and is now helping parents in many countries, including New Zealand.

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  • Sarah Hughes

    Thanks! A great article!!

  • Tamz

    i like this and going to try the one i am not doing now, thank you

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