Raising a Self-Sufficient Teen
by Rachel Paxton
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Teens don't learn responsibility overnight. If you haven't been
working with your teen on gradually giving them a sense of
independence and ownership of their lives, then you're going to
have your work cut out for you. Don't wait until it's too late.
By the time your children are in high school, they should be
doing for themselves a lot of the things you've been doing for
them all of their lives. What does your teen do when they have a
problem? Run to you? Or try to solve his/her own problem, maybe
coming to you for advice when they've exhausted their own
I don't know about you, but I want my daughter to be
self-sufficient when she heads off to college. I want her to be
able to choose her own friends, manage her own expenses, be up to
the challenge of solving everyday problems in an effective and
positive manner, and generally get her adult life off to a good
Sound difficult? Not if you start out with the small things. My
teen told me most of her friends don't even know where their moms
do their grocery shopping. I couldn't believe it. My daughter
is involved with planning our meals (it's in her interest if she
wants a say in what we're having to eat), and she goes to the
grocery store with me every single week and helps me mark each
item off the list. She reads labels, compares prices, and tells
me when she thinks I'm spending too much money on something. And
why does she care how much money I spend you might ask? Because
our family's finances are tight, and she knows that any money we
save at the grocery store our family will be able to spend
somewhere else. What a great life lesson.
Because our family's finances are tight, my daughter has also
learned how to budget. She is not directly involved in our
financial planning, but she sees me making our budget and
deciding the way we spend our family's money. She knows that
when more money than expected has to be spent in a certain area,
that something else has to give. She knows that money doesn't
grow on trees. She's started to budget her own money--tithing,
spending some, and saving some.
A lot of my daughter's friends wear expensive designer clothes.
She knows we can't afford to buy clothes like that for her, so we
frequent local thrift and clothing consignment stores, shop
bargain sales, and do a lot of yard saling. Sure, I wish I could
spend more money on her clothes, but she still finds much of the
same designer clothing her friends wear. Other friends are
jealous of the good buys she finds. When my daughter grows up
part of me hopes she can afford nicer things for herself. But
deep down, I'm grateful for the life lessons she's learning.
Whether she has money or not, she will never want for anything because
she knows how to get by no matter what her circumstances.
You might think your teen would think it a chore to go grocery
shopping and shopping for second-hand clothing. My daughter
doesn't look at it that way. Partly she's bored and wants to get
out of the house, but going through these daily routines together
is much of the time we spend together, hanging out and talking
about other things on her mind. More than half of the time we
spend in deep discussion takes place in the car driving from one
place to another. I wouldn't trade that time for anything.
I'm not worried about whether or not my daughter is going to be
able to take care of herself when she goes off to college. I'm
certain she'll be up to the challenge.
A freshman in high school this year, she has four more years to
practice before she's on her own. She cooks dinner once a week
or so, does some of the laundry, and helps clean up after our
pets keep the house clean. At her age, homework is most
important to us and that takes priority over other things, so we
don't overload her with chores, but my main concern is that she
knows HOW to do these things. Especially with something like
cooking it takes time to learn some of these skills. And if you
don't have enough patience to help them learn something like how
to cook, then let them learn through trial and error. Let them
cook what they want to cook and let them even go buy the
groceries to make it.
Let your teens schedule their own appointments and make other
phone calls you normally make for them. I think everyone has a
little fear of the phone at first, but after the first few times
they'll enjoy the responsibility they've earned.
And did you notice what effect these changes will have on your
life? Less responsibility and demands on you! It's a little
hard to let go at first and you might have to take baby steps in
handing over the reigns a little, but you'll be so proud of your
teen the first time they take initiative on their own. When they
leave home you'll worry less and know it was a job well done.
Copyright 2002. Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and
Christian wife and mom. For complete resources for the Christian
home, visit her web site at http://www.Christian-Parent.com. To
subscribe to her monthly newsletter send a blank e-mail message
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