Helping teens learn independence and responsibility - part 3

Parents can help teens learn independence and responsibility by involving them in family decisions and encouraging them to be involved in school and community groups.

Michigan State University Extension’s program called Building Strong Adolescents suggests more ways to help teens learn independence and responsibility. This is the third in a series of articles.

One way to help teens learn responsibility is by having the expectation that they contribute to family decisions and responsibilities. Parents can ask their advice on decisions ranging from what to have for dinner to ideas for caring for an elderly relative. Giving teens a voice and influence in major decisions gives them firsthand practice with the difficult and demanding thinking processes that often accompany freedom.

Boys and girls alike need to prepare meals, do laundry, change tires and fulfill countless other responsibilities integral to family life and adulthood. These responsibilities teach teens to take care of themselves, and they give teens practice as contributing members with responsibilities to a group.

Teens should be encouraged to take responsibility in school, community, and religious groups. Teens need to learn that their decisions and actions affect others. Such experiences can teach empathy, caring, sympathy, playfulness, leadership, respect for others, good communication and numerous other attributes of responsible citizenship. 

Developing responsibility can be shown on three different levels: personal, interpersonal and social.

Teens demonstrate personal responsibility by:

  • Caring for their possessions.
  • Getting their homework done.
  • Meeting deadlines.

Interpersonal responsibility of teens may be shown by:

  • Tutoring a child.
  • Helping at home.
  • Keeping promises.
  • Contributing to group projects.

Social responsibility in teens may be demonstrated by:

  • Helping the less fortunate.
  • Giving to charities.
  • Caring for public property.
  • Working for social justice.

Developing responsibility takes time and practice. Teens should be required to show responsibility before earning new or expanded freedoms. Parents can reward consistent responsible behavior with more freedom. Look for signs of responsibility in your teen on three all three levels, personal, interpersonal and social.

To read more about this topic read Helping teens learn independence and responsibility – part 4

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