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    Teaching Teens Responsibility

    By Deborah Crawford     

    Many parents bemoan the fact that their teens are irresponsible. They do not keep their room clean, they’re lackadaisical about homework, and they haven’t sent a thank you note since they learned cursive writing. Then, I see these teens driving their own cars, talking on cell phones and enjoying non-stop social lives. All provided by the loving parent.

    Responsibility is not a lesson that can be learned from lectures. You cannot tell someone to behave responsibly and expect that your parenting job is done. Responsibility is a growing and learning experience. And, most of us need a bit of help when it comes to learning to be “responsible”.

    The definition of responsibility is “able to respond”. We tend to add “appropriately” when talking about our teenagers. Saying “yes” when offered alcohol is a response, but hardly an appropriate one for a 15 year old.

    So, how does one help teenagers be appropriately responsible? The same way we as adults learn to be responsible. We know that if we do not pay our cell phone bill, we do not get to have a working cell phone. We know that if we do not put gas in our car, we do not get to drive it. We know that unless we earn the money to pay for things, we do not get to enjoy them. We learn this because we are aware of the very real consequences.

    And, therein is the problem. It’s the consequence part that these teens do not experience. Which is not the teens’ fault. If the utility company would only lecture me for not my bill, I would never pay it. But, they turn off my electricity and suddenly, I am highly motivated to pay my bill. I am ready to accept that responsibility. The same goes for most of the other responsibilities I have. I am not necessarily any more inherently “responsible” than my teenage neighbors, but I do understand the consequences of my being irresponsible. Some I have learned the “hard way” and some I have been smart enough to figure out before screwing up, but I get it. Which doesn’t mean I floss as much as I should, but hey, nobody’s perfect. And, I do understand that nobody is going to floss for me or pay for my dental work if I really slack off.

    Parents, your teens will learn some responsibilities from you, but they learn by watching, rarely by listening. But, you can teach them to be responsible and obey your rules by setting and sticking to consequences. If you buy them a car, at least make them pay for their insurance. Split the cell phone bill with them. Make them earn spending money by doing household chores if you don’t want them to have a part-time job. Insist that their room meet your standards before they go to the mall. Require decent grades and stick to the consequences you pre-determine.

    Sadly enough, I see parents who seem to be held hostage by their children. They tolerate cursing, truancy, snarly attitudes and more from their children. These same parents are often the ones sacrificing to pay private school tuition, paying double or triple car and insurance payments, and charging expensive, trendy clothes for their children on maxed-out credit cards. If you pay attention to the media, you will see some results of what happens when teens are raised without responsibilities. There have been several instances in the news lately of driving under the influence, entering and exiting rehab, child neglect and more from some young adults who never had to suffer consequences of their actions. Make sure your teens follow a better, more responsible path.

    Written by Deborah CrawfordRate this article:

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