We are thankful to Brick & Spoon for sponsoring our Candid Conversations with Teens Editorial Series. Written by local teens, these stories highlight what may be impacting them from their perspective. Issues discussed might be social, academic, physical, political, economic, etc.
How do people learn how to be an adult?
People typically make mistakes in the adult world and have to face real consequences that can follow them for the rest of their life. What if they could learn more as teenagers with the safety net of their parents to help them and not punish them?
The young adults of today constantly walk on the fine line of having self-agency and still being under someone else’s roof and rules.
My challenge for you today is not to restructure your entire parenting style, but to look at ways you could help your own teenager learn to be more self-sufficient and ready for the adult world.
Before I delve into my topic I feel like you should know a little more about me. I have always had straight A’s in school and been some form of the teacher’s pet. I have played piano since I was 3, taken voice lessons since I was 8, and participated in theatre since I was 6. Also, I run my own business where I teach younger kids piano and voice. I have always been very involved in everything I do and put 110% effort into each project. I’m not saying this to brag, but to establish a background and acknowledge that I am not a typical kid.
I have always been very independent and managed my own activities.
In fact, I managed these activities with minimal help from my mom. I understand that every child is different and will have their own ways of managing their lives.
In my own life, my mom has always been very giving with what I was able to know and have control over. From the time I was 10, she no longer forced me to clean my room or to wash my sheets. I was on my own to learn how to keep my space clean, and, eventually, I learned good habits that helped me keep my room from being a disaster. It let me feel like I had a space that I was in complete control of. I could learn and grow and make mistakes in this space, but still have my mom down the hall if I needed help.
I have always been very self-sufficient when it comes to school.
As soon as my mom knew I could handle my homework and assignments on my own, she let me. She did not hover or ask questions. She let me learn on my own how to ask for help and how to balance my school work with my other responsibilities.
Even though I had all of this new freedom at such a young age, she did not completely leave me alone. She would regularly check up on me and make sure I was ok, and she would let me know that she was always there if I needed help. This created an extremely strong relationship between me and my mom. I did not feel like I needed to hide anything from her, and she wouldn’t hide anything from me. Granted, when I was young, there were always things I didn’t know because I was too young, but as I got older I was privy to more information.
When I started high school I got even more freedom. In 8th grade I was given my first debit card and I was on my own to learn how to manage my money. However, my mom could still see all of my transactions and talk to me when my spending became a little extreme, but it never felt over-bearing.
By the time I was in high school, I also had already established my business, with 4 students. My mom understood that I could now handle being solely responsible for making most of my decisions on my own. We established a curfew when I was hanging out with my friends, we discussed how much money I spent and how much I should save, and we created a mutual understanding of how much freedom I would have. This freedom grew even more when I could drive. I was now responsible for my own gas, creating my own schedule with my lessons, teaching, after school responsibilities, and helping my mom get my brother where he needed to be.
The new freedoms did not come without mistakes.
I would sometimes double book myself or not have enough time to get where I needed to be. With some exceptions, my mom would be forgiving when this happened because she knew that I was learning. She also knew that I knew when I messed up.
I always felt the consequences of my mistakes more harshly from myself than I did anyone else. I was always striving to make my mom and everyone else proud because I was so responsible. Most other teenagers feel this way as well.
We all want to prove ourselves to the adults around us and show them that we can handle all of our responsibilities.
We want all of the adults in our lives to trust us and to be forgiving if we make a mistake because we are still learning.
In my opinion, a beneficial way for teenagers and parents to address these mistakes is to have conversations without scolding the teenager. We have already established that teenagers punish themselves enough when they make mistakes; so, why scold and punish them even more?
An approach to the mistake that would bring about more fruitful results would be to have a positive conversation with your kid about what happened and how they feel. By acknowledging their feelings and allowing them to grow on their own, they are more likely to retain the lesson and not make the same mistakes. Furthermore, it will establish a stronger bond between the parent and the teenager because they know that when they make a mistake they can go to their parents without getting in serious trouble.
Personally, I know that I can always go to my mom if I need help and she will always be there for me. She will help me and support me first, and talk to me about the situation later. I couldn’t ask for a better mom to help me through my teenage years.
Trust is one of the most important parts of a relationship, without it, secrets will be kept and you may never really know what is going on in someone’s life.
However, I do understand that teenagers can be terribly irresponsible and scolding is sometimes the only way teenagers can understand what happened. I know that we are still kids who need boundaries and structure in life. It is important to find the balance between being authoritative and understanding.
My hope is that parents can restructure their approach to this structure. Restructuring this approach will tremendously help teenagers become more independent and responsible. I know how hard it can be to watch your child grow up, but it is so important for them to be prepared for the adult world.