Perhaps your teen is on the way out of the door. It’s her junior or senior year and the days are flying by. Before you know it, she’ll be out on her own. Have you prepared her? Are you prepared?

Resolution: To help my teen grow up

Plan: Answer these questions:

  1. Is my teen trustworthy?
  2. Am I willing to allow my teen to make her own decisions as long as she is trustworthy?
  3. Do I struggle to let go and why?
  4. Am I willing to allow my teen to learn through his mistakes?

One teen I know was known by many as the “good” guy. He did the right things. He loved God. He listened to his parents. But this teen was also known by a few as the frustrated-out-of-his mind guy.

Because no matter how old he was, he had the same rules that he had when he was a younger teen. He had to check in constantly with his parents. If plans changed and he and his friends stopped by WalMart on the way home, he had to call. If they went to McDonalds instead of Burger King and he didn’t tell his parents, he was in trouble.

Every decision he made had to be scrutinized by his parents. Every friend reviewed. He had strict rules about driving, and strict rules about curfew. If he was at a school event or church event, it didn’t matter. His curfew was inflexible, and a couple of hours earlier than his peers.

This teen felt untrusted. To be honest, I’m not sure why he didn’t rebel. I worried that he would freefall when he went to college. Every decision had been made for him. He was in a no-error/no-mistakes zone and in college no one would be looking over his shoulder.

Knowing your teen is crucial. It helps you let the reins loose, or to tighten them as needed temporarily. But if you keep a tight rein on a trustworthy teen, the message you are sending is “you can’t make decisions without me”. It can be crippling.

So, let the reins loosen as your teen shows his or her trustworthiness. Is it scary? Sure, but it’s part of the learning and growing up process.

I struggle to let go.

It’s hard, isn’t it? Just yesterday they were dependent on you for everything, and now they seem to not need you at all. But you are still needed. Your role is changing. When they were young you were like a T-ball coach on the field, helping them make the right moves, teaching them how to bat, how to run, how to get up when they fall down. But now your role is on the sidelines. You are still a coach, but you encourage them when they make a great play or pass. You may occasionally call a time-out, but for the most part you are watching them run the plays.

What if they make a mistake?

The more accurate question is, “What do I do when they make a mistake?”.

The level of mistakes will vary. Maybe your teen will come in late or maybe it’s on a much higher level. The key is that we trust them until our teen gives us something to not trust them about. We don’t parent out of fear, but out of truth.

If your teen comes in late, ask these questions:

1. Was there a legitimate reason?

2. Is my teen’s curfew reasonable for his age/trustworthy level?

3. Was it inconsiderate or blatantly against the rules?

We can’t level consequences by one inflexible rule — you’re late = you’re in trouble today and forever. If it’s an honest mistake, then you grow through it together. What can be done differently next time? Do you need to be a little more flexible? If it’s blatant, then consequences help your teen grow through the action. They are still loved. There’s still hope for a second chance after a period of time. But the consequence teaches them that they are responsible for their choices.

Don’t forget that every comment on these three blog posts on Resolutions and Your Teen will be entered for a copy of Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know.