How Much Freedom Should I Allow My Teenager to Have?

Mom with two teens readingI was recently interviewed on Thrive Global Media by Mary Nichelson and Kellye Williams. This is the first of a series of questions submitted by some  of their listeners. The questions have been edited for content.

As a parent of teenagers, how do you find the perfect balance of letting go, yet protecting our kids?  I still want to protect them without stifling their maturity and confidence. Where is the balance found?

Many parents struggle with trusting their teens, and with their teen’s need for independence. I think it depends on your teen, their age, and have they shown responsibility so far or are they showing you through their behavior that they cannot be trusted for some reason.

Teens still need boundaries and consistency with rules, discipline, however as they get older and show more responsibility you can be flexible and allow more freedom. Teens also can learn from life lessons that allow for natural consequences of their choices. For example, if they have a project due tomorrow and they’ve known all week but they are just starting on it today then give them the responsibility to get it done and experience the consequences of procrastination (more stress, not turn out as well, etc…).

If your teen is struggling with a lot of behavior problems, substance abuse, etc… then they may need more rules and more structure. I would also prioritize your battles, and choose which ones to fight (drug use, aggressive behavior) and which ones to let go of (hair color, etc…).

The teenage years are often a challenge for both parents of teens and their teenagers because teenagers to trying to gain their independence. This sometimes leads to pushing boundaries and sometimes conflict as the teen tries to explore their identity and independence.  Teens explore various issues during this time including spirituality, sexuality, peer relationships, career goals, and relationships with caregivers.

One of the most challenging situations I think, for Christian parents is when a child begins to explore their beliefs and may either distance themselves from church, or explore different beliefs than those they were taught growing up. There can be different reasons why a teen may be struggling with their spirituality and church. Maybe they don’t feel they fit in with the peer group at the church they go to, or maybe they aren’t sure of their faith, the influence of culture, or a peer group they belong to.

Whatever the reason there are things you can do to help support your teen while they are going through this exploration process.

First, recognize this as a normal part of every teens development and how they are trying to reconcile their upbringing with becoming an independent adult. Secondly, encourage, but don’t force open communication about spiritual issues and why you believe what you believe.

Allow your teen freedom to discuss their opinions and questions openly. Additionally, if your teen wants to explore other churches, offer to attend with them, and discuss your differences afterwards. They key is open communication with your teen and allowing some responsibility for their own spiritual growth.

For some interesting stuff on teens and why many teens and young adults distance themselves from church read : Students Abandoning the Faith

For Parenting Contracts with your teen go here: Free Printable Parenting Contracts for Teens

For general information about parenting your teen go here: Parenting Teens at About Parenting

To Hear My Interview with Mary and Kellye Click Here:

Have a teenage child? How do you balance boundaries with your teenager and allowing them to take more responsibility? Leave a comment below and let’s start the conversation!


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