On July 4, we celebrate the independence of an upstart bunch of discontented colonies that didn’t want to be bossed around anymore by a greedy tyrant. They were especially unhappy with being told what to do without having any say in it … and the kicker was that these peasants were supposed to pay for the privilege of being allowed to exist. We know the rest of the story.
Those lowly subjects to the king declared that they were going to break from the empire and determine their own destiny. Armed primarily with courage and stubborn will, they fought for their right to be free from an invisible bully — and they won.
Your teenager’s quest for independence isn’t quite that fierce. However, there are similarities on a smaller scale. A teenager is a rebel. A teenager wants to make his or her own decisions. Most teens are pretty sure that they are old enough to be on their own and can’t wait for the day when that becomes a reality. Who knows better what is best for them?
Dad, it’s a good idea to recognize that your teen wants to take over the controls. It’s advisable to gradually turn over some of that control. Your son is in no way ready to handle a mortgage, but you might explain to him what it is and how it works. Your daughter could not single-handedly shop for and buy a car, but it would be a good idea to educate her as to what to look for in making a selection.
Most teenagers — perhaps yours — do not have the life experience to know how to set up housekeeping, buy insurance, plan a vacation or shop for a week’s worth of groceries. However, you can do a lot to teach them about those things so that, when they truly become independent, they will be able to make good choices.
It is a teen’s job to be impatient, impetuous and fickle. They want it all now and on their terms. We know that if teens suddenly were handed everything, they would collapse under the weight of responsibility. We know, as parents, that granting complete independence would be unwise and even dangerous. But we also remember a time in our past when we said to our parents, “How will I ever learn if you don’t let me try?”
Grant independence in small doses. Let your teenager organize a shopping list for a week’s worth of groceries, taking into consideration such things as cost, nutritional value and everyone’s preferences. Let your teen help choose the next family car while being aware of personal tastes, accessories, price and rebates, mileage, size and consumer reviews. Let your teenager sit with you while you pay the family bills or review the family budget.
Involve your son or daughter at ground level in these responsibilities and, when your teenager’s independence day finally comes, he or she will be better prepared.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at dads2dadsllc.com. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.