Teaching Teenagers to take their own Decisions and Responsibility – 12 Jul 11


Yesterday I said that we need to give our children discipline in their eating habits. It is not only the eating habits, there are several areas in which you have to give them a clear guideline while you need to give them freedom and their own responsibility in other areas. Especially in their teenage, during puberty, our children are in a difficult process in between parental restriction of childhood and the freedom of adult life.

During their puberty, our children have to test how much freedom you give them and how much you still control them. They are in the transition from being a child to becoming adult. Boys grow to men and girls grow to women. They start taking their own responsibility for many parts of their life. It slowly becomes more and more and they need some freedom in order to develop these responsibilities. They will ask for more freedom and when they notice that they get it, they test exactly how much freedom you give them. At the same time however they have to get used to this freedom themselves and they have to learn how it is to take their own responsibility.

They start taking their own decisions but sometimes they are not sure about their decisions yet and seek your advice. This can look like this:

Daughter: ‘Which shirt should I wear tonight, the red one or the black one?’
Mother: ‘Whatever you like better! Both look nice on you.’
Daughter: ‘I cannot decide, what do you like better?’
Mother: ‘Maybe you take the red one.’
Daughter (doubtful): ‘Oh, don’t you think the black looks better on me?’
Mother (confused): ‘Then take the black one.’
Daughter (annoyed and exasperated): ‘But you like the red one better! Great, thank you, now I have no idea what I will wear tonight!’
And she storms off to call her friends for advice.

In such examples you can clearly see the inner fight that the girl is fighting with the young woman inside. On one hand the girl thinks she is already adult enough to make her decisions. It is not only clothes, but also activities in free time, school, what to do when and with whom. She wants to decide for herself. On the other hand however she wants to keep the security of the parental advice. Until now there was someone who told her what to do. She had no responsibility to decide or to bear the consequences.

If mother or father makes a decision in this situation, be it about the shirt or about any other thing, the first reaction is rebellion. The youngster – boy or girl – feels that another person wants to take control. ‘I am old enough to decide on my own!’ is the thought and ‘I will not do what they say!’ is the consequence.

If this feeling of rebellion is strong enough, he or she will do the opposite of what the parents told to do. At some point there can be some doubt though: ‘They were always right in my childhood… can it be that they are right now, too?’

This is the inner conflict of the child and once you recognize this conflict, it gets much easier for you as a parent to deal with it. Let your sons and daughters take their own decisions and carry the consequences. Don’t control every little detail but let them get the taste of being adult. If they want to go to school without jacket, although they may probably feel a bit cold, let them have this experience – of course not when it is snowing outside, but as long as it doesn’t harm their health, let them go. You can give a suggestion, it might be good to take a sweater or jacket, but don’t force them. They have to learn taking decisions anyway, otherwise they will always be insecure.

There are however topics with which you have to be strict and in which there is no question whose decision will be followed. Whenever such a decision stands, you have to make it clear that this is not a matter of discussion for your child. If you gave freedom in other decisions, your child will more easily accept such fixed rules and decisions.

5 Replies to “Teaching Teenagers to take their own Decisions and Responsibility – 12 Jul 11”

  1. Oh my God, this could have been my daughter and I! We have such conversations so often that I cannot count them anymore! I know she has that fight inside and I do everything to let her take her decisions herself but in those situations she directly asks me for help – and I try to give it. I sometimes even say the opposite, so that she can just take what I did not want her to take but still do the right thing 🙂

  2. very nice, I liked the conversation to the mother and daughter too. This is exactly what happens 🙂 Yes teenagers are likely to be rebellions !

  3. Very true, one of the ways to heal them is with love. Be nice to them, convince and teach them with love. As love is equally strong in transforming and convincing humans. The child needs to see a true great friend within their parents. Om, Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha.

  4. This is very true, Swami. It’s important to let teenagers make their own mistakes. Many parents are afraid to see their child go through pain, or a difficult time, or make mistakes. But it is how we learn! We all need to learn this for ourselves or we will be forever curious about all the things we weren’t allowed to do. It’s hard to let go, but parents have to allow their teens some freedom.