How many times have you walked around your kitchen or living room of a morning chanting to your family a list of ‘things to do’ out loud like a crazed woman?
Shoes. Teeth. Rugby bag. Lunch. Car. Now!!! Too many to count, right?!
While it may seem like you’ve ‘lost the plot’, anyone who’s ever managed multiple tasks (only EVERY mother and business owner), will know this a sign of a desperate attempt to take charge of the situation, and get everyone moving while trying to exit the house on time.
But are our constant reminders – aka nagging – actually helping our children to take control of their own schedule?
Undoubtedly, parenting a ‘tweenager’ or teen is one of the hardest challenges you’ll face.
As parents, raising independent children is high on our hopes list. Helping your kids navigate the teenage years, fuelled by a fear of ‘not fitting in’, bullying, friendship breakdowns, first loves, late assignments, teacher torments, acne-meltdowns, driving lessons and a desire to spend less time with family, it can be a stressful time for both them and you!
There has to be an easier way than that crazed woman chanting in your house, right?
And, as the mother of two children who are both now young adults (they made it!), let me tell you – there is!
What I’m about to share with you won’t result in raised blood pressure or require you to add more to your own to-do list!
We’ve put together a simple 5-step process so you can help your children become more independent and take responsibility for their own schedule.
// STEP 1: LEAD BY EXAMPLE
It goes without saying that modelling the values and behaviours you wish to instil in your children can have a positive influence.
Lewis Cass got it right when he said, “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do”. This could not be more true for your teenage ‘sponge’. How you respond to situations, challenges and people in your own life, communicates a message to your children, without you saying a word.
However, it’s also important to remember that childhood development is influenced by many factors and YOU are not responsible for your child’s choices. We must remember not to take their behaviour personally (as difficult as this can sometimes be!).
// STEP 2: SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
The decision-making part of your teenager’s brain continues to develop into their early 20s. Teenagers often find it difficult to control impulses and they are also less capable of understanding the consequences of their behaviour. Having clear expectations or family rules and communicating these with your children regularly can help them understand what their responsibilities are.
Rachel Robertson, director of education and development at Bright Horizons Family Solutions in Watertown, Massachusetts, recommends helping your child make a connection between what they do and what happens by pointing out real-life examples. For instance, you could say, “Because you studied hard, you got an A on your spelling test” or “Because you forgot to schedule a due date for your assignment, you were late submitting your work”.
// STEP 3: ENCOURAGE OWNERSHIP
During the teenage years, children’s need for responsibility and autonomy becomes more apparent. One life skill your teenager needs to be independent is ‘goal setting’. Whether they want to make it into the State cricket team or get a lead role in the school musical, it’s important to encourage your child to choose and set goals.
Have a discussion with them about what action they may need to take in order to reach their goals. If your child knows how to track their progress, they will be more likely to stay motivated and productive. With each new goal they reach, they’ll gain confidence in their ability to achieve even greater goals in the future.
// STEP 4: MAKE TIME MANAGEMENT EASY
Managing time is a crucial life skill that is not always explicitly taught at school. Principal of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, recommends that teens should be able to use a personal calendar by the time they graduate and ‘the earlier they start, the better’. This gets them into the habit of keeping track of everything so they are able to schedule study time and manage important deadlines for assignments, events and bills.
Using the Life Sorted app is a fabulous way you can encourage your child to take responsibility for his or her schedule. You can help your child map out their school term, study commitments, assignment due dates, extracurricular activities and holiday plans. They can also record birthdays and special events like formals and yes, movie nights with their first love! (It will happen, whether you like it or not!)
// STEP 5: BE FLEXIBLE AND FORGIVING
It’s likely that the independence your child craves and the level of independence you feel comfortable giving will change during the teenage years. It’s important to adjust and negotiate in partnership as you learn together. It’s not easy to allow our children the freedom to make some of their own choices. But your child needs to make some mistakes, to explore and have new experiences in order to learn and develop. Sure, there will be times when they get it wrong. But it’s important to remember that those mishaps are part of the process of learning, growing, and becoming one’s own self’.
A few ideas for how you can be flexible and forgiving while raising independent children is by showing your child lots of love of support, making time to listen (pop down the phone for a minute) when they want to talk and respecting their feelings and emotions.
Raising independent children
Becoming independent is an important part of your child’s path. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from raising two children into young adults, it’s that parenting is a collaborative effort. Equipping your child with the processes and tools to help him or her become a responsible young adult, able to tackle life’s curveballs with a smile, is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
Even if your child has decided that spending more time in a dark, dirty-sock-ridden room is better than sitting at the dining table with you, I hope that the Life Sorted app – in some small way – enables you to connect with your child and help them become all they want to be.
What’s your favourite tip for raising independent children?