I knew a mom who was fed up. Her son was consistently missing the school bus. One day, tired and exhausted from yelling and feeling resentful, she decided to try something different. Feeling apprehensive but determined, she went into her sleeping son’s room and calmly placed the local cab company number on his desk. She proceeded to wish her son a good day, letting him know that he was to use his allowance money to pay for the cab. Then she left to go to her exercise class, allowing him to figure out the rest.
Sound harsh? It all depends on how you view personal responsibility and empowering your adolescent.
Empowering our kids is teaching them to live their lives from the principle of personal responsibility. This doesn’t always come naturally for teens. It has to be learned through experience.
If he doesn’t study, he may flunk the test. If she doesn’t show up at work, she gets fired. As difficult as this may be for us moms, letting our kids take personal responsibility is allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices.
Personal responsibility teaches our kids not to live as victims. How we model this principle in our own lives speaks volumes to our kids. We need to catch ourselves when we are tempted to use excuses or blame others for our mistakes. We need to hold ourselves and our kids accountable to look at the areas where we can make a different choice in order to produce a different outcome.
Before taking action, the mom felt like a victim.She felt taken advantage of by her son. She was resentful and constantly missing her exercise class because of her son’s irresponsibility. It became increasingly obvious that she was not helping her son. So, instead of rescuing him, she forced him to face the natural consequences of his behavior. What she once viewed as being loving towards her son now was anything but.
Teaching our kids to take personal responsibility for their lives is the heart and soul of empowering them.
Here are 5 ways we can empower our kids.
- Teach them to come up with solutions to their own problems.
When you are tempted to quickly jump in and offer advice, empower your child by allowing them to come up with different ways to solve their own problems. Instead, of telling them what to do, get them to think about what they can do. Ask questions like, “What do you want to do about that?” or “What are some different options that you have?”
- Begin to let go of the reins and give them more ownership of their lives.
As our kids enter their adolescent years, we need to gradually increase their responsibilities. Give them age appropriate responsibilities and hold them accountable. Have them do their own laundry, help with chores around the house, and earn and spend their own money.
- Hold your teen with positive regard and see them as capable of making good choices.
This is key. Our kids sense when we don’t believe they are capable of making good decisions. If we view our child as irresponsible and incapable of making good choices, we will be tempted to rescue them. If you have a particularly difficult child get them and yourself the support you need.
- Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.
This is difficult. We want our kids to succeed so we often jump in and attempt to fix things. This stunts their growth and keeps them from learning the valuable lessons they need in order to thrive. In order to look good, we have a tendency to want our kids to avoid mistakes. When they make mistakes, we feel angry that we look bad. Realize this isn’t about you. Avoid criticizing their mistakes. They are teenagers after all. Remind yourself and them that they are learning.
- Don’t allow them to get away with blaming others for their own irresponsibility.
Blame takes on many faces. We complain, refuse to admit our faults, blame life for being unfair and have self-pity. I have seen it in my own children and working with other moms. The more we bail our kids out, the more likely they are to blame others for the mistakes they make.
When they come home complaining about their teacher, listen. Affirm their frustration and ask them what they can do differently in the future to achieve a different outcome. We empower our kids when we get them to think differently about how their behavior impacts their life and the lives of others.
We have the privilege of guiding, supporting, and modeling personal responsibility for our adolescents. When we begin to take steps to empower our adolescents, they will learn as much from their mistakes as they do from their successes. When we teach them to come up with answers to their own problems, let go of control, and see them as capable, we are on the road to empowering our teens. In time, we will be glad we did as we watch our kids take ownership and personal responsibility for their lives.