Archive for the ‘teens’ Category

The Goal is Independence   1 comment

image from Coaching with Horses


I have always listened carefully to those who are a little farther down the road than I when it comes to parenting and homeschooling.  I have tried to learn from their successes and mistakes.  Many years ago, when my kids were small, a friend who had adult and teen children told me about her experience in raising teens.  She wanted her teens to be independent and be making their own choices about their lives with her being there for guidance if they needed her.  I liked what I saw in her kids – the way they interacted with her on an adult level, they informed her about where they were going – but not asking like a little kid.  They always looked me in the eye and spoke to me like a fellow adult – not with mumbling and downcast eyes like I see so often with teens.  I wanted teens like that, so I followed her advice.

This was very different from my experience as a teen.  I was still very much a little kid – having to ask my parents permission to do anything or go anywhere, I didn’t have a job because my parents believed I had the rest of my life to worry about work (that’s a subject for a future post).  My life at 16 was not much different than when I was 10 – I went to school, my parents took care of everything and I wasn’t being well prepared for life outside of my childhood home.

I began putting my friend’s advice into practice.  My goal was/is to have my kids, by their mid teens, be prepared for life on their own.  They basically decide how to spend their time, how to manage money, how to hold a job and deal with people at that job.  This sounds pretty obvious, but in reality I think many teens aren’t given enough responsibilities and their parents are still running the show – and doing their laundry – when they hit 18.  

Without that push for independence, my boys would have never been able to experience their road trips to South Dakota on their own when they were 16 and 12 and then to Gettysburg and D.C. when they were 18 and 14.  For the last year, my 15 year old often stays alone for days at his grandparents’ cabin enjoying solitude and an environment he loves – the woods.  Last summer, when the boys were 18 and 14, I entrusted our then 3 and 6 year old girls to them for five days while I went on a church trip with my 11 year old (my husband is a truck driver and is gone most of the time).  They took them Geocaching, to the fair to see the animals, and let them stay up late watching Little House on the Prairie DVD’s.  I look at the level of independence my boys have and think I never could have done those things at their age – I was not prepared to. These experiences have enriched their lives and have helped make them capable and strong.

When my oldest was 17, he started college – after getting himself there.  He knew I was available for questions if he needed help filling out applications and financial aid, but I figured he was the one going to college – not me, so he needed to be the one to do the work.  After getting our tax information and asking my husband a few questions about it, he completed everything and got himself to college.

We are a culture of performance.  We want our children to get A’s, do sports, do dance, do theater or whatever.  Those things are great, but in the quest for performance we may forget that they need to learn how to be independent.  It’s wonderful if a kid is the swimming champion in his state while keeping up a 4.0 average – but has so much energy gone into those things that he can’t make a meal (without using the microwave), balance a checkbook, be trusted with the family home and siblings, do home repairs or change a flat tire?  When those life skills are not taught they are not getting a well rounded education so it should not come as a surprise that when they near their late teens  mama is still holding their hand and washing their socks – and believe me – you don’t want to anywhere near socks after they have been worn by a teenager.


Teens of Yesterday and Today   Leave a comment

The concept of the teenager never existed until the early twentieth century. Reform of child labor laws and mandating education through high school changed the perception of the years ending in teen. No longer did one go from child to adult, but now there were pre-adult years. These years became savored for its freedom from adult responsibilities.

Before the twentieth century, teens had taken on adult responsibilities and entered the world of adulthood. Today, that is no longer the norm. It is now common to have adolescence reaching well into the twenties. There are twenty something ‘kids’ living at home  that do not contribute to the household financially or by helping with daily chores. Some twenty somethings are stretching out their college years and are holding jobs, but have not yet made the leap to independence as they enter their thirties.

 The good intentions that freed our youth from long hours in factories a century ago have now created a different kind of bondage that holds our youth. Boredom and apathy plague our teens. For many, pop culture is their only interest because they have been bombarded with its mundane   messages. Our society offers a place for teens – neatly tucked away in high schools,  participating in activities such as sports, drama, various clubs, and any other activity you can think of that is run by and approved by adults.  Some youth thrive in these settings and the world of academia has always held a positive place in society for centuries. What differs now is that there are not other options offered to most teens. We force our young people out of the heartbeat of society and into the world of American high schools. That is their acceptable place and we are not comfortable when they want to venture out and demand a place in the adult world.

We do a disservice to our youth when we keep them from real responsibilities. Responsibility toward something or someone gives one a sense of purpose. In the past, the contributions made by children and teens to the family were vital to the family’s survival. They helped with farm work, child care, housework, and cooking. They knew they were needed and that their work contributed to the success of the family.

Today, so many of our teens are isolated from our communities out  in suburbs and  immersing themselves in the virtual world of Facebook and texting. They have no real responsibility toward the family. Everything is provided for them, therefore there is no need for teens to contribute anything. 

I am not advocating burdening young people with responsibilities that they are not equipped to handle. We have seen the pendulum swing from the days of children working long hours in factories to swinging too far in the other direction where no real responsibilities are presented to teens. I would like to see a happy medium.

Posted December 31, 2010 by The Nonconformist Mom in teens

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