Stop doing these things for your teenage children
Independence for kids

Spend any time on social media and you will see multiple stories or comments about how the world has gone to hell in a handbasket and, apparently, it's all the fault of one generation. The generation that is copping all of the bad commentary is the current batch of 12 to 27 year olds. If you believe the hype, they are all self-entitled, spoilt, irresponsible, disrepectful, lazy and only interested in their own happiness.

Well I am a mum to two teens and I call that as BS. First of all, it is never, ever appropriate to stereotype an entire generation by the actions of the minority. Secondly, I have interacted with enough kids of this age to know that they are absolutely not as bad as the media would have us all believe. Parents these days seem to delight in the nostalgic reminisces of how we played outside all day until the street lights came on - we didn't need electronic devices, we just used our imagination. Fair enough. But if you're going to complain about the kids these days growing up differently, who exactly has pointed them in that direction? If we were "raised right" then why are we supposedly not raising our own children right?

Which all leads me to a growing trend across the media to insist that we stop doing so much for our kids to curb their supposedly self-entitled status and teach them some responsibility. Now, I am all for kids taking on chores, helping out around the house and indeed, taking responsibility for their themselves. Life skills are a must! However, I draw the line at the insistence that, once a kid becomes a teen, they are on their own and if I do any of these things for my child then I am raising a spoilt brat. I'm still their mum - I'm still going to do whatever I can to make their life a happy one.

Here's a rundown of some of the things that you may wish to consider when instilling your teen with some added responsibility and building those life skills. Use them all, pick out a few, or ignore the lot - it's your choice.

1. Don't wake them up in the morning

They still have to get up - obviously - but pass the responsibility on to them (or their alarm clock) when you can. I have two polar opposites when it comes to waking. Mr 14 always gets himself up and ready for school - often before I wake from my own slumber. Mr 12 however has two alarm clocks and still requires waking. He is just a very, very deep sleeper. Short of installing a fire siren in his room I am stuck with having to push him out of the bed each morning.

2. Don't make their breakfast

Yes, yes, yes! It's breakfast - it doesn't require a Michelin star to prepare a few slices of toast or a bowl of cereal so, kids - go for it!

3. Don't pack their lunch

Armed with good nutrition role modelling there's no reason why teens can't pack their own lunches. I am conflicted on this one because A) I hate packing school lunch boxes but B) Mr 14 could easily take half the pantry and fridge with him each day - where exactly do these growing teens put all that food?!

4. Don't do their laundry

We all know the scenario - your teen wants to wear a certain item of clothing but it sits crumpled on the bedroom floor instead of clean and hanging up. With modern appliances, doing the washing is a doddle so by all means teach them to do their own. In our house, I've shown the kids how to use the washing machine but I'm as pedantic with it as I am with the dishwasher - my OCD insists that I have to load it so it's done right. I know, I know!

5. Don't deliver their forgotten items

Here's the line in the sand as far as I'm concerned. This is where the "I'm their mum and I'll do whatever I want" kicks in. EVERYBODY forgets stuff. It doesn't mean that they are going to grow up completely irresponsible because one time they forget what day of the week it is and ask mum to drop off their sports gear. My husband is notorious for leaving behind his work tools, phone, ladder, you name it, on a regular basis. I asked him, when he was a kid, did his mum race down to the school with anything he forgot and of course the answer was no. Did it stop him from being forgetful? NO. For me, not allowing my child to make such a request (whether I'm able to remedy the situation or not) feels wrong. They are still my children. Just because they're older, that doesn't change. I'm their mum - that's my job. I will do everything I can to remind them that no matter what it is, they can always come to me. There are just too many implications for severing that open communication.

Photo from Catholic High School for Boys, Arkansas

6. Don't do their schoolwork for them

By all means allow them to come to you if they don't understand something or if they need guidance, but they learn nothing if you do the whole thing for them. Soon the work they are doing will likely be beyond your grasp anyway so retreat now!

7. Don't fill out their paperwork

Your child wants to sign up for an after school sport or apply for their driver licence? Allow them to fill in their own paperwork. Please, please do! I have experienced so many adults who are incapable of filling in a form correctly! The earlier they start the better.

8. Don't call their teacher or coach

If your child has an issue that they need to approach their teacher or sports coach with, let them take the initiative. They need to learn how to problem solve (with your advice, if they seek it). So before you pick up the phone or storm down to the school, give your child the opportunity to tackle the issue first. Just ensure that they know that you have their back when needed.

9. Don't micromanage their life

Encourage kids to remember their own schedule, know what to pack each day, where they should be and when. Saying that, on mornings I'm like a walking, talking, nagging checklist! Have you got your drink bottle? Bus card? Phone? PE clothes? Hat? I know I should stop - especially when I see their eyes glaze over because they've heard it a million times and basically I could ask them if they've packed their dinosaur and they would nod - but I'm just trying to pre-empt number 5!


This blog was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ.

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