When Should Parents Let Their Teens Handle Life On Their Own?

As my children have gotten older, it’s been hard for me to find that line. You know, the one that promotes growth and independence but doesn’t allow too much room for them to forget how to be aware of other people and act respectfully.

If you have a teenager, you know what I am talking about. They live in their own world and there are times when all they are thinking about is themselves and how something will affect their life.

Sometimes this is unconscious but let’s face it, there are times when it’s intentional.

All teens struggle with friendships

All of my teens have struggled with friendships–it’s a given. I struggled with them as a teenager and I’m sure you did too. 

There have been times where I’ve literally gripped our kitchen island so tight as they were telling me a story about how a friend did them wrong because all I wanted to do was yell out how I thought they should be handling it. 

Most of the time that includes telling them to dump said friend and move on, but I know my kids aren’t angels, and there are two sides to every story. More importantly, I want them to really feel their feelings without me telling them how they should feel or react. 

Teens need to learn to trust their own instincts

They will never be able to trust their gut, that inner voice if I step in and make them doubt their own instincts. This is something they need to exercise and build, just like any other muscle.

It might take our kids a long time to decide what they will or will not put up with in their life, and that is okay. It’s their life and up to them. I’m not talking about a situation where someone’s life is in danger, or they are putting someone else in danger, or things are completely out of control. If someone is bullying or harassing my child (or someone’s else’s child), I’m going to step in and do everything in my control to make it stop.

That isn’t the time to let a teenager handle such a huge issue on their own. They need help, support, and guidance. 

There are times when I’ve wondered if I’ve done too much for my teen or too little. (Twenty20 @andreafwagner)

Sometimes as a mom I need to step in

But there are other situations when I still need to dab my toes in regardless of what others think. 

If my child is being disrespectful to a stranger, or someone they know, I’m going to jump in and do something about it.

I love my children, but if I didn’t direct them and make them apologize or right one of their wrongs, they probably wouldn’t do it. However, if they are going to continue to show up for work late and get fired, it’s on them. Behavior has consequences-they need to learn that.

If they violate traffic laws and get their license revoked, they are going to have to clean up that mess on their own.

If they’ve said something mean to a teacher, they need to take the initiative and apologize on their own. Of course I will as well, but my apology isn’t a two for one. It doesn’t mean the situation is taken care of and they are off the hook. It’s not my job to get them out of hot water when they’ve set the temperature with their actions.

I wonder if I have the balance right between stepping in or staying out

Sometimes I wonder though, am I doing enough? Am I letting them figure this out on their own, or am I being a lazy parent? There are times when I’m afraid I said too much, like when my daughter had a friend who kept “breaking up” with her. 

And times I’ve wondered if I’ve done enough, like when my son was trying to activate his new debit card and I didn’t help him because he was barely trying to figure it out and it led to his storming up to his room for hours. 

As parents of teens, that’s the game though, isn’t it? We are always trying to balance it just right so when they do enter the real world they have the tools, know they have a support system at home if they need it, and they are confident they are able to handle things on their own. 

One thing’s for sure: it’s a balancing act and no parent gets it one hundred percent right.

You Might Also Want to Read:

How I Respond To My Teen Daughter’s Meltdowns Helps Us Both

What Happens When You Stop Fixing Things for Your Kids

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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