Are you tired of fighting about the rules and the details constantly? Do you feel like all you do is yell or enforce the rules? Is it time to give your teen the freedom he is begging for? Maybe it’s time to go with no rules at all!! Your teen is going love this! No rules. No curfew. No chores, No screen time limits. Nothing.
Free for All!
Well, not exactly a free for all. Sorry teens. Bear with me parents. What if everyone in your house thought of rules differently? What if instead of you setting rules, instead of you being the very unpopular rule maker and ruler enforcer, you change the way you and your teen communicate about the rules? Right now you make the decisions and they are left to follow them without understanding or appreciating the “why”. Or let’s be honest, sometimes it leaves them working really hard to get around the rules, bend the rules, or straight up ignore the rules. Teens are really good at finding any loop hole in the rules and taking full advantage.
How do you avoid a free for all? How do you keep from turning into teens gone wild on daily basis? Change the idea of rules to the concept of building a foundation. A foundation of a newly built home has to be done well in order to support the home for many years. The type of soil, the terrain, the climate, the materials and the craftsmanship all are important factors that need to be in place to build a solid foundation. Without it, the home will have cracks in ceilings, walls or floors. A poorly laid foundation can cause doors and window to get stuck or not work smoothly. So think about your parenting during the teen years as investing in a solid, well built foundation. Your job can be to ensure your teen has a solid foundation on which to build their lives. Help your teen invest in his own foundation so that when he is ready to stand on it, lean on it, build it up and eventually add to the weight and size of his responsibilities, he will know his foundation was well built and can weather any storm, any stress. Different types of homes in different areas need different types of foundations. Your teen’s foundation can be built from the materials your teen needs. Not everyone’s foundation needs to look the same. Feel free to substitute for concepts and ideas that are important to your family. Here is an example of a foundation plan.
Respect. This foundation uses respect as one of its main walls. It is a core value for this teenager. They will need to grow to have a strong sense of respect for their parents, their teachers, their neighbors, all human beings, animals, but most importantly themselves. This teenager will make the concept of respect as a pillar of who they are. They will draw from that and build from that as a solid wall of their foundation. This teenager can then be asked to make decisions for himself about whether a behavior or grade or decision he makes is consistent with the core value of respect. Respecting himself can be an expectation for this teen.
How to change from rule to foundation? Instead of setting an 11:00PM curfew, talk to your teen about what time would be most respectful for his own need for sleep? How can he best take care of himself? Encourage respect for the sleep of the parents who are still working and getting up at 6 am the next day? Or discuss the risk factors for being on the road or out after midnight (Read more about the risks for teens after midnight here: http://joyhartman.com/the-best-habit-you-can-teach-your-teen/ ). Have conversations and invest in the materials needed to make this a strong wall in your teen’s foundation. Discuss it each time. Talk about what the plan is and what would be his best respectful decision. Respect to himself, you and others around him. Ultimately, you can still tell him to be home by 11:00 PM, but important conversations have taken place. He is beginning to understand the “why” of a decision and he is a part of the decision.
Values. This concept is another pillar in this teen’s foundation. This family will lay out several important values as key ingredients to their teenager’s foundation that they want their teen to carry into their adult life and have as a part of their core. What are your core family values? What do you stand for? If you can’t answer that question it would be a good idea to narrow it down, verbalize it as often as possible so that your teen’s core foundation is filled with lots and lots of that material. Take some time now to make a list of values. What is important to you? What do you believe in? What really matters to you? List every value you would want to share with your teen. Just jot them down and brainstorm.
Now narrow it down, combine, and fine tune those into 3 or 4 core values. Do you live those values now? Would your kids agree with these being core values for your family? If your first value is that family always come first, but you haven’t sat down and had a meal together in weeks, maybe it’s time to send that text and gather your teenagers for a pizza night?
Maybe you don’t think of values as related to rules at all, but start thinking in terms of how your teen’s thoughts, behaviors and actions relate to your family values. If one of your values was family first, does your teen value family time. Are they encouraged to participate in family activities? Think about ways to help your teen find a better balance. Give them permission to go out on Saturday night, but make one condition of going out, an opportunity to participate in family game night on Friday night. If one of your core values was a solid work ethic, build more work into your teen’s life. Encourage a part time job by eliminating spending money being handed out. Encourage a large project for a family friend or relative where he is shown what work ethic means and ultimately he is shown a sense of pride and accomplishment after the hard work. Teach your teen what your values mean, give them real world opportunities to understand your values first hand.
Independence. Not surprisingly, the rock solid, bottom on this blueprint is Independence. Your teen’s job is to grow up and grow independent. Make independence a part of your teen’s core. As early as possible show your teen that they are capable of anything they try. Teach them that they can take care of themselves and will need to take care of themselves and maybe even themselves and house full of kids in this amazing house that you have built the foundation for. They need to cook, clean, care for others, and make safe, appropriate decisions all on their own. Give them big jobs and have them figure it out; change a car tire, put oil in the lawn mower, bake a new recipe. They will learn very quickly that they are capable of more than they think and more importantly they will learn they can find the answer or solution to any problem anytime, anywhere if they know where to look. Let them fail, but show them how to try again and again until they succeed.
How does this translate from rules to foundation in day to day life? Talk with them about earning independence. It is not a gift you are giving them. It is so critical to their future success; it is the most inspected element of the foundation you are laying. I really have no idea what goes into a literal foundation, but whatever the most important ingredient to my basement floor was, that’s the independence piece!! That’s the part that is going to provide your teen with a beautiful home and life that is solid and strong rather than a constant burden of cracks that cause his foundation to be wobbly and precarious. Talk to your teen about that. Let him know that chores and daily responsibilities are going be the difference in those two lives. Let him know that earning independence is going to be difficult and not always fun, but a critical piece to growing up. Give your teen clear connections between Freedoms and Responsibilities. If he completes his responsibilities, he earns freedoms. Draw the connections for him. That changes the rules into his own decision to earn the freedoms.
Freedoms – Responsibilities Chart
|Drive the family car
||Fill the car with gas, take the car in for oil change as needed, pay own auto insurance (start with one and add as they get older or begin to drive more)
|Have friends sleep over
||Clean the house and bathroom to family standard
|Owning a smart phone rather than a lame flip phone
||Pay for the phone and data plan every month!
|Keep room in whatever state of disarray they like
||Do own laundry. From start to finish.
|Eat whenever, (whatever, wherever)
||Cook a family meal once a week regularly. At least one night a week plan, cook and clean up.
|Stay out past curfew for special event
||Consistently prove that they meet all expectations they next day. i.e.: go to work on time next day, are awake and ready to do the above items as agreed
|Fill in the item your teen thinks he’s ready for
||Ask yourself, “what are the adult responsibilities they would need to meet if they were living on their own”. Find a connection to the “boring” part of being an adult.
See full article on Freedoms vs. Responsibilities here: http://joyhartman.com/my-teen-wants-more-and-more-freedom/
Drop the rules and build a more purposeful foundation for your teens! A solid, strong start to their adult life is the best gift you can give them!
What are you going to use for your teens foundation? What materials are going into your teen’s foundation?
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