This article was written by Associate Professor of Christian Ministries, Dr. Dave Keehn, who is also a youth pastor and father to three amazing kids (ages 20, 17, and 7).
The stages of parenting can trap many families in unhealthy patterns of relating. The joy of childbirth creates an enthusiasm to cater to a newborn child’s every need. New parents plan, save and sacrificially give to this new family addition so much that many first year birthday parties are over-the-top celebrations of the parents’ achievements, of which the baby will have no remembrance. As the child grows, the roles are reversed and the child is controlled in all facets of life: when to eat, what they will eat, when to go to bed. What the child is to do and how they are to do it is dictated by loving parents, seeking the child’s best. This parenting methodology works well until the late elementary years, so well that many parents continue to employ the “controlling” stance long after it has run its course and becomes unhealthy.
Teenagers need to be coached, not controlled, to help the growth towards adulthood responsibility develop. Coaches may still insist on how the “play” is executed so this is not a call for the abandonment of rules; but good coaches do more of teaching others how to do the work and do not take over the game itself. How sad it is for me as a college professor to watch a student who is unsure of how to make decisions for themselves, to take care of themselves in healthy, emotionally balanced and spiritually growing ways. Parents of teenagers need to think of the tasks that will enable a teen to live responsibly and healthy after leaving the comforts of a parent’s home.
Here are 6 areas you should teach your kids to do for themselves before they leave the house. Help them help themselves by learning:
To do their own laundry. This will insure they do not smell until their next home visit. Therefore, as parents – resist the urge to rescue a teen that has forgotten to wash his or her sports uniform needed the next morning. You will need to invest time in teaching your teenager the simple “tricks” that make doing the laundry a part of your every week routine.
To cook 4 different meals and clean the dishes afterwards. This will insure they will eat balanced meals each week and not upset roommates with dirty dishes left for others to see and do for them. Involve your teenager in the making of one meal each week. Have them help select the menu with foods they enjoy and are nutritionally healthy. Continue adding new meals until they have mastered the preparation of four meals and can cook them by themselves for the family. Agree with your teen that whoever does not cook the meal should share in the clean up work, so once your teen is able to cook a meal – you offer to do the dishes, but until then, insist that your teen help out in the kitchen in some form.
To clean a bathroom. This will keep them healthy and teach them servanthood towards their roommates. This may take some time to teach your teen to clean to the level of your standards. Do not expect the teen to react with excitement at the thought of cleaning a toilet. However, buy the necessary tools that will help insure this important task is accomplished in a manner that promotes proper hygiene and quick service.
To change a tire. This will keep them safe when stranded on the side of the road. While owning an AAA auto club membership is a smart investment for your child, there is no substitute to a basic knowledge of how a car operates. Some roadside emergencies need the help of a tow truck and mechanic, but changing a tire can be a valuable skill to save them time, money and impress others. This can be as simple as showing your teen where the spare tire, car jack and tools are located in their car. However, I would suggest allowing the teen to practice changing a tire by helping you rotate the tires when this maintenance is next required.
To budget their money. This will have great benefits as your child does not spend more than they earn. Avoiding debt is a secret to long-term financial independence. Teach your teen the value of money by giving them their allowance in cash as a monthly or bi-weekly “paycheck.” Insist they buy the things they want, while you may cover the necessities. Resist the ease of giving your teen a credit card as purchases loses their full relevance upon the cash they earn. When your teenager gets his or her first job, sit down and plan out a budget based on godly percentages: give 10% to God’s work, save 10%, live on the rest (80%). As their money increases, they may need a checking account, which adds new layers of financial management tips to teach them. Check out the variety of Christian resources available online in this area.
To choose a church to join for weekly worship. This will help them continue to grow in their faith after they have graduated from your home and the church’s youth ministry. Discuss with your teen why you have chosen to attend the church you do. Allow your teen to select 2 different spiritual activities at the church that they will participate in each week. As the parent, you should still insist on a family worship experience so that your teen joins you each week in a worship gathering, but you should take into consideration your teenager’s music preference and time schedule. By allowing the teenager to choose weekly how he or she invests time in their relationship with God, you are giving your teen the tools to continue to grow spiritually when they leave home for college.
A simple rule is: Do not do for a teen what he or she can do for themselves.
By investing time in coaching your teenager while they are still living with you at home, you are helping your teen help themselves for life A.P. (after parents). From all of us who may interact with your child at college and life beyond, we thank you for how you have coached your teenager to be a responsible young adult.