9 Ways to Make Your Teenager More Responsible
I bet you think the world of your teenager and love them unconditionally. It’s only natural — but are you bringing up a child who’ll become a responsible grownup?
Let’s face it; teenagers get a bad rap ostensibly for being lazy, texting while driving, showing untoward behavior, losing stuff, and generally being irresponsible.
However, it’s crucial for parents, guardians, and teachers to understand that the brain areas responsible for executive functions like memory, organization, self-control, and planning aren’t fully developed in teens — nor will they be until they’re in their mid-20s, at the earliest.
Just like language, responsibility-related skills such as problem-solving, behavior, and decision-making follow a progressive path. In fact, they sprout in early childhood and must be nurtured over time, especially during the teenage years. That’s why teenagers shouldn’t be left to their own devices.
So, how can you raise a responsible teenager?
Instead of sitting on the sidelines, it should be your primary focus as a parent to instill a sense of belonging and responsibility in your teenager. It’s paramount to help your child acquire these vital life skills sooner rather than later.
Yes, it may seem like a tough struggle at first, but this is a battle worth fighting. In the meantime, here are nine things you can do to help your teenager be more responsible and keep better track of stuff.
1- Set clear and practical expectations
Right off the bat, teenagers need to know what’s expected of them, and what they can expect of themselves, as well. This may sound trivial, but it is the coveted first step to motivating them to be more accountable.
When they were very young, you probably loved your little one with few expectations. But now that he or she is a teen, it’s about time you set some expectations and make them known to your kid.
By being aware of these expectations, your teenager will likely work hard towards realizing them. In turn, this will set a firm foundation on which your child will learn to be more responsible.
Note, however, that not all expectations are created equal. The last thing you want is to create an unpleasant power struggle between you and your teenager. For this reason, you need to ensure that your expectations are not only clear-cut but also very realistic and achievable.
Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Is what you expect from your teen reasonable? If you set unrealistic expectations, your relationship will most likely sour and what began as a well-meaning plan will quickly turn into a nightmare.
Don’t forget that teenagers have their plates already full. Unbeknownst to you, your seemingly confident teen is probably wrestling with image issues, heavy school workload, too many commitments, and complicated social relationships. A lot is going on in their worlds, although it may seem like a pretty simple and uneventful life to you. That is where you can come in.
As a rule of thumb, there are a few other important things to keep in mind when it comes to setting expectations for your teenager:
- Forget about the all-or-nothing mindset – Your teen should know that to fall a little short doesn’t mean they failed. Make this clear right from the get-go.
- Be consistent – Create long-term expectations and chunk them down into easy-to-digest short-term milestones. Still, they should be clear and consistent with the big picture.
- There’s little room for “you” – When setting these expectations, it’s not prudent to base them on yourself. Your teenager is unique, and so should your expectations be.
When all’s said and done, remember that your teenager is an individual with unique talents, interests, weaknesses, ambitions, and strengths. Your expectations should rely heavily on these traits.
2- Help your teenager keep track of stuff
This is a big one. You’ve probably noticed that your teen has been losing stuff recently. Misplaced retainers, lost keys, empty gas tank on a Monday morning – the whole shebang. It can be frustrating, I know.
Teenagers lose track of stuff because they have too many things, complex routines, too many commitments, and often a general lack of ability to stay organized.
The good news is that organized people are not likely to lose stuff, which is where you come in. Instead of giving a long talking-to, help your teen create an organization plan and system for their room, locker, backpack, and overall life.
There are multiple realistic ways you can approach this:
Recommend the use of one binder to organize the backpack. It all starts with decluttering and organizing the most important thing in a teenager’s life: the backpack. Rather than using several binders with confusing colors, they should use a single binder with front and back pockets as well as dividers within these pockets. This way, they can slip in papers, assignments, and other school paraphernalia.
With a well-organized binder, getting started in the morning becomes easy, and keeping track of stuff throughout the day is equally effortless. Chances are you’ll never hear about forgotten homework again!
Help your teen drink plenty of fluids. Teens often forget to stay hydrated, which can impact on their health and well-being. And, little known to most people, dehydration can also leave your teenager dizzy, tired, sleepy, and inattentive.
Research has even shown that proper hydration enhances brain function, especially concentration and memory. Lucky for you, water bottles are some of the trendiest products right now and we’ve put together the best water bottles money can buy, so you won’t be hard-pressed to find one that a teen will love to use every day.
Your teenager will especially flip over our top pick, Kool8 bottle. It’s not just eco-friendly and superbly insulated; it’s also drop-dead gorgeous, so he or she will always look cool with it.
Does your teen keep misplacing water bottles? With Kool8, that’s a thing of the past because you can pick their favorite color from a choice of three bright hues. And if it does get misplaced, its imposing color might make it easier to spot in the lost and found.
Their smartphone could be your teen’s BFF, in the right way! Your teen should understand that a smartphone is not just for taking selfies, Snapchat, and texting. Encourage your child to set reminders, schedule due dates, and keep track of other important things using their smartphones.
Tasks apps can also be incredibly helpful. Instead of a manual checklist, your teen should take full advantage of technology to make sure tasks are completed on time. In this regard, a smartphone may be their most effective tool for staying organized.
All in all, it pays to embrace what seems to work best for your teen. A to-do list may do the trick for you, but not for your child. Use technology, think visually, and make sure she’s well hydrated – all of these will help her keep stuff and life organized.
3- Trust your teenager
I can see some parents already rolling their eyes on this one and perhaps justifiably so.
Responsibility is learned, but trust is earned. But you’d be surprised how much improvement your teen will make if you show a little trust in them and not just the mutual respect as a human being that everyone should be accorded.
It may be uncomfortable and counterintuitive at first, but it pays to learn to trust your teenager to make the right decisions in the right situations. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every scenario.
So, if your teenage daughter says she will take care of the house so you can go out for a date night, don’t hesitate to let her. While your parental instincts may tell you otherwise, go out on a limb on this one – you may be thankful you did later.
Once your teenager knows that you trust them, they will have the incentive to take more charge of things in their life and be more responsible. Trust also comes with other bonus perks, such as:
- It helps strengthen the much-needed parent-child bond
- It makes your teen feel more comfortable and open to share their struggles
- It sets your teen up for positive relationships when they become an adult
Before you can trust your daughter or son, it’s important that you build a trustworthy relationship first. It’s a two-way street. How so?
- Create an avenue for honest, judgment-free communication – “judgment-free” being the important part of the phrase
- Eat together as often as you can – shared meals help reinforce a sense of belonging and trust
- Be consistent yourself
- Be a role model for your teenager – model what you think is appropriate, trustful behavior
When it comes to trust, nothing beats putting in the effort. Don’t expect results to come out of the blue.
4- Make sure your teenager creates good routines and habits
Adolescence is a ripe time to develop and nurture good habits and routines. After all, they will become bound by these routines and habits well into their adulthood.
Having a predictable and organized routine is not all about keeping track of stuff or getting things done, though; it can also deliver more benefits than you can think.
Regular bedtime and wake-up time routine, for instance, will help set your child’s “internal” clock so their body can naturally tell them when it’s time to wake up or sleep. Let’s not forget sleep is crucial for their mental and physical well-being.
At home, routines and good habits will help your teenager feel secure, confident and safe, as well as organized. These will come in handy in times of change since your teen will be more responsible and likely to take better charge of the situation.
Forming routines and organized habits can also help your kid reduce memory problems and keep a tab on their belongings. If your teen has an end-of-school-day routine, for example, they won’t lose items.
More crucially, having important tasks in their day-to-day routine (such as taking out the garbage, making their bed, setting the table, walking the pet, etc.) may help your teen develop a sense of responsibility.
In addition, creating routines and habits can facilitate the development of work and life skills such as time management, setting priorities, planning, and so forth.
How can you help?
- Limit screen time – Today’s teens were born and raised in a highly digital environment. Most of them spend countless hours glued to their small and big screens. By fixing their time with electronics, you’re creating more room for other worthy routines.
- Fix up time for fitness – With childhood obesity growing at an alarming rate, it’s on you to encourage your teen to stay physically fit. Let your teen go for a hike, walk the dog, or enroll in an evening or weekend sports activity. If your teen is a fitness buff, some awesome fitness gifts may help them commit to their exercise routine.
- Foster the habit of volunteering and charity – You can do this together on a weekly or monthly basis. It’s a wonderful way to instill responsibility and help your teen develop a sense of empathy and kindness for others and passion for a cause.
These are just a few ways. You can also inspire your teen to spend more time with the extended family, care for the environment, and become a life-long learner.
5- Take a multi-prong approach to stop teen texting while driving
Teen texting and driving is no small issue in America. Teenage drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash than their adult counterparts.
Well ahead of drinking and driving, texting and driving is the #1 killer of drivers aged between 15 and 20, claiming more than 6,000 teenage lives annually. What’s more, we lose roughly 11 teenagers daily to text-while-driving accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
While 94 percent of American teenagers recognize the dangers of texting while driving, unfortunately, 35 percent still do text while active on the wheel.
As a parent, these stats are poised to arouse your deepest fears and anxieties. So, what can you do to help allay this teen driving vice?
Talk to your child. Does your teen know that driving and texting or cell phone use don’t go together? Have a serious sit-down with your child, and make it clear that texting while driving is a big NO.
Be sure to detail all the consequences of texting and driving. If you reside in Guam, Puerto Rico, DC or any of the 44 states that have roundly banned texting for all drivers, your teen needs to know that it’s against the law.
During this meeting, set ground rules, and make sure to enforce them. NHTSA recommends that you let your teenager know that driving is not a right, but rather a privilege that can be taken away if abused.
There are loads of scaring statistics about teen texting & driving out there. Use them to “scare your child straight.”
Set a great example. A 2018 Liberty Mutual Insurance study found that about 69 percent of parents of teens admit to practicing distracting behaviors while driving, so this isn’t limited to teenagers. In saying this, the first thing you should do is model safe driving for your teenager.
Never talk or text your teenager if you suspect they are driving. Before striking a conversation with your teenager, make a habit of asking if they are on the wheel. If your son is driving, for example, ask him to pull over and call him back if the message is urgent; otherwise, it can wait.
Install apps that prevent text while driving. Most apps like DriveOFF, AT&T Drive Mode, TextLimit, and TextShield help turn off texting when the car reaches a certain speed.
Install a car phone mount on your teen’s ride. Using a handheld device like a cell phone while driving is one of the greatest distractions for most teen drivers, which is why installing a quality car phone mount might help. This nifty gadget not only allows for hands-free driving but also makes it possible to receive directions, play music, and stay in contact.
Car phone mounts come in many shapes and sizes, making it difficult to make the right choice. Luckily, we’ve put together a complete guide to choosing the right model for you, including some of our top picks for the best car phone mounts you can buy today.
VERY IMPORTANT WARNING: It’s critical to note that using a mounted cell phone is still considered distracted driving in some states and cities. And, more crucially, there are special rules for teen drivers in place in most states right now.
For instance, novice drivers (most of whom are 16 or 17-year-olds issues with Intermediate License) cannot text via voice to text conversions, on their mounted cell phones while driving.
That’s why you should check with your local law enforcement authority to make sure this is legal in your area
6- Should you help or not? Let there be natural consequences!
A nudge in the direction can go a long way, but too much involvement can do more harm than good. When a teenager forgets his or her stuff at home, should you help bring them to their school?
It helps to know where to draw the line. And it all comes down to where your teen has reached in terms of mental, physical, and psychological development. This is particularly the case if your child has ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, or other developmental disorders.
For a normal 17-year-old teenager, for instance, not helping bring stuff they forgot at home has nothing to do with being a bad or good parent. Otherwise put, it doesn’t imply that you don’t care.
That’s because a lack of organization is mostly to blame for forgetfulness in teens, so you’re off the hook. It’s critical for the teenager to face the consequences of their actions. Experiencing the consequence of forgetting homework at home – a lower grade or being sent to detention, for example – may help your teen learn relatively painlessly that there are consequences for actions.
When you remember every little thing for your teenager, he or she will not work out their recall muscle, and then they become more and more forgetful. It’s akin to pushing your child deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of forgetfulness.
Obviously, as previously noted, this does not necessarily apply to teens with developmental disorders, who need extra help in maintaining a schedule and organization. And parents must remember to be flexible, too.
7- Involve your teenager in household decision-making
Bad choices lead to a terrible life, and the other way around is also true. The sooner your teenager comes to the conclusion that life’s about choices, the better. The best way to move this along is to allow choices.
That’s right. Rather than make household decisions solo, why not bring in the new brain in the house?
Whether you’re looking to purchase a new car/kitchen appliance, redo the interior décor of your home, or plan the next vacation, ask your teen for their opinion, input, or views. It’s a great way to build trust and foster a sense of responsibility.
It doesn’t have to be big decisions. You can simply convene the whole family once every week so you can decide on your next movie night ideas, chore list, meal plans, etc.
8- Practice positive reinforcement: reward good behavior
Ask any smart parent, and they’ll tell you positive reinforcement is the be-all-and-end-all of awesome parenting. Don’t get it wrong; we are not talking about bribing your teenage son or daughter here.
In the same manner, you let your teen face consequences of bad decisions, it’s important for them to realize that good things come from doing good. That’s the overarching principle behind positive reinforcement.
As such, if your child holds their end of the bargain, don’t hesitate to reward them. What reward you choose to give is all up to you, but it doesn’t have to be monetary in nature.
The reward can be as simple as a hug, a few words of thank-you, a ticket to their favorite show, or even a pat on the back – or as expensive as new designer clothes, iPhone, redesigned bedroom, spanking new ride, etc.
Anything goes here, as long as it speaks to the fact that you have noted and appreciated their good deed. Make sure to seize the moment, and don’t let it ride for a long time. Don’t just “catch them being bad.” Catch them being good, too!
9- Let your teenager take ownership
If your teen is not on board with your plan, nothing is probably going to come out of it. You can avoid this by involving your teen right from the planning stage. This shows that you respect his or her individuality.
Don’t forget that you cannot live your teen’s life. They need to understand that their life – all the bad and good – is theirs to live.
When your daughter participates in creating her own routine, for instance, she will more likely take ownership of the process and work towards it.
Speaking of individuality, you need to acknowledge that your teen’s way of doing things may be different. If they go down a different route, accept it. This can touch on small decisions, like what color to paint their bedroom. Or it can be a huge life choice, like a career decision or sexual orientation. This is where judgment-free listening comes into play.
There you have it – nine ways you can help your teenager be more responsible. If you follow through with these tried-and-true techniques, you will be doing teenage parenting better than ever!