Teenagers bring with them a capacity to risk and explore their world similar to when they were toddlers. The difficulty is, most teens want the freedom of egocentric toddlers without the responsibility they need to bear as they are approaching young adulthood. Parents hope that as their son or daughter matures, he/she will meet developmental milestones and become more stable; making sound judgments and decisions in school, family relationships, and life overall. I find with young men I work with, that they often are unaware of the gross misunderstanding they often espouse about what being responsible truly means. Many report their parents stand in the way and that things would be better if parents would extend more freedom and be less controlling. In the oppositional teen, freedom attached to choice or responsibility is incomprehensible, as teens often feel they are simply entitled to it. Parents must help guide adolescents to learn that freedom comes with a price, responsibility.The generally accepted criteria of adulthood in western culture is understood as a three-tiered framework. Healthy adults generally accept responsibility for their actions; make independent decisions, and are financially independent. Granted, this doesn’t happen all of the time but a majority of the time in healthy adults. Ironically, in light of the aforementioned ‘definition’ as considered by theorists, many teens feel they are entitled to freedom just like their parents without any responsibility.They learn freedom comes from responsible decision making. Freedom descends upon them when and if they can handle and manage responsibility. For example, freedom from pressing homework deadlines is inseparably connected to planning and study prior to the night before homework is due. Doing well academically does not befall one no matter how much one feels entitled to it. It will not come without embracing responsibility first!Parents can facilitate their child’s understanding of freedom in several ways. Speaking and permitting choices based on the level of what they can manage is foundational. Teens can then come to know that from freedom is not an entitlement but actually an outcome of what they can handle responsibly. Speaking and parenting in this manner helps them realize that in fact their freedoms being restricted or offered are not a function of the parent but rather flow out of the nature and level of the teen can handle. Adolescents can learn deeply that from freedom flows greater responsibility and in order to amplify choices one must first begin living responsibility.
Copyright: No part of this article in section or full may be reproduced without permission from the author Justin Stum, MS LMFT. The one and only exception is for educational purposes and only if the contact information below for the author is fully cited here in article. Justin Stum, MS LMFT, 640 E. 700 S., Suite 103, St. George Utah 84770 435-574-9193, http://www.justinstum.com
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