Teens crave independence, and they want to be treated like adults. You can respect their need for independence by giving them more responsibility. It may be scary to rely on your hormonal teen, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. They will normally rise to the occasion, if you let them. Even if they don’t, those failures can teach them valuable life lessons. In the end, you are teaching your teens the skills they need to be successful adults.
Your child may already have chores and earn an allowance. Many teens are responsible for contributing to the home, but they are rarely responsible for vital family care. Roles such as taking younger children to school, cooking meals for the family, or doing laundry will usually fall to parents. Think about the obligations that you have as a parent that your teen might be able to take over. Be honest with them about why you need or want their help. If they understand the contribution they are making, they may be more willing to take on the responsibility.
For instance, ask your teen to plan and prepare a healthy family meal once a week. Make sure that you sit down with them to enjoy what they’ve created, and praise their efforts. Teenagers with driver’s licenses might be able to pick up younger siblings from school, or drive them to events or practices. Whether or not you pay your teen for their new responsibilities is up to you, but contributing to the wellbeing of your family will teach them valuable life skills.
Start a Vegetable Garden
A great way to give teenagers more responsibility is a vegetable garden. Gardening with the family is a wonderful pastime for kids of all ages, but teens can doubly benefit from growing veggies. Growing food to eat helps teens understand the link between the food on their plates and its source. The amount of care and labor it takes to grow a tomato will help them appreciate what they have. If your teen needs some additional incentives, they might consider participating in their local 4-H and learning more about agriculture science. Celebrate their harvests with large, fresh meals. Let them plan the menu and invite family and friends. If you plan this event at the beginning of the season, it will give your teen more motivation to complete the hard work of growing delicious, healthy produce.
Get Some Chickens
Caring for animals is a great way to give kids responsibility, but farm animals are very different from a beloved family pet. Raising chickens offers teenagers all the responsibility of a pet with the additional challenge of egg production. Fresh eggs are a healthy addition to your family menu, or can be sold for a financial incentive. While chickens are relatively easy to care for, they do require a considerable time commitment for a busy teen. Balancing the morning, afternoon, and evening chores related to chicken husbandry is a great experience for a teenager. And no, you don’t have to live on a farm to have a chicken coup. They require a small amount of outdoor space each, and a chicken coup that can be locked in the evenings. While chickens may be more of a family responsibility, you can increase your teen’s buy in by having them research and choose what type of chickens you get, how to raise them, and how to build an appropriate enclosure. The more involved in the process your teen is, the more they will want to take on the responsibility of raising the birds.
Get a Seasonal Job
Maybe the most obvious, but often overlooked, way of giving teens more responsibility is a seasonal job. Unlike a traditional after school gig, or occasional work like babysitting, seasonal jobs often put more of a time commitment on a teenager. Seasonal work also offers opportunities for teens in high responsibility fields, like child care or house sitting. Even teens as young as 15 have seasonal opportunities that might not be available year-round. If your teen likes kids, they may be interested in a job as a camp counselor. House or pet sittings give teens the added incentive of independence when they have to stay overnight in an adult’s home. If anything goes wrong, you are still there to help out.
Volunteering helps teens take responsibility for their community. Providing for those less fortunate teaches teens compassion and gratitude. Plus, volunteers are high value employees! Unlike a traditional job, volunteers are necessary for organizations to continue their work. Feeding South Dakota is an organization with branches across the state, focusing on food banks and pantries. There are several opportunities to volunteer at the Rapid City location, and kids as young as 11 can participate.
There are a lot of ways that you can give your teenager greater responsibility. The life skills that teens learn equal greater independence, motivation, and maturity. As teens navigate their journey to adulthood, support them by letting them know you trust them to take on adult tasks. They may drop the ball sometimes, and they may step up more than you ever thought possible. In the end, you are raising exceptional citizens.
Words by Ron Stefanski
Ron is the founder of JobsForTeensHQ.com and has a passion for helping teenagers find jobs. He created the website because he feels that teenagers need to focus on their professional passions much earlier in life and aims to teach them how they can do that. When he’s not working on his website, Ron is a college professor and loves to travel the world.