It’s not my teenagers fault that the wet towels are still on the floor. It’s not their fault that they haven’t got any money. It’s not their fault that they didn’t do their homework and it’s certainly not their fault that they missed the bus.
We’ve heard it all before right? The blame game? Where our children blame something else or someone for their mistakes?
The problem is when they don’t begin to see that this is not helping them. When they don’t learn from this. I think all teenagers are very egocentric and find it tricky to see the point of view of others around them. They are clouded in hormones!
How can we parent our teenagers to see that by blaming everything around them for their own failures it is not helpful? How can we help them to take responsibility for their own faults without damaging their self-esteem? It’s a tough one but here are my top 5 tips that I hope will prove helpful to you:
1. Demonstrate personal responsibility
How can we ask our children to take more responsibility when we don’t do this ourselves? Be honest and admit if you have done something wrong. I hate this culture we seem to have at the moment of blaming others. If you drop something that smashes in the supermarket, tell someone and apologise. If you shout at your teenagers but afterwards realise that you overreacted, tell them you are sorry and that you were wrong. By being great role models, we are helping our children grow into responsible adults.
If you would like your children to act in a certain way, expect that of them. If you do everything for your child or teenager, how can you expect them to be independent? I see this all the time in my job as a teacher. Children of 7 carrying nothing into school whilst their poor mum is carrying 4 school bags! Why can’t a child of 7 carry their own school bag? They are not babies! Expect your child to put their toys away and gradually, they will do this. I know it is sometimes quicker to do things for your children but they have to learn for themselves. If you want your teenager to engage with their grandparents, then expect them to and tell them when they are not. They can’t learn otherwise. As they grow into teenagers, those habits are there so hopefully we don’t have to nag too much!
Tweens and teenagers are quite capable of doing chores around the house but you can’t expect them to be helpful unless you start to give them chores when they are younger. In the Old House, the children have two chores each day in the school holidays and I expect that they are done but I don’t want arguments. Therefore, they will often choose which chores to do from a list and in that way, I am offering them choice in what they do. Most of the time they do their chores really well and I don’t have to nag! In fact, both children will now do other chores without being asked; they can see what needs doing. It was a real chore for me to start with when they started to do chores at about aged 7, but now it is paying off. We want them to become responsible adults but we have to show them what this means. I’m a little softer on them in the term time but they still have daily chores, like feeding the animals. They also have to remember to take everything to school for themselves and have done this since the age of 10. If they forgot their trainers for Sports, for example, I did not go up to their school with them. They would get into trouble at school but they never forgot their trainers again!
Make your teenager aware that they are in ownership of their life. It is their dreams and so they are the only one to make those dreams become a reality. Encourage your teenager to make plans and follow through with them where possible. We gave both children an allowance for clothes when they turned 14. This money goes straight into their bank account and they were told what they were expected to buy with it. We would buy their school clothes, underwear, a warm coat and a pair of shoes for summer and winter. They could then spend the rest as they wanted, on what they wanted. To start with, my daughter spent all her money on makeup but she soon learnt that not having many clothes was not fun! Our son trades and buys clothes on Depop so seems to always have money! Both have dabbled in getting jobs to supplement this money too which has been brilliant. By giving them the ownership of their own money makes them think (sometimes) about the choices they need to make. At Christmas, they know they have to buy presents for family members and they save accordingly. There have been many mistakes made but I feel that they have really learnt by them and are now a little more responsible with money (although if they go to university, I’ll let you know how that goes!).
I don’t shield my children. If they get a bad grade at school, then they know that this was because they did not put the work in. There are consequences for not handing in their maths homework! I know of parents who will blame the teacher for their child’s poor grades when we all know that their children are out drinking or at parties. This does not help their child in the long run! In the workplace, there will be no one to blame if things don’t go their way. I’m hoping that both my children study hard for their exams. My daughter studied for her GCSE’s and she did well. We try to show them that hard work will bring rewards by working hard ourselves. Being part of a sports team has also really helped my children as they have to work as part of a team. By not turning up to games they create consequences for the whole team and that is a powerful message for teenagers who care what others think.
My children are at the age where I have to keep my fingers crossed that we have done a good job as parents. At 17 and 15, they are older teenagers and we hope that by making their mistakes when they were younger, they are becoming responsible young people. Being a parent of teenagers is like walking along a ledge of a skyscraper at times; you just don’t know if you will be able to stay on the ledge as one small gust of wind may push you over the edge. You just have to pray for sunny weather and make sure you are wearing trainers!