Where do you stand on rescuing your teen?
A parent was saying that their teen daughter keeps forgetting her house key and when she gets back from the school, she is locked out of the house. The parent was asking, “do I leave work and rescue her or just let her live out this natural consequence?” What would you do if you were this teen’s parent?
You may find yourself feeling frustrated and worried at the thought of your teen stranded outside until someone else arrives home, or you may be on the side of ”too bad for them, they should have been more prepared." The truth is there is no correct answer exactly…. But this can be a great opportunity to flex your parenting muscle to help your teen learn responsibility, resourcefulness, decision making, and maybe even a little gratitude.
Michigan State University writes here that teaching teens to take responsibility grows their empathy, caring nature, leadership skills and respect for others. These are the building blocks for contributing citizens. The article further breaks it down into personal, interpersonal, and social responsibility and how important each of these are to help teens grow into adulthood.
Forgetting their keys, homework, or other deadlines falls under personal responsibility. Interpersonal responsibility can be built by helping friends and loved ones, or contributing to group projects. Social responsibility is built by contributing to causes and social issues in different ways. Encouraging your teen to have a voice as you collaboratively set clear expectations for their contributions in all these areas will set the path of responsibility in motion.
A great idea that I’ve heard parents use is an “assist” or a “rescue” limit - they offer a couple of these every school year. I love this idea because it allows teens to take personal responsibility for their things and commitments but also lets them know there is some compassion and flexibility here.
Want your kid to think outside the box? Figure out how to solve their problems? I am hearing a resounding YES through the screen!
I am an advocate of growing humans that think “I Can handle this," “I Am ready for this," “I can figure this out." According to Clever Tykes Storybooks resourcefulness is defined as “having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties." Encouraging your teen to be able to pivot, think creatively, and reach into their resource toolbox will definitely help them get through the ups and downs of life. Here are some ideas to build resourcefulness:
I love hearing parents standing firm in their boundary of “I love you, but can’t help you with this issue right now," only to find their teen figures out another creative solution.
The teen brain is under construction. It has some amazing development and wiring processes happening up until young adulthood. This means the emotional brain is wired and heightened and the thinking, rationalizing brain (prefrontal cortex) is still under construction for most of adolescence.
In other words, teens are actually extremely capable of making decisions and in fact make important decisions every day. Encouraging your teen to think, plan, and prepare before acting will guide them towards healthier overall decision making. In this article, Amy Morin suggests the following steps to guide good decision making in teens:
I like the “then what” exercise to help with this one. Play out the scenario with your teen - I forget to pack my gym strip in the morning - then what? Don’t have my clothes for gym class - then what? Get all sweaty in my clothes - then what? Feeling kind of uncomfortable throughout the day, etc.
Play this one out with the successful decision making loop also: I pack my gym strip the night before- then what? I don’t worry about in the morning - then what? I have my gym strip for class - then what? I’m feeling prepared and not worried about this, etc.
Gratitude is the act of appreciating and being thankful for a person, situation, quality, thing, memory, or event. Gratitude has been known to increase happiness and reduce anxiety, amongst other life-giving things. You can watch an experiment in this video to see just how poweful expressing gratitude can be!
Your teen may have gratitude for your help and support as you show up with care in an awkward or difficult situation. Or gratitude may come in the form of shifting perspective on a challenge that presents itself.
Daily gratitude practices are definitely where you get the most bang for your buck when you're trying to create a gratitude practice. My blog article "How much do you know about gratitude? And why you should care" shares several ways to build a gratitude practice with your teen.
And here Braden Bell shares 25 prompts that teens can try to start thinking about gratitude. Try one question a day to get your gratitude practice started! Here are just a few examples:
A teen told me that their gratitude technique is to go through a list of “it could’ve been worse” scenarios and then coming back to the actual situation with gratitude - “could’ve been worse, I could have gone to school in my pyjamas," “could’ve been worse, I could have fallen and broken my leg on my way home." This flip in perspective can help teens cultivate gratitude and find the bright side in the bumps along the way.
So let's go back to the forgotten keys - what do you think you would have done? Has reading this article changed what you would do in the future?
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!
- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
Chantal Côté is a Registered Psychologist in the province of Alberta and the owner of Pyramid Psychology. Pyramid Psychology mission is to help teen girls build Bulletproof Mindsets. Youth are full of greatness and uniqueness and it is a gift to have them share this with the world. Pyramid Psychology supports teens (and parents) that are struggling with anxious and overwhelmed thoughts and feelings. Meeting in person in Southeast Calgary, on-line for those living anywhere in Alberta, and outdoors for walk and talk sessions, Chantal uses a trauma informed lens and invites people to try thought based, mindfulness, and expressive practices to manage and weather the storms of life.