5 Tips to Raise an Independent Teen to Become a Responsible Adult

Parenting strategies that equip kids for the real world

Most parents dream of a responsible, independent teenager—one that lends a hand with household chores without being asked, always calls to check-in and hangs out with a good crowd of friends. But, in reality, all teens are going to drop the ball on responsibility (occasionally, at least).

And while you don't need your teen to be a perfect kid, you do need him to be ready for the realities of adulthood. To best prepare your teen for the future, it's important to offer a balance between giving enough guidance and allowing for enough freedom.


Let Your Teen Show How Much Freedom They Can Handle

Make sure your teen has the skills she needs to become an independent adult.
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Make it clear that you’ll grant more freedom when your teen proves she's able to make good decisions. When she shows up on time for curfew, when she makes good choices with friends, and when she takes care of her responsibilities, you’ll know she can handle a little more freedom.

Brainstorm solutions for potential situations with your teen might encounter ahead of time. Whether she’s going out with friends or you’re leaving her home alone for the night, ask her how she might handle certain issues.

Ask, "What would you do if your friend handed you a cigarette?" or "What would you do if someone knocked on the door and said he was a repairman who needs to come in?"

Talk about the fact that we all make mistakes sometimes. And owning up to those mistakes shows responsibility. Tell your teen if she tries to cover up her mistakes by lying or covering up her mistakes, you'll know she's not ready to handle more responsibilities. 


Create a Schedule With Your Teen

Most teens have a lot going on and they need a little support with time management to behave responsibly. Sit down together and look over your teen's schedule. Talk about how much time she should set aside for chores, homework, and extracurricular activities.

Talk about how she can create a schedule that works best for her. While one teen might want to do homework right after school, another one might want a break for an hour before diving back into work.

During the digital age, your teen doesn't necessarily need a paper calendar. She might find an app or online calendar helps give her the reminders she needs to be responsible.

When she forgets to do her chores or has to stay up late to get her homework done, look at her mistake as an opportunity to problem-solve how she can do better next time. Helping her create a schedule for herself will teach her the time management skills she needs to thrive in the adult world.


Encourage Your Teen to Help Out

Doing chores shows responsibility. But going above and beyond regular household chores is a great way for your teen to become more independent.

Teach your teen to give to the community in some way. Volunteering at an animal shelter, participating in community clean-up efforts, or fundraising for a good cause can help your teen feel more responsible—which will encourage him to behave more responsibly.

Giving to the community will help your teen see that he has the power to make a difference in someone's life. It's good for his self-esteem and it will help him become a proactive adult who is invested in solving problems and supporting others.


Teach Life Skills

It can be easy to assume that your teen is on the path to becoming independent because he excels on the soccer field or because he gets his homework done on time. But just because your teen is doing well in some areas of his life doesn’t mean he’s ready to take on the responsibilities of the real world.

Make sure you’re investing time into teaching your teen life skills. Practical skills, like how to do the laundry and how to cook meals, are important. But it’s also essential to make sure your teen knows how to manage his money and understands how to communicate with other people effectively.

While your teen may pick up on some of these skills simply by watching you, she won’t learn everything through observation. Proactively teach your teen how to manage a household and how to solve real-life problems.


Be Clear About Consequences

There will be times when your teen makes mistakes (or even purposely breaks your rules). Make sure that her poor choices lead to negative consequences. Logical consequences, like the loss of privileges, can be effective teachers.

Resist the urge to make excuses or rescue your teen from her mistakes. Sometimes, natural consequences can serve as the best reminders to make a better choice next time.

It’s hard to watch your child grow up and realize that she won’t be your little baby forever. However, you’re doing your teen a disservice if you don’t instill a sense of responsibility. In the long run, your teen will thank you for turning her into a responsible, independent adult.

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.