How to Prepare Teenagers for Adulthood
By Carol Topp
A concerned mother asked my advice concerning her 23-year-old son who was working 60 hours a week for a large accounting firm. “He doesn’t have time to attend Wednesday evening church services,” she said. “What can I do?” I told her as kindly as I could, “You need to stop being a homeschool mom.” Her son was a young, healthy adult pursuing a promising career. It was hard for this mother to let go, but the reality is that there was nothing she could—or should—do to interfere in her adult son’s work schedule.
Micro Managing Our Teenagers
Her question made me wonder if homeschool parents are prone to over-manage our children. We are accustomed to being very involved in their lives, but are we helicopter parents, hovering over our kids, even when they are grown-ups? Perhaps we parent too closely when, instead, we should be using their teenage years to be focused on raising adults.
Joanne Calderwood, homeschool mother of eight children and blogger at URtheMom.com, offers seven signs that you may be micro-managing your teenager.
- You have to repeat yourself over and over.
- You help your teen without being asked.
- You step in before your teen makes a mistake.
- You make excuses for your teen.
- You run your teen’s daily schedule of activities.
- Your teen has no privacy.
- Your teen is afraid to make a decision without you.
Joanne cautions, “Micromanagement eventually kills the motivation of even the most motivated! If you’ve ever been micromanaged as an adult, you know this well.”
Give Them Wings Not Strings
Authors Dennis Trittin and Arilyn Lawrence (a former homeschool mom), saw many of the same problems that Joanne and I recognized. They saw parents over-controlling their teenagers and continuing that into adulthood. In Parenting for the Launch, they write, “We tie our kids down when we overly enable or control them…they are inhibited rather than equipped. When we fail to relinquish control, (our children) become weak in areas where they need to be strong because we exercised our own muscles in those situations and not theirs.”
Their advice is to give our teenagers wings, not strings. Several practical ways to do that include:
- If they sleep in, don’t nag and yell.
- If they spend all their money, don’t bail them out.
- If they have a conflict, don’t jump in and try to fix it.
The goal of parenting independent teenagers is to incrementally release control and increasingly hand over the reins to our children. Trittin and Lawrence point out that, “Being an adult is hard work. Teens need to feel the weight of hard work incrementally, so when they hit the real world they can step into it gracefully instead of doing a crash and burn.” It’s not wise to give your teenager full control all at once. Start by requiring them to practice life skills they will need as grown-ups. Here are their top suggestions:
Earn Their Own Income and Manage Their Own Money
Discuss with your teenager how they can earn money from a job or, better yet, by starting a micro business. Fifteen-year-old Ethan was thrilled to be making double minimum wage by teaching guitar lessons. His mother was pleased that he was learning how to manage his time and money. My Micro Business for Teens books will help your teenager brainstorm ideas and launch a successful micro business.
Show your teen how to set up a budget, operate a checking account and live with financial principles. Financial guru, Dave Ramsey, offers books, a podcast, YouTube videos and live seminars. He also has a high school curriculum that is video-based, entertaining and informative. Also, have your student prepare their own tax returns (or show them yours). The IRS has an excellent website called Understanding Taxes with simulations of several taxpayers’ tax returns, including teenagers.
Practice Life Skills
There are many life skills that a teenager should be learning including laundry, cooking and cleaning. Children can start doing their own laundry as soon as they are tall enough to reach into the washer and pull out clothes. In Patricia Sprinkle’s book, Children Who Do Too Little, you’ll find a list of appropriate chores for all ages. Cooking is another important life skill. A teenager should learn how to prepare some complete meals. Not only will they learn to feed themselves, they may begin to appreciate your efforts in getting a meal on the table. My nephew, John, understood why his mother was so tired after cooking when he had to prepare a meal from start to finish! No one really likes cleaning, but we all like having a clean house. My daughters and I all learned together how to speed clean a house from Jeff Campbell’s Speed Cleaning books and videos.
Learn Time Management
Give your teenager a planner, calendar or an app for their phone so that they can manage their time and responsibilities. Follow up to see that they are using it and checking their calendars daily. To encourage independence, have your student make their own haircut and dentist appointments. Let them to go to the appointment alone, if it’s realistic.
Take Responsibility for Their Academic Success
Junior high is a good time to begin transferring the responsibility for academic success to your child. It can start by giving them a planner and helping them to track school assignments and plan projects in steps. By high school they may be preparing their own syllabi and academic plans. I found that when my daughters were in high school my role was reduced to grading tests and compiling a transcript. They had become independent learners. Joanne Calderwood has excellent advice on helping kids to learn independently in her book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence.
Live Their Faith In The Real World
Encourage your teenager to begin learning about spiritual things and the culture in the way that adults learn. Rarely do we crack open a textbook anymore, but adults read newspapers, blogs and magazines. One fun and unique way I stay sharp on spiritual issues in the culture is by listening to the Phil Vischer podcast. Phil Visher, creator of Veggie Tales, joins co-hosts author Skye Jethani and actress Christian Taylor for a lively discussion of current events from a Christian perspective.
Explore Potential Careers
Career exploration can be a lot of fun as your student begins to see how their unique gifts, talents and interests can turn into a career. My book Career Exploration for Homeschool High School Students offers an 8 to 12 week course on exploring careers in a group or individually. Part of any career exploration should include job shadowing. Encourage your teenager to follow a professional for a few hours. One student, Erin, switched her college major from forensic science to marketing after shadowing a coroner for a day. She realized she wanted more social interaction with people than working in a laboratory would offer.
It’s not easy letting out teenagers try (and probably fail) in some of these areas. We’re homeschoolers and used to doing a lot for our children. Changing that can be very difficult. But if you want to raise successful adults, you must start gradually handing over the reins and increasingly let them take more control of their lives and responsibilities. In the end, it will be very rewarding to see your teenagers grow into happy, functioning and confident adults.
Carol Topp, CPA is the author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, Career Exploration for Homeschool High School Students and the Micro Business for Teens series. She and her husband live in West Chester, Ohio. They have two grown daughters, both who were homeschooled through high school and are now pursuing their first careers. Visit Carol at MicroBusinessForTeens.com or HomeschoolCPA.com. Make your plans to hear Carol at Teach Them Diligently in Atlanta and Columbus in 2018. She will be speaking in the Leadership Summit as well as throughout the main part of the event. Learn more about Carol on her Homeschool CPA or Microbusiness for Teens websites.
This article was originally published in The Old Schoolhouse magazine, reposted by permission from Carol Topp.
If you have teens, you should definitely check out our FREE Homeschool Guidance Counselor program and the Teach Them Diligently college fair. Learn more about those resources here.
Carol Topp and Leslie Nunnery had a long discussion about this that is available exclusively to members of Teach Them Diligently 365. If you want to even more insight into this subject (as well as access to historic Teach Them Diligently audio recordings, weekly mini-workshops vis video, monthly member meetups and so much more) check out Teach Them Diligently 365 and join today.