Independence (aka, the opportunity to screw up)
By senior year, your kid needs to practice establishing some of their own boundaries. Younger teens are told what to do (“Be home by 12 so that you can get your sleep.”). Older teenagers should increasingly decide for themselves (“What time are you going to be home tonight?”). BUT! While they identify their own limits, you will make them think it through. It has to be reasonable and you will hold them to the limit they set. “You said you would be home by 2 and its 2:30. You’re grounded”. If it’s risky, they have to make the case they can handle it responsibly. If they go too far freedom is curtailed. Then have them try again.
The most important predictor of success in adulthood is the ability to put off immediate desires for long term goals. Does your kid pass on fun things to complete assignments? Do they follow through on commitments no matter what? Do they recognize when they are letting things slide? Talk directly with them about the importance of self-discipline. Require them to keep commitments, especially when they interfere with something fun.
Pay close attention to how your kid makes good decisions. Do they weigh the long term consequences? Do they accurately assess potential risks? Do they put more weight on reason (rather than emotions) in making decisions? Do they seek out and take advice? Help them think all the way through the potential outcomes of different options, both the desirable and the undesirable. When their decisions turn out to be bad one, sit down with them and review how they might have anticipated it (and how they might do it differently the next time).
Living with integrity
Are your kid’s actions guided by a set of strongly held morals or values? Do they hold themselves to a high standard? Do they keep their word? Do they take responsibility for their actions? Do they respect the rights of others? Are they honest? Keep pounding away at the importance of living a moral life.
Seniors need the opportunity for freedom, responsibility, personal accountability and learning from mistakes if they are going to be ready for young adulthood. Communication is especially crucial during this phase to help them think for themselves. This means talking things through rather than telling them what to do. If they are demonstrating these skills already, be proud and leave things alone. If they haven’t quite mastered them, times a wastin! Take this time to help prepare them for their first run at independence when you can still offer some guidance (and protection).
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