We’re all used to cutting back our kids’ privileges when they misbehave or let us down. But as they become young adults, teenagers slowly develop the common sense and maturity that allows them to take on more responsibility and freedom. So how do we know when and under what circumstances it’s time to extend a curfew or let our teens use the car after school? Many parents worry that the minute they grant their teens more privileges, their teens will start either abusing their newfound independence, or worse, put themselves in dangerous situations.
#1 Lay the Groundwork Early
If a teenager hasn’t had the chance to prove that he or she can act responsibly, it makes it that much harder for parents to let go. Wendy F. of Orange, California, who has a 16-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter, says, “I think the parental trust needed to deal with teen boundaries is planted when the kids are nine or 10 and start to be given ‘grown-up’ responsibilities, such as letting themselves into the house alone after school or walking to the corner store with a friend. Having them deal with safety issues then makes it easier to handle bigger issues like going to parties or movies with friends during the teenage years.”
#2 Know Your Kids’ Capabilities
Debbi R., a Princeton, New Jersey parent who raised four teens, with her youngest now 19, says when it comes to expanding privileges it really depends on the teen. “Here, it’s a big deal for kids to start walking downtown in groups once they hit middle school,” she says. “And my kids each had to show me that they were responsible in other areas before I allowed them to do that. One of my kids earned that privilege much earlier than her sibling by always calling me when she got to her friend’s house or taking the money to go to pick up a pizza—things we agreed on beforehand. You have to trust your gut when it comes to how much you think your kids can handle and not just say ‘yes’ because you feel pressured. And you need to be able to explain to the younger child that he or she will also earn privileges by showing how responsible they are now by cooperating with your requests and respecting current boundaries.”