Sixteen to Nineteen-Year-Olds

Teaching Independence

After all the hard work that you put into raising godly children, now is the time to reap some benefits of that work. Your older teenagers are still living at home, but we now must prepare them for eventually living on their own. Soon the time will come when they must leave Mom and Dad and cleave to their spouse (Genesis 2:24). After having them under your feet for nearly 20 years, it is hard to think about them being gone. It is also difficult for them. All they have known is life with their family. Therefore, in the later teenage years, we must get our children ready to live independently.

The parent's role shifts from a director of a child's life to an advisor. They still live at home and the parent is always available for guidance, but the child must now make his own decisions. And one of the hardest lessons to learn is when to ask for help. It is so tempting to jump right in and show the child what he must do. Nevertheless, he needs to learn how to handle mistakes when Mom and Dad are there to give him support and encouragement. If you don't give him the opportunity to fail, he will have a rough time adapting to independent living.

Older teenagers should be encouraged to earn their own spending money. If you have been giving the child an allowance, forewarn them that when they reach the age of 16, you will no longer be supplying them spending cash. Gradually get them responsible for their expenses. For example, driving is a privilege, not a right. Tell the child he will be allowed to drive if he pays for the insurance increase, license fees, and the gas he uses in the family car. The insurance payment not only gives a child fiscal responsibility, but it also provides motivation to a child to keep his driving record clean. If he is a careless driver, he may soon find out that he can't afford to drive. Don't supply a teenager with his own car. If he wants his own set of wheels, he must pay for it himself. Only co-sign a teenager's car loan if he understands that if he misses a payment, you get to keep the car that month. If possible, encourage your child to pay for their first car in full without a loan. Saving in advance for large purchases is a good habit that few people are taught these days.

Break your teenager into financial responsibility in their mid-teenage years by giving them a clothing allowance equivalent to what you have been spending on their clothing. From this allowance, they will be expected to buy their own clothing and toiletries. Set the allowance just high enough that they can afford decent clothes, but not so high that they can purchase expensive clothing items. If the child just has to have this one particular dress or these really important shoes, tell them to either save the money or earn the money on their own. A teenager should be responsible for all of his clothing purchases, even his socks and underwear. By the time a child has his own job, you should wean him from the clothing allowance. He should be totally responsible for all of his purchases. Suddenly, getting a new shirt for his birthday will be a valued gift.

Attendance at college should also be treated as a privilege and not a right. Every parent should encourage their children to attend college, but a college degree is not essential to earn a living in this world. It makes things easier and gives you a higher starting position and salary, but a person can reach the same point with a lot of hard work instead of an education. The goal is to get the child to see the value of an education so they will appreciate it and put effort into obtaining their degree. Your family may decide to help pay for some costs of an education as an additional encouragement. For example, you may offer to pay the college fees, books, or room and board. However, I strongly suggest that you do not supply any spending money. The child earns money to pay for his expenses. There are multiple ways for a person to put themselves through college without incurring a large debt. School schedules allow a dedicated person to work part-time or even full-time while attending classes. Many schools have cooperative programs where a student alternates working at a company in his chosen field with semesters at college. A student can often earn enough money cooping to support themselves during the work semester and pay their college expenses during the following school semester. The armed services offer ROTC programs where they will pay a child's college expenses in exchange for a few years in the service. Check into grants and scholarships to decrease the costs of college. As a last resort, a child can also get a student loan to meet their college expenses. I generally discourage this last option, because it is easy to rack up a huge debt in a short while. It is hard enough starting out on your own. Most young people don't need to be worrying about making payments on a college loan.

A college education is more valued when a person can translate the cost of an education into actual hours that must be worked. Too many people treat advanced education lightly. They end up not appreciating what they have and do not put enough effort into it. In addition, working for your own education reduces the amount of idle time a young person has and will tend to keep him out of trouble.

Similarly, once a child is out of school, they should begin to pay rent while they are living at home. It seems awkward to charge your own child for the privilege of living with you. However, a child needs to be encouraged to become independent and some children will stay around longer than they should if they are given a free ride.

The chores that an older teenager is given should also prepare him for independent living. An older child should have complete responsibility for his own laundry, especially before going off to college. Make him responsible for some meals. For example, make him prepare all his own breakfast and lunches, or require that he make dinner periodically. Send your older child to the store periodically to buy food for the family. Make sure he knows how to find bargains and how to use coupons. One way to encourage frugal shopping habits is to estimate how much it will cost you to buy your usual purchases and give this amount to your child. Tell him he can keep the change for any additional savings he comes up with.

If an older teenager is going to live on his own, he will have to learn how to handle additional freedom, for freedom is accompanied by responsibility. Allow your child to set his own schedule and his own bedtimes. At first, he may abuse the privilege, but a few blurry eyed days at school will soon cause him to value his sleep. When your child is out on a date, insist on knowing who they are going out with and where they plan to be in case an emergency comes up. Also, insist on knowing when they plan to be home. Tell them that if they don't make it by their chosen time, you will assume they had a problem and you will come looking for them. Moms, if you are bold and really want to cure them of tardiness, show up on the doorstep of their friend's house in curlers and a housecoat over your street clothes. You may look like a sight, but your teenager will "die" having his mother seen in public in such a state. While he is turning beet-red, simply remind him that he didn't make his own appointment and you wanted to make sure he was all right. Saying this in front of his friends will drive the point home.

Make sure that the opportunities for temptation are limited. Be blunt with your child if you think that a chosen destination is dangerous spiritually. Just because your teenager has the body of an adult doesn't mean he has the experiences of an adult in recognizing bad situations.

Similarly, maintain a strict code of behavior on your children while they live with you. Insist that there will be no drinking, no drugs, no smoking, no foul language, no sexual play while they live under your roof. Severe violations of your house rules should result in a loss of home privilege. If they cannot restrain themselves while living in your home, then they can find their own place. Make sure they understand they are welcome to return when they repent of their wicked ways and they are willing to abide by your rules.

Build Me a Son, O Lord

         Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid. One who will be proud and unbending in defeat, but humble and gentle in victory.              A son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Rear him, I pray, not in the paths of ease and comfort but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenges. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high. A son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men. One who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep. One who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these are his, add I pray, enough of a sense of humor so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously; a touch of humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom; the meekness of true strength.

Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, I have not lived in vain.

General Douglas MacArthur

Age Appropriate Tasks

Below are some suggested tasks that would be appropriate to begin introducing your child to doing. Every child will not be able all these tasks at this age. Some judgment is required on your part as to when your child is mature enough to handle these particular chores.

  • Able to remove more difficult spots from clothing
  • Hem clothing
  • Iron clothing
  • Take and pick up dry cleaning
  • Change a belt on the vacuum cleaner
  • Put together furniture, bicycles
  • Arrange for a car to be repaired
  • Wash windows
  • Unstop a drain
  • Install a lock
  • Repair an electrical cord
  • Replace washers in faucets
  • Use caulking
  • Cook an entire meal
  • Defrost and clean a freezer
  • Plan and shop for groceries
  • Use a checkbook
  • Check fluids in a car
  • Change a flat tire, fill tires low on air
  • Pump gas into a car
  • Change furnace filters
  • Repair major wall damage
  • Paint a room
  • Shop for insurance
  • Apply for college and scholarships

Your Questions

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