Unpopular Opinion: You don’t need to stop doing anything for your teenager that you don’t want to stop doing. I’m not talking about the important things, such as continuing to treat them like a baby and eventually sending them off to college with no discernible skills or the ability to care for themselves.
But if you search the good ol’ internet for all the things you need to stop doing for your teens, it’s overwhelmingly “stop making their breakfast, stop helping them out, stop cooking their dinner, stop packing their lunchboxes, etc.” which sounds a lot like “stop being a parent,” and I’m not here for it.
Your teenager should know how to make their own breakfast, get their own snacks, and pack their own lunches, but you’re still the parent. If those things make your life easier, knock yourself out. My husband has been the official lunch box packer in our house since our high school freshman was in VPK, and he’s now the proud packer of four lunchboxes.
Sure, she can make her own now that she’s a teenager, but is it really a big deal? She plays sports, she’s in clubs, and she’s an advanced student. She’s rarely home thanks to sports and clubs, she has a lot of homework, and she gets up at 5:30 am for school.
Does she really need to add packing her own lunchbox into the mix? She has her entire life ahead of her to take care of herself and be responsible for every darn aspect of her life, why not give her a few extra minutes to herself in the morning? He’s already packing lunches for the younger three, and one more doesn’t hurt. She could do it if she had to, but she doesn’t have to.
Teens Are Not Children Or Adults
Listen, there are probably a million things we are all doing for our teenager that we could let up on a bit, but why? Their job is to be a good student, a good athlete, and to learn life skills. It’s not to raise themselves and do every single thing that is necessary for survival just because they are teens.
Their parents love them, and they want to make their breakfast and pack their lunch. I mean, let’s be honest here – if you’re already making breakfast for the little kids, do you just…not make breakfast for your teenager based on principle? Hardly. Make the breakfast. But do make sure your teen knows how to cook.
You don’t have to make their plate for them, but you can feed them the meals you’re cooking. This is not the 1800s. Teens are not adults.
Another good method of teenage parenting is life lessons. There are times I bail my daughter out when something goes wrong for her, but we don’t do it more than once. If she forgets something once, one of us will happily bring it to her because she’s a great kid who doesn’t forget things.
If she forgets it again, that’s on her. Mistakes happen, and you’re allowed to help your teen handle them…just don’t handle them all the time, every time, because that’s when they learn nothing except the fact that mommy and daddy will always fix it. On that note, here are 20 things you should stop doing for your teen.
1. Fixing Their Problems for Them
Teens fall into that awkward age between children who need their mom and dad to do all the things and adults who need to learn to do things for themselves. Your job as a parent is not to solve your teen’s problem for them. Your job is to be there for them when they have a problem, to listen and be a sounding board, and to offer advice. It’s not to swoop in and fix all the problems. They won’t learn that way.
2. Micromanaging Their Life
Micromanaging anyone’s life but your own is a major no-go, but it’s especially bad when it’s your teen. Yes, you parent them. No, you don’t micromanage every detail of their life. You’re not reminding a teenager to do their homework or make sure they have clothes for practice. That’s their job.
3. Being Their Morning Alarm Clock
During the school week or on any day they have their own activities, you don’t wake them up. They need to learn to rise and shine on their own. It’s a life skill.
4. Doing All Their Laundry
All right, yes; we still do our teenager’s laundry, but we don’t always do it. She does her own laundry about 75% of the time, and the rest is us. When we are doing laundry and know she has some in her basket upstairs, we’ll grab it. But the point is that she’s doing her own laundry when she wants or needs something in it, and she’s not relying on us to do everything for her.
5. Making Their Bed
Once your kids are old enough to get in and out of bed on their own, you should not be making it. It’s another one of those life skills. Let them do it – even if you know you’re going to hate their way.
6. Cleaning Their Room and Bathroom
Your job is not to clean up after your kids once they reach a certain age. Again, this is a very basic life skill. Everyone should know how to pick up after themselves, maintain cleanliness in their home and life, and keep their rooms and bathrooms clean. Teach them young.
7. Letting Their Emergencies Become Your Problem
There’s an old saying that goes, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” and it’s true. Your teenager’s lack of planning does not make an emergency in your life. Accidents happen, things go wrong, etc. However, when your teen is regularly having issues and they become your emergency, they are learning nothing.
8. Filling Out All of Their Paperwork
Ah, paperwork. No one mentioned that parenting four kids involves so much paperwork all the time. The moment our daughter was old enough to fill out her own forms when we’re at the dentist or the doctor, it was a requirement. First, our arms are basically falling off after filling out four forms every single time we are anywhere. Second, these are things she needs to know about her own life so when she’s an adult, she’s not at her own doctor’s office calling us to ask us if she’s allergic to anything.
9. Getting Overly Involved in Their School Life
I admit I’m an involved parent. I serve on the SAEC committee at their schools, I’m elementary PTO president, and all schools know they can count on me to volunteer and be present for all games and events that include my kids. But, I draw the line at communicating with my teenager’s teachers in high school if she’s having issues. If I have a concern, I’ll reach out. If she has a concern, she needs to address it herself.
10. Doing All of Their Dishes
Back to basics here, my friend. Dishes are something kids should be doing strictly because they are a life necessity. Don’t do dishes for your teen after dinner. They can put them in the dishwasher and clear their own settings.
11. Doing The Basics
You are no one’s b****. Well, you are, but you have to stop doing the basics. You shouldn’t be hunting down paperwork from your teen when they get home from school. You are not in charge of reminding them to brush their teeth, etc. Stop. Now.
12. Not Allowing Them to Learn Things That Are Important to Their Own Life
Growing up is a lot of work, but becoming an adult who cannot function because they never learned to do anything on their own is tragic. Don’t be the parent whose kids can’t put gas in their own car because you always do it for them, you know? Be the parent who is there for their teens to love them and support them, but who involves them in learning how to be a normal human being.
13. Treating Them Like Babies
They might always be your baby, but they are not babies any longer. These teenagers of ours need to be treated with the respect and dignity of a teenager – not of a little kid or a baby.
14. Letting Them Dictate Your Life
Your teen is going to dictate a lot of your life – they have games, sports, events, and many things you cannot control that you want to be present for. But they are not going to interrupt your life because of theirs. If they want to make plans with friends, great. Let them, but don’t change your plans or rearrange your own schedule to accommodate theirs. They’ll either figure it out, or they won’t. You have something going on? You go for it.
15. Controlling Their Every Move
If you don’t let them control certain aspects of their own lives, they won’t learn what works and what doesn’t.
16. Forcing Them To Raise Your Younger Children
Here’s where I’m going to get a little wordy with you. Our oldest turns 15 this year. We also a daughter turning 12 next month and twins turning 9 next month. What we don’t have is a teenager parenting our younger kids.
They are not her kids, and she is not free childcare. Sure, we do occasionally ask her to babysit, but she’s compensated for her time, and she is never required to watch them so we can do something on our own. Too often, I see parents with older kids living their lives while their oldest is home with their littler kids, and that’s not how it works.
You are the parents. Raise your own kids. Pay your teen to babysit like any other family would, and raise your own kids. Your teen shouldn’t be required to stay home all weekend and help dad with the little kids because mom is out of town.
How about not having kids with men who cannot parent their own kids without considering it babysitting? Your teen is your little kid’s sibling, and that’s what their relationship should look like. End of discussion. Stop making your teenagers raise your kids.
17. Avoiding Difficult Conversations
You need to have certain conversations with your teen, often more than a few times. They are difficult, yes, but teens should be okay to have difficult conversations about life. Yours, theirs, whatever. Just have the difficult conversations.
18. Treating Them Like an Adult
On the flip side, don’t treat your teen like an adult. They’re not there yet. You can have difficult conversations with them, but they don’t need to know all the private details of your life, your marriage, your finances, whatever. They’re still kids, and they don’t need to shoulder your burdens or be forced to act like an adult.
19. Assuming They Can Read Your Mind
Also read: Stop assuming my husband can read my mind when I cannot even read my own mind half the time. Your kids cannot read your mind. They don’t know what you want if you don’t tell them, okay?
20. Assuming You Know What They Need/Want All The Time
You cannot read their minds, either, so stop assuming you know what they are feeling, how they are feeling it, and for the love of god – stop projecting. Just because you felt a certain way about something when you were a teen (or didn’t feel a certain way) doesn’t mean that your teen feels things the same way. Stop assuming things, and start asking.
Additional Resources for Parents With Teens
- 20 Tips for Mothers of Teenagers to Stay Calm
- What Do You Do When Your Teen Gets Into A Fight?
- What Do You Do When Your Teen Lies?
- What To Do When Your Teenager Says I Hate You
- What to Do When Your Teenager is Out of Control