How Much Freedom Should a Teen Have?

There comes a time in every teenager’s life when they want to spread their wings. Freedom gives your teen confidence, lets them try new things and allows them to grow, but too much freedom can cause them to get into trouble. As a parent, how do you strike a delicate balance with teens and freedom? It’s all about assessing the maturity of your child and deciding which freedoms will empower and teach them and which might lead them astray.

Of course, the freedom they might need varies from teen to teen. Some teens can be responsible about certain things and completely misstep when it comes to others. It’s important to give your teen the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. Let them earn your trust by affording them incrementally more freedom.

Why is Teen Independence and Freedom Important to Teens?

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Teens are always pushing the boundaries. They’re hardwired to push for more independence as they grow — even if they aren’t ready for it. Freedom means making decisions for themselves and feeling like a ‘grown up’. It’s part of your job to make sure that they have a good foundation of knowledge and strong values so that they can make educated and smart decisions.

Not only is freedom integral to your teen’s personal development. If they feel too restricted, it could backfire and result in rebellion. If setting boundaries with teens isn’t handled appropriately, it could backfire and make them want to challenge all the guidelines you’ve set for them.

Tips for Teens and Freedom

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Freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. Giving your teen certain allowances is important for them to learn how to manage themselves. If you give your teen permission to go to a party, you’re telling them that you trust them to make wise decisions when alcohol and substances might be available.

The importance of teenage independence is clear in this formative time of their growth, but there’s no need to rush towards adulthood. If they’re not ready, say “no”. Use these “no’s” sparingly so that they mean more to your teenager. Carefully limiting your child’s freedom will help them mature at their own rate and also let them just enjoy being a kid. Some useful tips when deciding ‘how much freedom should a teenager have’:

  • Give age-appropriate freedom: the freedom that you give to your 13-year-old teen is going to be very different to what you’d give to an 18-year-old Ensure the freedoms that you are rewarding your teen with are age appropriate and match your teen’s maturity levels.
  • Set clear boundaries: Setting boundaries with teens around the freedom you are giving them is important and ensuring that they are clear on those boundaries. Boundaries include setting a curfew or allowing your teen freedom within only certain activities.
  • Implement consequences: If your teen breaks the rules or goes outside of the boundaries that you both agreed on, they need to be aware of what the consequences will be. As a parent or caregiver, it’s equally as important for you to follow through on those consequences to make it clear that mistakes will happen, but their actions have consequences.
  • Give freedom in increments: It can be overwhelming to a teen to suddenly lift all their boundaries; they don’t know how to handle it and it can lead them to partaking in risky behavior. Instead, allow them small freedoms and see how they react before adding more freedom. This also gives them a chance to ‘prove’ themselves to you and build your trust in their maturity levels.

Setting Boundaries with Teens

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You know your teen best. You’re the best person to decide whether or not your son or daughter can handle an unlimited data plan or an 11pm curfew. If they aren’t quite ready to handle a late night with friends or car privileges, you can give them the opportunity to earn this privilege.

Giving them incrementally more free rein will ensure that sudden freedoms won’t be a shock to their system and it will be easier to make your expectations clear. It can also work as a rewards system. For example, if your teen shows that they can be trusted to complete their homework after school consistently, let them go to that weeknight movie they’ve been dying to see.

This will teach them that completing their obligations early means they have the freedom to do something fun with their spare time. It also shows them that you trust them to take ownership of their own academic success. Knowing that they have your confidence will encourage your teen to work harder not to let you down.

Teen Independence vs. Risky Behavior

There is a thin line between a teen that is testing the boundaries of their newfound independence and a teen that is partaking in risky behavior that may lead them into trouble. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your teen and address it when you feel like their behavior is unacceptable and outside of the boundaries of freedom that you discussed.

If you are concerned about your teen’s behavior, their mental health or suspect that they may be abusing drugs or other substances, this may be a cry for help. Teen Rehab is here to help parents navigate this tricky time of their teen’s growth. Contact us today to find out how we can help.


Feature Image: Frank Park