“I can do this on my own!” 

“I don’t need your help!” 

“Quit treating me like a child!”  

How do you respond to statements like these from your teenager?  Do they upset you, or do you see these as signs of a necessary process taking place?

Rather than considering them a slap in the face from an ungrateful or rebellious child, I encourage you instead to view them as signs that your training is working and that your child is getting ready for adulthood. I’m not saying that parents should allow disrespectful words or a really bad attitude, but we need understand that these statements are not inherently rebellious. Look behind the words to what is really going on; it may be that you are holding on too tightly and not giving them enough opportunity to assume responsibility and independence.

A parent asked me recently, “How do we know at what stage to give them more independence?” That’s a great question. Here’s how I suggest you go about answering it for your child. First, sit down and establish what you want to accomplish with your child in the next six to twelve months. Come up with a plan to move them from dependence to independence in certain areas. Once you have identified the areas, instead or waiting, do it now. Don’t wait.

If you are just thinking about giving more independence, it probably should have already happened. If you hold on, they will have to fight for it, and that just increases tension. Picture this: let’s say you told your teenage daughter she could have a cell phone when she’s fifteen. So give it to her at fourteen and a half. Say something like, “I appreciate the way you’ve taken responsibility and I believe you’re ready for this now instead of later.” She will look at you in a different way and appreciate it far more than she would have if she had gotten it when she was entitled, as a 15th birthday present.

Most kids do a good job of stepping up when they’re given responsibility. If we wait until we think they’re ready, the seeds of rebellion from frustration may already be growing. By gradually increasing their responsibility and freedoms before we think they are capable of handling them, we are helping prepare them for the future and preventing the negative feelings that they aren’t trusted. Let me share with you a few practical steps that go a long way toward promoting independence in your older teen’s life.

Give them room to decide some things on their own.

It’s tempting for parents to make all the choices for their teens. It’s faster, and there isn’t a battle every time. But making decisions for your teen can be destructive to their independence. Decision-making is a skill that only comes with practice. It isn’t something that’s magically conferred on them when they turn 18 or 21. Letting them make choices means that they will probably do some things wrong and make poor choices, but they’ll learn from those, too.

For example, instead of telling them what time to get up, ask them what time they think they should get up, and remind them you will not take them if they are late. If they say 7 o’clock when you know the bus comes at 7:15, just say, “Okay.” Then, after they miss the bus and have to find their own way to school, they may reconsider their decision—but they will have learned the lesson rather than having you make the choice for them. Let them figure it out on their own.

Don’t continually force your opinion on them.

We sometimes don’t trust what we have taught our children. Did you ever plant a garden or some flowers? What happens if you yank the seeds out every day to see if they’re growing? No plants and no flowers! Give the truths that you have poured into their hearts and minds some time and space to take root and grow.