Change Maker: Misinterpreted Independence or Misunderstood Freedom?

Independence: what does it mean for teenagers? For a capable adult, it means to take more responsibility, make decisions, solve problems, and work out life values. But it’s common for parents and teenagers to disagree about independence – how much a young person should have and when. It’s natural to worry that if you give your child too much independence too early, your child might get involved in risky behaviour. And it’s normal to want to keep your child safe. For instance, the child might think of easing his parents’ responsibilities by taking care of his travel and commuting however, this very move can become a cause of worry for parents thinking of child’s safety as their priority over child’s independence. Meanwhile, the parents would wonder about the natural instinct of the child to be conscious and aware of the freedom in hands which is expected to be exercised in a mature manner. But your child needs to make some mistakes, to explore and have new experiences. This will help him learn life’s lessons and continue to shape his brain’s development. So how do you strike a balance between your child’s needs and your own concerns? Show your child lots of love and support, respect your child’s feelings and opinions, establish clear and fair family rules, treat your child in a way that’s appropriate for her stage, help your child develop decision making skills, and provide safe opportunities for your child to exercise independence. Young people who seem to get stuck in their dependent ways often have parents who, with the most loving motivation, undermine the growth of independence. They give freedom without demanding evidence of responsibility. They rescue from or ignore bad choices without insisting on accountability. They provide whatever is wanted without having the child work for any of it. They weaken with so much help when difficulties arise that the capacity for self-help is disabled. Parents can teach responsibility by making sure the young person is taking care of business at home, at school, and out in the world before consenting to any new degree of freedom that is desired. One of the most common appeals we heard from the teenagers was for parents to see them as individuals and understand how they’re wired. Quite simply, some children can handle more freedom than others. The fear of losing freedom often explains why a teenager’s reaction seems way out of proportion to a given situation. And knowing what freedoms are most important to your child will help you avoid unintentionally triggering her fight-or-flight instincts. Hence, it is equally important for the parent and the child to communicate their expectations with respect to independence and freedom to establish the right notions and leave no gaps for assumptions. I learnt this through a dining table discussion with my parents who have always found my safety their concern rather than my independence. Thus, it’s never too late to have a conversation and set the right chords to play the music smooth.

Photo by Jill Wellington on

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