Teaching teens responsibility: Here's what to know

Taking on more independence and responsibility is part of your adolescent’s growth.
green eyed girl

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
By Jamie Farnsworth Finn

Responsibility is being accountable for one’s actions, whether good or bad. Taking on more independence and responsibility is part of your adolescent’s growth, and teaching the value of responsibility goes a long way in guiding him or her to becoming a responsible young adult. Responsibility is not just about how the choices your teen makes affect them, but also how their choices and actions affect others. Giving your teen more responsibility throughout these high school years will set them up for success when they eventually leave the family home.

Try not to micromanage your high-schooler. Instead of waking them up in the morning, get an alarm clock, or tell them to use the one on their phone. Instead of cooking for them every night, have them prepare dinner for the family one or two days a week. Have your teen do their own laundry. Try not to nag them about bedtime or screen time, and instead let them deal with being overtired at school or oversleeping. It may be hard to start “cutting the cord” on your responsibilities for your teen, but allowing them to take on even more responsibility for himself or herself further prepares them to be on their own.

Try to hold firm on consequences for behavior. A big part of responsibility is dealing with the consequences of your own actions, and while your teen may be really good at breaking house rules, it is your job to enforce the consequences. Perhaps your teen missed curfew and therefore doesn’t get access to the computer for a week. Or if they don't help out with their household tasks they aren't allowed to hang out with a friend after school. By setting clear expectations and consequences when those expectations aren’t met, you’re teaching your teen about responsibility. If you often don’t follow through on consequences, your teen will learn that there isn’t a real reason to obey the house rules to begin with.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.