Parents can’t help but nurture their children. It starts in the baby years, because they rely on us for all their basic needs, and it continues through the toddler years, as we try to let them have a little bit of freedom while keeping them safe at the same time.
Of course, the nurturing doesn’t stop after that. As moms and dads, we keep doing whatever we can to keep our kids safe, happy, and healthy. So how do you know when it’s time to let go of certain habits or helpful tendencies? When should you stop helping (aka enabling, in some instances) in order for them to grow up and become self-sufficient on their own?
It can vary from one kid to the next; personality and maturity levels definitely play a factor. However, here are 15 things you really should probably stop doing for your teenagers. They might not thank you now, but it really will help them in the long run.
1. Making their lunch.
Whether it’s the weekend or they take their lunch every day to school, you don’t have to always make their lunch. They should know where the food is, and they should be able to make themselves some basic meals.
2. Doing the pet chores that they swore they’d do.
They promised they’d walk or feed the dog, right? If they’ve fallen down on this job, make them pick the habit back up again. You should definitely not have all the chores falling on your shoulders. Give them a job, and make them stick to it.
3. Picking out their clothes.
If you have a teenager, this one should be long gone. It might be tempting to make sure your kids are up on the latest trend or keep them matching, but resist! They are old enough to make their own style choices, good or bad. Don’t give them hair advice, either. This is all part of growing up.
4. Choosing their friends.
A lot of times, we try to encourage our kids to stay friends with their grade-school buddies. Or worse, we try to make them stay friends with the kids of the moms we like. (I’ve been guilty of this one.) Even though it can be hard to let some friends go, you really have to let your kids gravitate to their own tribe.
5. Reminding them of chores.
All teens should have chores, but you shouldn’t have to remind them all the time to do them. Make sure your kids know the consequences if they don’t do their chores, and then stick to it. If they don’t do their chores, then take things away.
6. Monitoring their every move.
Whether you like it or not, it’s time to loosen the reins a little bit. Of course, if your children have given you reason to not loosen those reins, that’s understandable. But otherwise, it might be time to let them out of your sight in a store or let them do things on their own with friends. Start small, and give them additional freedom only when they’ve earned it.
7. Making their beds.
They slept in it, and they can make it back up again. Like they handle brushing their own teeth, teens can and should get in the habit of this. It’s a small item, but getting into the habit of doing chores on their own will serve them well.
8. Saving them when they forget something.
You know how you get that desperate call from your teen when they’re at school, distraught that they forgot something at home? As hard as it, don’t just run and save them. They need to learn about consequences. Plus, it’ll help them remember better in the future.
9. Talking to their teachers for them.
Did they have issues in class? Did they not turn in their homework or get detention for something? If it’s a day-to-day issue, then let them tackle it instead of saving them by talking to the teacher for them.
10. Taking them everywhere they want to go.
Teens that can’t drive yet are especially reliant upon their parents, but this doesn’t mean you immediately stop what you’re doing to drive them around. It’s OK to say no sometimes, or to tell them to wait until it’s a more convenient time for you.
11. Accommodating special dinner requests.
Do you know what it’s like to be a short-order cook? Don’t let your teens do this to you. Make one meal, and let everyone know that’s what is available. If they don’t want it, they can make themselves something instead.
12. Drawing their bath or starting their shower.
Ahh, it seems so sweet, doesn’t it? I’ll admit that I’ll use the “I’ll start your shower” bribe with my teenage son to get him up and out of bed in the morning. However, after the one time where he still stayed in bed and it ran out all the hot water for his sister and me, I stopped falling for that trick. Reserve this one for when they’re sick only.
13. Doing ALL of their laundry.
First off, teens should be perfectly capable of doing their own laundry. However, there’s a good chance you still do the laundry, and that’s perfectly fine. But make them pitch in by loading it, folding it, or at the very least, putting it away. They can help contribute in some way.
14. Doing their homework.
You want them to have good grades, right? You’re just going to look it over, right? This one definitely needs to stop. You can remind them about their homework and even answer questions they might have, but it’s time to step back. They need to make sure they are able to do the work on their own; it’s part of setting themselves up for future success.
15. Giving them money any time they ask for it.
This is a bad habit waiting to form if you just hand over money every time they ask for it. Don’t let your teens think you have a disposable income for them. Make them earn money. Teach them budgeting. And don’t just say yes all the time. It really will help their future self a tremendous amount.
Stacy Tornio is the author of The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book and the mom of two adventurous kids. Together, they like planning vacations centered around the national parks.