The best time to teach responsibility is when a teenager shows a heightened interest in some activity.
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A study in the US among teenagers indicated that almost 88 per cent of those who had been in trouble with the law had answered, “Nothing,” when asked this question: “What do you do in your spare time?”
Housework, particularly active scrubbing of walls and floors, is good for the figures of girls and will build muscles in young men.
Cooking, baking and sewing will prepare a young girl for homemaking. Mechanics and building teach essential masculine skills. Work is the best discipline a teenager can have.
It teaches the virtues of industry and patience. It teaches trades from which to choose a life occupation in years to come.
It occupies time that could be spent in idleness or mischief. It builds integrity, confidence and self-respect. It also helps calm the passionate energies that surge young bodies by providing a healthy escape valve for them.
Perhaps you have done your best to teach your teenager responsibility, but it is still difficult to get him or her on their feet and moving in the right direction. Since this is a self-centred time of life when rewards appeal to young people, the principles of reinforcement are particularly useful.
If you feel that your teenager needs motivation, the following information will be useful.
1. Chose a motivator that is important to her. A couple of hours with the car one Saturday or Sunday night could prove a marvellous incentive to a young man. Another youngster might want a special outfit.
Offering a teenager a means of obtaining luxuries is a happy alternative to the whining, crying, begging, complaining and pestering that might occur otherwise. You might say, “Yes, you may have the sweater you want, but you will have to earn it.”
Once the incentive or motivator is agreed upon, the second step is in order.
2. Formalise the agreement. An excellent way of accomplishing this objective is through a written contract that both teenager and parents sign. For instance, my wife and I drew a contract for our son Robert just prior to the time he turned 15 and could enrol in a driving school.
He could obtain a license and drive our car in our presence, but he would have to earn the privilege by behaving responsibly. Driving a car calls for accountability, and if Robert could demonstrate responsibility in other areas of life, he would be allowed to drive.
He was to earn 25,000 points within six weeks or the contract would become null and void. He understood he could lose points for disagreeable behaviour.
3. Establish a method of providing immediate rewards. Most of us need something tangible to sustain our interest as we move toward a goal. In Robert’s case, we adapted the chart system for the subsequent contract. Points were accurately recorded nightly, and a weekly score was totalled.
He earned 750 points the first week. He had to up his game and earned 7,500 points the second week.The contract system can be adapted to multiple situations.
The principle is effective, but you may need to vary the method. It is important that the teenager doesn’t receive the end product that serves as the motivator if he has not earned it. Likewise, parents should not delay or deny the reward once their youngster has earned