[STAFF EDITORIAL] Encourage teenage independence


Annika Kim

BALANCING ACT. As teenagers grow older, it becomes increasingly more difficult to juggle responsibilities and mistakes are taken more seriously. However, parents shouldn’t take this as a reason to restrict their children’s freedom; instead, having more responsibilities is an opportunity to demonstrate independence and self-management skills.

Going out to sports games with friends, attending dances that go into the night, and becoming closer with peers; these are the moments in high school to be cherished. But to participate in these activities, a bit of permission from parents is first needed.

High school is a time for teenagers to grow and slowly transition to becoming adults. What comes with that is an increased amount of freedom as each individual matures and becomes more responsible. However, as the years have progressed, students have been faced with limited opportunities to exercise independence and responsibility. According to a survey done by Slate with over 6000 respondents, “The shift in going out after dark is especially dramatic. Earlier cohorts were allowed out at night in middle school, but by the 1990s the norm [was] solidly high school.” The main issue isn’t that it has become less safe; parents have instead grown to be more overprotective.

Withdrawing freedom creates no benefits beyond a parent’s peace of mind and only leads to a lack of self-management skills in the future. Without prior life experiences to guide them, individuals will be sucked into the real world and its challenges when approaching the age of becoming an adult. An individual’s teen years serves as a time to make mistakes and to learn from them without having to face too harsh of repercussions. But as an adult, the consequences grow to become more severe and the margin of error to make mistakes dwindles.

Withdrawing freedom creates no benefits beyond a parent’s peace of mind and only leads to a lack of self-management skills in the future.

By restricting teenagers’ sense of self control in their own lives and adding unnecessary rules, it only ensures a path of bad decisions when they become of age. It is a natural instinct when telling someone to not do a particular action, that an urge will be created to do that particular action. As Anthony Bouchard, senior writer for LabRoots states, “The behavior is purely psychological and is known as reactance, which is a type of mechanism where our brain wants to ensure that we’re free to do whatever it is that we want to do with our own lives.” When combining that with a long list of “do not” rules, teens are more likely to break those rules set by their parents the moment they become an adult.

It is noted that parents want to protect their children and may not realize the negative tolls it may take in the future, which is why it is perfectly okay to want more freedom. There is nothing wrong with sitting down with parents and asking to be more independent; and as a result, having the right amount of freedom leads to mental health benefits.

“Many studies show people with a greater sense of self-determination are emotionally more stable, more likely to have good health, happier and more likely to have better social relationships,” Kirrilie Smout, clinical psychologist and director of Developing Minds said.

However, not all parents are understanding regarding this issue and may in turn, deny a teen’s request for more freedom. Instead, teens can create their own opportunities to be independent and encourage parents to grant them more freedom. Even doing something as simple as independently caring for a pet, cleaning a bedroom, or helping around the house can demonstrate a student’s maturity and responsibility. Although parents may believe adding restrictions to their students’ lives protects them from the real world, it is crucial to take action and learn from mistakes before it’s too late.