There’s been some debate lately about what you should and should not be doing for your children now that they are teenagers.
While I agree with some of these things, I feel that you need to consider your child’s age and your parenting style before you can decide which things you should stop doing for your teenager.
Just because your child has turned 13, and is now considered a teenager, doesn’t mean that they’re now old enough to suddenly start doing everything for themselves. Each child’s personality and maturity level will definitely play a role.
Instead of looking at things that you should stop doing for your teenager, rather look for things you can teach your child to do for themselves.
I believe that parenting is a process that takes time. So if you want your teen to start doing things for themselves, then discuss this with them, and teach them how to do it. Once you’ve done a task together, you can ask them to do it while you observe. After that, they can continue doing it for themselves.
So how do you know when it’s time to stop doing certain things for your teenager in order for them to grow up and become self-sufficient, well-functioning adults?
Let’s look at some of the things several articles have mentioned that we as parents should stop doing for our teenagers.
Stop Making Them Breakfast
My kids usually have cereal for breakfast, so they’ve been ‘making’ their own breakfast for years. Young tweens can get a bowl, some cereal, and add milk.
However, during the lockdown, they started asking for French toast and omelets. This was a great teaching moment, and they learned how to make several things themselves.
Every time one of our boys asks me to make them something that I think they should be able to do themselves, I show them once. I watch them doing it once, and then I trust that they can do it themselves in the future.
We take this approach with many things, as we believe that kids learn best when it’s something that they’re interested in learning.
Conclusion: Yes, tweens and teens should be taught to make their own breakfast.
Stop Packing Their School Lunch
While most teenagers should be able to pack their own lunch, you need to find what works best for you.
For some parents packing their kid’s lunches is an ongoing battle. I can imagine that if both parents are working and have to get ready at the same time, get everyone out of the house, and perhaps even drive the kids to school, then adding the extra chore of packing school lunches can be too much.
In this scenario, teaching your teen to pack their lunch will definitely be beneficial to everyone. Make sure that whatever they want is available to them and discuss whatever you expect them to add to their lunchbox (i.e., fruit and water).
However, in our case, my husband and I both work from home, and we like to sleep in as long as possible. We have a routine that works for us.
We all get up simultaneously, and it’s a team effort for everyone to get ready on time. The kids get themselves dressed, have breakfast, and make sure they have everything they need for the day. I pack their lunch – luckily, they like the same thing every day, with a few variations on the fruit or snack. And then my husband takes them to school while I get ready for work.
If I had to ask the kids to make their lunch, then they would have to get up earlier, and they’d wake us up too – which would equal a grumpy mommy. It’s not that they can’t pack their lunch; this routine just works best for us.
Conclusion: Yes, teens should be able to pack their lunch, but every family must find a routine that works for them.
Stop Making Their Lunch
Again every household is different, and so are the teens that live in them.
Some teenagers will devour everything in the fridge and cupboard, so I can imagine that parents might want to keep some control over what they eat when they get home from school.
This doesn’t mean you have to make it for them, but discuss what they can and can’t have before it’s gone.
Most parents work during the day, so lunch and snacks are great things for teenagers to make themselves.
The rule in our house is that if they want to eat something when they come home from school, they must make themselves and ask first.
They usually want some kind of snack, and as long as it’s not too close to dinner time, they can go ahead and make it.
I’ve shown them how to make their favorite snacks (smoothies, pasta, noodles, eggs, wraps) so they’re on their own when it comes to lunchtime snacks.
Conclusion: Yes, teenagers should make their lunch or snacks.
Stop Making Them Dinner
I wouldn’t say I like cooking at all, and every evening I dread having to prepare dinner. However, this is the one meal that I can fully control, and I make sure that it’s healthy. My kids and husband help from time to time, but I know that if I left it up to them, they’d be eating pizza every night.
However, I can imagine that in a single-parent household, if the parent comes home later than the children, it would be important that everyone helps out making dinner.
Our older teen does sometimes have activities where he won’t be home in time for dinner. He can then heat leftovers or make himself something to eat when he gets home. Luckily he loves oats, so I often smell warm cinnamon oats when he comes home late.
Conclusion: No, I’m not at all convinced that you should stop making dinner for your teenager. It’s a time when you can all eat together, and it’s important that it’s a healthy meal. However, it’s essential to teach your teenager how to cook. They will need to know how to prepare a healthy meal when they leave home. Start by asking younger children to help in the kitchen. As they get older, they can have more responsibility. Teach each child how to make their favorite dish so that they can help out as well.
Stop Doing The Dishes
Cleaning the dishes is one area where I have put my foot down, with my children and my husband.
I do most of the cooking, and one day I realized that after dinner, they would help me pack away, but I would be in the kitchen washing dishes and cleaning the surfaces, long after everyone else was curled up on the couch.
Now we all do the dishes together, and nobody leaves the kitchen until it’s all done. As I’m the only female in the house, this is very important to me that the males participate in household tasks like cleaning. I don’t like it when they say that they’re ‘helping me,’ as it’s their dishes too. They’re simply cleaning their own dishes.
Conclusion: Yes, everyone should participate in cleaning up after they’ve had a meal. The same goes for breakfast and lunch dishes. Most dishes can go into the dishwasher anyway, so it’s really not that much to ask.
Stop Making Their Bed
Children from a young age can make their beds. Most of us have duvets now, which are even easier just to throw on, and voila, you’re done.
Our tween likes to slide out from under his duvet, so his bed is basically already made when he gets out. Genius!
And if they don’t do it? I do tend to turn a blind eye now and then and just walk away. It’s their room and their bed, and if they don’t mind, then I’m not going to do it for them.
However, when we have guests visiting or have friends come over, their beds need to be made and their rooms tidied.
Conclusion: Yes, teenagers should definitely make their bed.
Stop Doing Their Laundry
I have to admit that I still do the households laundry. I probably do two to three loads a week, and I will let everyone know in the morning that I’m doing laundry, and if they want anything washed, they should bring it downstairs.
If it’s not in the laundry basket, it doesn’t get washed. And if they need it, they will have to wait for the next load or wash it by hand (which they’ve never done, to be honest).
We’ve had a few instances where they’ve wanted to wear something that had not been washed, so now, when I yell that I’m doing the washing, they come running downstairs so as not to miss out.
I haven’t shown them how to use the washing machine yet – but it’s something I will do. Especially with our older teen, as he might want to wash his sheets more discreetly and more often than usual.
Conclusion: Yes & No. Teens should learn how to use a washing machine. However, if you’re doing a wash anyway, then I don’t see why you can’t add other laundry in too. Start by asking them to load their own washing and help unload and hang the washing. Everyone should pack away their clothes.
Stop Bringing Them Things They’ve Forgotten
This is tough as it’s probably best not to bring them forgotten items, as they will learn best this way. However, if your teen usually remembers everything and for some reason forgot something vitally important, and it’s not a huge inconvenience to bring it to them, then why not help them out.
I don’t mean driving to their school to bring them their phone – they will survive without it. Or even their soccer boots – they can probably practice in their sneakers for one day. Even lunch is one of those things that I probably wouldn’t bring to them. They’ll go hungry, but they won’t starve, and they’ll probably beg a snack off a friend anyway.
However, our youngest did once forget his books for extra lessons that he does after school. We pay for these lessons, and he must have his books. We’d recently switched days, and I hadn’t thought about it either, so it wasn’t all his fault. As I had to fetch my older son anyway, I dropped off his books with his teacher to avoid wasting the extra lesson.
Conclusion: Yes, generally I agree that we should not be running after our teenagers and bringing them things if they’ve forgotten them. But there are exceptions.
Stop Helping Them With Their Schoolwork
I tend to agree on this one. Unless our teenager asks us, we don’t help with school work. He might ask us about something he’s learned, and then we’ll Google it together as I usually don’t have the answer either.
Both our boys are Scouts, and they have to do quite a lot for their advancements. When they first started, we had to help them quite a bit with their tasks, but now that they’re older, they can log on themselves and find which tasks they need to do.
I ask them if they’ve done their homework, but I don’t check, and I don’t get involved unless they ask. So far, their grades are good, so they must be doing what’s expected of them. If this were to change, then I’d probably get more involved.
Please note that my comments here relate to situations where teens are able to do their own schoolwork. There are obviously exceptions and if a child needs regular help or assistance on a specific subject, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t find ways to help them. This might even mean getting a tutor.
Conclusion: Yes, I agree that our teenagers should do their homework independently, and we should not get involved unless they ask us for help. There’s nothing wrong with asking them about it, as it shows interest and makes them aware that it’s important.
Stop Emailing or Calling For Them
Once your teenager has their own phone, I think they should be able to send their own messages. Our son and I are both on the group class chats. So I can see what’s being discussed, but he has to respond to messages that concern him.
For example, Scouts might ask who’s participating in a particular activity or when and where they need to meet. I expect him to answer these messages himself, but I do like to keep an eye on it so that I know what’s happening and expected of him.
Our teenagers don’t call or email as much as using WhatsApp, so they’re quite used to responding to messages themselves.
Conclusion: Yes, teach your teenagers how to respond to messages, but stay involved so that you know what’s happening and expected of them.
Stop Speaking To Teachers
This depends on the age of your teen. If they’re closer to 13, I would definitely still be very involved when speaking to teachers or coaches. But when they’re older and closer to 18, then they should be able to stand on their own two feet. And honestly, they probably won’t want you to get involved.
However, if your child (at any age) asks you for your help, then you should always be there for them. Depending on the problem, you might have to step in.
Discuss it with your teenager first and perhaps give it some time to resolve itself. Ask your teen if they would like you to speak to their teacher and how they think you should address the situation. Once you’ve discussed it with them, you might find that they’re open to trying it themselves.
However, the fact that they’ve come to you probably means that they’re out of their depth and do need your help.
Conclusion: Yes and No, it depends on their age and the situation.
Stop Choosing Their Friends
This seems pretty obvious to me, to be honest. There’s no way that I’ve ever been able to choose my children’s friends. Either they bond with someone, or they don’t. It’s nature; you can’t force it.
You might be able to steer things in a specific direction by making it easier for them to spend time with one friend than another, especially if you think that friend might be a bad influence.
However, they also need to learn these lessons on their own.
They’ve had many years in school and sports teams to know who they like to hang out with and who they don’t.
All you can do is make sure you know them by inviting them to your home and hope your teen makes wise decisions.
Conclusion: Yes, your teenager needs to choose their own friends.
Stop Looking After Their Pets
I’m sure every parent has gone through the same scenario where their child swore an oath always to feed and clean up after their pet, and now they’ve suddenly lost interest.
This is an ongoing battle, and I honestly don’t have an answer for it. Even though they should be responsible, they’re not always home when it’s feeding time.
Our son does feed his cat mainly. However, we do as well, and I’m the one who makes sure that she’s de-flead and de-wormed, etc.
Our dog passed before they were teenagers, so they were still too young to pick up the poo consistently, so I was generally the one who did it.
This is one of the reasons why we haven’t adopted a new dog yet, as we dread that the responsibility will fall on us parents.
Conclusion: Yes, teenagers should look after their pets, but would you really not feed a pet just because they forgot?
Stop Filling Out Their Paperwork
I think this is an excellent task to show your teen how to do. You’ll need to do it together at first, and you probably still want to check that it has been filled out correctly.
Conclusion: Yes, teens should be able to fill out their own paperwork.
Stop Choosing Their Clothes
You might as well throw your money down the drain if you think you can pick out your teens’ clothes. We’ve made the mistake once to buy clothes for a teen for his birthday, and we had to return it all, as he just didn’t wear it.
During the Covid pandemic, we didn’t want to go to a big mall to shop, so I showed our children how to look for things online. They would choose a few items, and then if it was suitable and within budget, I’d order it for them. It’s so much quicker and easier.
Conclusion: Yes, let your teenagers choose their own clothes. They won’t wear what you buy for them anyway. You still control the purse strings, so you will have some say in whether it’s suitable or affordable, but they should generally be allowed to choose.
Stop Finding Things For Them
This does not only center around my children but my husband too. Maybe it’s because they’re all male that they ‘cannot’ find anything. Whatever the reason, I’ve stopped jumping up to help the minute they ask, “Where’s my…?”
I have learned just to ignore the first few cries for help. They will eventually come down in a huff and ask me if I know where it is. I’ll then give them a few options as to where this item could possibly be.
Once they’ve spent some time looking for it, and really cannot find it, then I’ll first ask them, “What will you give me, or do for me, if I get up now and find it in one of the places I mentioned?”
If they still can’t find it after this, then I’ll help.
Conclusion: Yes, you should stop immediately finding things for your teenagers (and husband).
Stop Giving Them Money For Things They Want
We do give our children a small allowance, and they have everything they need. If they want anything else, they can spend their savings (mostly birthday money or gifts from grandparents), or they can earn it.
Conclusion: Yes, you should stop giving your teenager money for everything they ask. There are way too many spoilt kids out there who have no idea how hard it is to earn enough to make a decent living.
Stop Nagging Them
This is an interesting one, as you often hear mom’s asking, “Why does no-one hear me until I’m screaming?”
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with nagging. When our children are younger, we nag (or remind) them about what they need to do or bring to school. At some point, we do need to stop reminding them, and they need to take responsibility for their school work, etc.
Each child is different, so when you start noticing that they can process what day of the week it is and what that means in terms of subjects or sports, they’re able to manage on their own. This usually comes way before teen years, but you may have a child that’s on the spectrum who will still need some help in structuring their day.
We started this process with our kids at about 7 or 8 years of age. In the morning, I’d ask, “What day of the week is it?, then I’d ask, “What activities do you have today?” and then “Do you have everything you need?”. They quickly asked and answered these questions for themselves, and I didn’t have to remind them again. No more nagging! Yay!
Conclusion: Yes, we should not nag our teens to do things that they should know already. Step away and let them learn the hard way. They’ll soon remember to do their homework and bring their soccer kit to school. There’s nothing wrong with checking in on them or asking if they have everything they need, but nagging won’t help or teach them anything.
Overall, I agree with many of the things suggested that you should stop doing for your teenager; however, I’d rather rephrase it and advise parents of the things that they should start teaching their teenagers.
We shouldn’t ‘stop doing things for our teens’ just because they are teenagers. We should look at everything we do at home and ask, “Can they do this?”, “Should they be able to do this?”, “Can I teach them to do this for themselves?”.
Parenting starts from when your children are born. We teach them how to feed themselves, how to crawl, walk, speak, etc. But by ‘teaching them,’ they are still the ones that need to ‘do it.’ We can hold our little child’s hands and encourage them to walk, but they need to take that first step. Once they are confident that they can do it themselves, they don’t need our help anymore.
When our children are teenagers, they still need us to teach them and show them how things are done. These are all ‘milestones’ that they need to achieve to become an independent, well-functioning adult. Parenting doesn’t just stop because your child turns 13. The teen years are some of the most critical and challenging years for them.
Once they’ve learned these skills, there may still be times when they simply don’t have time to do something. Their lives are super busy, as are ours, so it’s important to help each other out when we can.