Embracing Uniqueness and Progression towards Personal Potential
Independence Mindset: Encouraging the teen/adult to bear the full weight of awareness, decisions, and consequences. The focus is on fostering mutual respect by consciously withholding most unsolicited attention and judgement. The door of mentoring is kept open by collaborating on important topics and sharing heartfelt warnings only when inspired to do so.
Primary window of opportunity:
when a teen or adult child is mature enough to expect and accept full responsibility for decisions
What's NEW in this stage:
Parent and Child jointly agree on which decisions Child should take 100% responsibility for
Parent STOPS monitoring decision-making and outcomes in this stage, but is available if Child seeks council
Primary Goal: Independence
The Independence stage is about giving your child complete space to self-govern. Similar to the Self-discipline stage, your goal is to give your teen the opportunity to practice adult decision-making, but in addition, you now cease to mentor your teen in self-reflection on various issues as well. Many studies are showing that young adults struggle with the transition towards living on their own partially due to the helicopter effect from their parents. The goal of the Independent stage is to cut your helicopter awareness and let your child use his own brain completely.
In other words, you now have permission to stop worrying about taking responsibility for your teens actions because he is 100% accountable for choices, self-motivation, and finally awareness and self-reflection as well. This typically occurs as your teen is mature enough to expect or demand accountability and reaches an age when the local law recognizes his accountability as well. It is also expected that this stage happens gradually over a period of several years starting in the late teen years.
While young children, tweens, and early teens have many informal Independent Mindset moments throughout their lives--like self-feeding, potty training, wardrobe choices, study habits, basic routines, etc--the Independent stage refers to a time when you and your child jointly and formally acknowledge that you have taught her enough and that she is both willing and capable of taking on complete self-government in major aspects of life including education, social, self-care, spiritual, etc. Due to high financial demands in many societies, financial independence will likely be the last aspect of life that you can completely hand over to your child, but steps can be taken toward financial independence over many years.
Despite a teen's financial dependency on parents through high school and college years in most societies, the late teen years is still a prime time for taking a final step back in the rest of your child's life. As the brain’s hormonal adjustments begin level out in the late teen years, a new found self-confidence can propel the adolescent toward independent adulthood if he is given the chance. Plus, calmly observing your teen self-navigate in the final year or two before he leaves your nest not only increases your teen's natural drive to use his own PFC (which he'll need as an adult!) but it also gives him experience in learning how to live the independent college life while living with you.
During the Independence Stage, your children will practice being an adult. And so will you. The most wonderful and most difficult part about these years will be accepting and celebrating whomever your child is: the good and the bad (or actually the not yet good). And regardless of what you think, remember that she will continue to be that person because the brain is primed for being independent during these years.
Note again: Your ability to still influence your child at this point will strongly coincide with the amount of mindful time and effort you have already put in over the years to work your way up the pyramid...starting with attachment. No parent is perfect. But your heartfelt efforts will still be noted in your newly independent teen's memory.
Personal Development for Parent: Mutual Respect
Recognize that as your child climbs the Accountability Pyramid, so do you. And each stage builds upon the next rather than replacing it. So your task during these years will be to accurately discern which mindset to use as your child pushes onward to adulthood away from you. Your brain needs to remember each mindset and while one "stage" tends to dominate over others, you should be able to switch between as you detect what your child needs most in a given moment.
Part of the joy in this stage is the ability to significantly rest from worrying about feeling responsible for your child's progress.
In addition, the ability to feel genuine mutual respect for another human being way of life, especially one whom you are attached to and have spent years raising, is a feeling that fills your heart with joy and compassion.
Mode of Discipline: Collaboration
During the Independent stage, discipline by letting your child be. Period.
In other words, begin to think of your older teen (who is now likely 1-2 years away from leaving home) as you would another fellow adult. Just as you wouldn't peer over your neighbor's fence or call her up to tell her how to lead her life (unless you suspect imminent danger), don't make unsolicited suggestions to your teen. In fact, don't pay unsolicited attention either.
Instead, allow your child independence in setting goals and following through. Encourage your child to inform you of his goals, outcomes, and whereabouts out of love and respect to you, not out of obligation to report to you. Give your child guided temporary support when he asks or seems in need. Be neighborly--help enough, but not all the time.
Continue to provide average basic needs for your teen based on the community in which you live--again not much, but not too little. Recognize that though your child will likely depend on you for a roof, food, transportation, clothing, education, etc for several more years, your heartfelt generosity during these years alongside your confidence in her to lead her own life will give her an example of self-reliance and empathy to emulate. As your teen begins employment, discuss which expenses she can take responsibility for now. Your discussion should feel thoughtful and forward-looking towards total self-reliance, not demeaning or controlling.
Show love and confidence in whom your child has become thus far. Do not manage consequences for your child. Support disciplinary action that other authority figures may need to enforce. Seek for ways to inspire your child by maintaining a loving connection with him.
Expect to struggle. Expect your child to struggle off and on. We all do. Formally apologize if you show a lack of mindfulness or if your child may have unresolved memories of your lack of mindfulness from previous stages. Make personal changes when necessary.
Teens who struggle dramatically during this stage are likely suffering from a teenage body that is “stuck” in a lower mental stage (ie attached to unhealthy habits, following inappropriate leaders, weary from forced accountability, inexperienced in feeling internally motivated)...essentially suffering from an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex and strong defensive behaviors that block progress. It is possible to assist teens who have not been raised on the Accountability Pyramid from the beginning, but parents need to consider all stages at once, which is a very delicate and bumpy balance.
Benefit for Child: Self-government
Freedom. Or as free as an adult with many responsibilities can be. ;) Enjoy providing for yourself by driving, dating, graduating, voting, and working towards complete self-reliance. Find a job and decide what you'll spend your money on. Decide how to invest in your own future. Decide how to enjoy the free time you have.