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Adolescents Need Freedom but Not Without Guidelines

By laurasle Nov 11, 2008 1012 Words
There has always been a battle between adolescents and adults over the amount of freedom teens should be allowed. However, today’s adults seem unable to strike the correct balance between setting strict rules and allowing freedom. They either set too many rules that constrict teens and infantilize them or fail to set enough rules resulting in teens doing whatever they want. The ideal environment for teens is a balance between the two extremes. Adolescents have proven to be just as capable as adults in a number of ways. This is not always evident because teenagers are often over sheltered. Today’s adolescents should be less constrained to develop their potential, as long as guidelines are imposed by parents and society to help direct them. When too many constrictions in the form of laws and regulations are imposed upon adolescents, it limits their ability to learn how to take care of themselves in the adult world. “The reason they don’t act like adults is because we don’t treat them like adults (Epstein).” Since childhood, parents have always planned and co-ordinated their kids’ activities, to ensure the kids are busy while they are at work. By the time they reach adolescence, teens are not accustomed to doing and planning things on their own, resulting in over dependence on their parents. Other adults shelter their children because they are influence by media stories about kidnappings and shootings. They believe the safest place for their children is at home under their supervision.

Adolescents learn to rely on their parents for financial and emotional support. This is why stories of children living in their parents basements into their 30’s are becoming more frequent. Teens are finding it difficult to embrace adult responsibility. “A lot of those 20-something’s…are aimless, frustrated, a little angry and mildly depressed. They’re not in control of their lives (Wente).” Teens are so comfortable relying on their parents for support that they do not settle down, get a good education or a serious job. Although teens need guidelines from their parents, it is necessary for them to be allowed freedom to learn how to manage responsibility in the adult world. They also need the opportunity to make mistakes and to learn from the experience.

On the other extreme, when very few constraints are set, there is a natural tendency for teens to abuse their privileges. In this situation, a parent figure literally becomes non-existent, as the parent takes the role of a best friend. “We’ve got the same music on our iPods. We go to the same movies and read the same magazines. We share the same pop idols…and find the same videos hilarious on Youtube (von Hahn).” Parents let their teens do whatever they desire in order to maintain their child’s affection.

If all laws and restrictions were removed, allowing teens unlimited freedom, there would be many more deaths from alcohol overdoses, street racing, gang violence and drug abuse. Adolescents are influenced by peer pressure. They will likely show poor judgment when it relates to matters like drugs and alcohol which require self control and self discipline. Rules and guidelines help to develop self control. Because their parents have typically given them what they want, teens feel entitled and invincible, like nothing could ever go wrong. They do not experience the consequences of their actions. When have to finally embrace adult responsibility, they lack the maturity and experience and are left feeling unmotivated and greatly depressed. To develop maturity and independence, it is very important for rules and guidelines to be imposed upon adolescents by their parents and society. When the correct balance of freedom and constriction is given to teenagers, only then will they be able to accept appropriate responsibility when they become adults. It has been proven, “that teenagers are as competent as adults across a wide range of adult abilities (Epstein).” Our society today greatly underestimates adolescents and needs to change in order to allow teenagers more opportunities to grow and develop. To make this possible, a competency based system needs to be established. They would be given both the freedom of choice and the responsibility to be accountable for their actions. They would have more experiences and grow from their accomplishments and mistakes. This way, teens will be gradually introduced to freedoms and responsibilities, and not have this thrust upon when they turn 18. As long as a system which guides teenagers with laws and restrictions is put into place, both parents and teens will find the process of accepting responsibility easier (Epstein). An example of how society has already allowed teenagers gradual freedoms is the system of graduated car licences. In Canada, when adolescents are 16 years old they can get a learners permit that requires an adult to be in the car with them at all times. A year later, after passing a test, teenagers are allowed to drive by themselves, but are still subjected to various rules until they gain further driving experience. This gradually increases driving responsibility for their safety. With appropriate guidelines, society helps teenagers to accept responsibilities along with freedoms. “Data shows that when young people are given meaningful responsibility and meaningful contact with adults they quickly rise to the challenge and their inner adult emerges (Epstein).” Today’s adolescents can be just as competent as adults. However, they do not behave like adults because they have not been given the appropriate balance between freedoms and constraints. With appropriate rules, parents can help their children gain useful experience while allowing freedom, responsibility and accountability. When guidelines exist, adolescents make better decisions and mature earlier into adults.

Works Cited

"Rethinking Adolescents: a Shifting Position." Education Week. 15 Sept. 2007 <>. Von Hahn, Karen. "I Like to Hang Out with My Teenager. What's Wrong with That?" Globe and Mail 1 Sept. 2007. Wente, Margaret. "It's Our Fault They Can't Grow Up." Globe and Mail 18 Aug. 2007.

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