You watch them laying in their rooms, playing video games, or watching TV, yet when it comes to chores and homework, they swear they didn’t have time. As a parent coach, I regularly hear from parents who are frustrated with how their teenager spends (or doesn’t), their free time.
Your blood starts to boil and smoke comes out your ears thinking about all the things you managed to get done in a day, many of those for your darling teenager who’s apparently oblivious to it.
Some days you lose it, yelling to feel heard and respected for the few things you’re asking for, as your teen yells back, “You don’t understand!”, or they shut down and retreat to their room
(slamming the door for effect). Some days you simmer, holding it all in and trying to believe you haven’t raised an entitled, lazy, and selfish brat who’ll never make it in the real world.
Must be nice!
If only you had the luxury of worrying only about yourself, meals arrived without having to plan or cook them, you had a safe place to live without having to pay the mortgage or handle the infinite details to upkeep it, your money was your own, your time was yours, and so on…
Your resentment about your teen’s free time might be more about your own exhaustion. Your teen isn’t responsible for how you choose to spend your time, or a lack of boundaries that have you giving until you’re empty.
That’s an ish-You. You have the right to say no, to do less, to stop trying to win some perfect parent Olympics to prove your value and worth as a human. Permission granted. Now back to your teen…
‘Earn your keep!’
Insisting your teen fill up their free time with chores or activities to ‘make themselves useful’ or productive is a mindset of past generations that led us to performative thinking, anxiety, and insecurity, believing your worth was only measured by what you accomplished.
You and I are part of the largest generation of emotionally and physically burnt-out people on the planet. I wonder how that got set up????
I understand you want your teen to take responsibility for their environment and learn accountability for their results because you aren’t raising a slouch or snowflake. I assure you, they ARE learning those concepts under your guidance, and they DON’T have adult level comprehension or execution of them, even if you think ‘they’re more than capable’.
Your teen NEEDS nothing time
Their brain is in development – a mentally exhausting process that looks like selfishness, lazy and entitled, or a blank stare as if the power went out and it’s wildly inefficient (not an indication of intelligence). Teens requires excessive amounts of downtime to process and decompress from everything in a typical day, like swirling anxieties, schoolwork, tricky social dynamics, and a soup of new and more complex feelings.
So the next time you walk in the door and find your teen vegging on the couch and panic about raising a lazy kid, remember what their brain is going through and ‘nothing time’ is actually healthy for their brain.
Your teen's time isn't yours
Rather than assuming your teen has time for more tasks, ask first to model respect and give as much notice as possible for larger time commitments (family events, helping with larger projects).
You don’t know what they had planned with friends, their workload, or emotional load. Your teen is building autonomy and independence to create a private life that doesn’t involve their parents.
Contribution comes from respect, not commanding or demanding ownership of their time. The more you acknowledge they’re the boss of their time, the more they’ll begin to respect yours.
Of course, basic responsibilities and chores are a great idea to teach important life skills. Making specific requests and allowing a reasonable time frame is the beginning of learning time management, something your teen is also developing. Be patient and consistent, encouraging them rather than criticizing.
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