How Much Freedom Should a 13-Year-Old Have?

Deciding how much freedom a 13-year-old should have is tricky. They have now entered their teenage years and want more freedom, but at the end of the day are still children who are prone to making mistakes.

One of the biggest issues with the teenage years is that they can have a huge impact on the remainder of the teen’s life. Although most teens don’t take these years seriously, it can be a crucial time in their life. This is the time in their lives in which many vital things are decided like their career path and physical health. For example, failing highschool means it is less likely they’ll get into a university. It’s pretty crazy that the decisions a 13-year-old makes will affect them for the rest of their life but unfortunately, that’s the system we live in today.

It is our job to keep our kids safe and healthy while also giving them the freedom to become the best adults possible.

Every situation is different making it difficult to give advice to everyone but there are things you should look out for when deciding how much freedom a 13-year-old should have.

We all remember being 13. All the bad decisions we made as teens went unnoticed. Because of social media today, teens are not permitted the same level of anonymity we had when we were their age. Social media did not really come out until I was a senior in college and thank god for that. Now that we are in a world where people are getting punished for things they did many years ago, our teens need to be careful.

How Mature is Your Teen

The first step to deicing how much freedom your 13-year-old should have, you need to consider the maturity level of your teen. What many parents fail to realize is that freedom should not be associated with age but rather by maturity level. Children shouldn’t be granted specific freedoms just because they reached a certain age. The maturity of the teen should be your primary consideration.

For example, when your child turns 16, you may consider helping them get their driver’s license. Just because the teen is now old enough to drive does not mean they are mature enough to handle the responsibilities of driving. Would you let your teen start driving if they are routinely lying? or are slacking off in school? The same applies when offering freedoms to a 13-year-old. Although the 13-year-old is not old enough to drive, there are still freedoms that you can choose whether or not to give them.

When it comes to a teen, “freedom” really means you saying yes when they ask for specific things or giving them the independence to start doing this alone. It’s a Friday night and your son asks to spend the night at his friend’s house. At that moment you are deciding how much freedom to give him.

You Give and You Take

If you are unsure how mature your teen is and therefore are unsure how much freedom to give them, here is a great strategy. Give your teen freedom until he does not deserve it anymore. He needs to understand at his age freedom is a privilege, not a right. Set conditions on their freedom and don’t hesitate to take them away if those conditions are not met.

Back to our previous example, let your child know that he must keep his grades above a certain level and do his chores if he wants to sleep over at his friend’s. If his chores are not done or his grades fall below a certain threshold, he shouldn’t even bother asking. The answer will always be no.

This does many things. The first is to get them to keep their grades up and do their chores. That’s a huge win for any teen parent but what it also does is teaches them a valuable lesson about earning your leisure. Parents that are too lenient with their children think everything is a privilege. One of the fastest ways to raise entitled children is by giving them privileges that they do not deserve.

Sit down with your teen and set reasonable standards as to what you expect from them. Once you have both agreed on the standards make it clear that they have to meet these standards to maintain certain freedoms. I had a similar deal with my parents when I was around 16. As long as my GPA stayed above a 3.5 and I went to church on Sunday, I would not have a curfew on weekends. This was one of the primary reasons I kept my grades up and helped me build good study habits that I took into college.

Inherent Freedoms

Some freedoms are a lot more inherent than others. What I mean by inherent freedoms is freedoms that should be guaranteed no matter your child’s behavior or maturity. The first is a basic degree of privacy. There are very few exceptions that warrant a parent invading their child’s privacy such as drug abuse or rampant lying.

Here are some inherent freedoms that come to mind.

  • Privacy
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Education

If you couldn’t tell by now, these are basic freedoms that every teen should have. If anything they are more “rights” than “freedoms”.

How Much Freedom Should a 13-Year-Old Have?

Scaling Freedom for a 13-Year-Old

One of my favorite strategies for deciding what freedoms a teen deserves is by using a scaling model. The more responsible a teenager is with the freedoms they already have, the more freedoms they will receive.

For example, you tell your teen he is allowed to hang out with his friends after school but he needs to be home by 5:00 pm. If every day he is responsible enough to make it home by 5:00 pm after a few months you could push it to 7:00 pm. The more responsible he is with his freedom the more he will get.

Make this concept explicitly clear to him. This is a great opportunity to engrain in his head that freedoms are earned not just through chores and grades but through responsible actions.

At its core, our job is to get our teens ready for the world. At 13-years-old they are only 5 years away from being responsible for themselves in the eyes of the law. That’s not a very long time for them to learn to get their act together.

Scaling freedoms also allows your teen to learn to handle freedom before it’s thrust upon them. You see this all the time in universities. Kids that had strict parents that did not give them freedom tend to be the wildest in college. They went from little to no freedom to an unlimited amount of freedom.

Ideally, by the time your teen is 17, they would have practice making their own decisions. Freedom is your ability to make your own decisions. As your teen moves closer to adulthood, they are expected to make more, high-impact decisions every day. how can we expect them to do that well without any practice?

Final Thoughts

It can be difficult to let our teens go. The teenage years are the time they transition from being a child to becoming young adults. We need to start treating our teens as adults-in-the-making rather than children we need to take care of. Treat them like children, they will act like children. Treat them like adults, they will act like adults.

When deciding how much freedom to give your 13-year-old, there are two major things to consider, their maturity and how they are handling existing freedoms. Maturity can be hard to determine but just ask yourself, “Would my teen be able to handle himself in a difficult situation?”. How they handle existing freedoms is much easier to identify. Are they being responsible with the privileges you give them?

Using these two metrics you can make a decision as to how much freedom you should grant your teen.