School’s Out for Summer - What’s Your Teen Up To? by Lisa Krause, Guest Blogger

Has your teen ever SAID?

“Summer is for hanging out with my friends, waking up late and doing nothing. It’s supposed to be fun. I don’t want to do anything.”

“I don’t want to work; this is my last summer before….. I don’t want to get a job, or volunteer, or help around the house.”


As a parent of a teen you may have SAID:

 “Well, it would be nice to have three months off to do nothing, I would like that too.  Welcome to the real world.” Or perhaps you are this parent, “Oh, you are right. Summer is supposed to be fun. There will be enough time in your life to work.”

Neither response is helpful in developing likeable, responsible, respectful adults and it probably does not help the parent/teen relationship.

So the question becomes how do parents teach values, and build character in their teenager in a culture that promotes the belief that SUMMER IS ALL ABOUT FUN?

This is a common concern that comes up when I am working with parents. Listen to how Heather (mom) and David (15 year old son) worked things out using a problem solving model of (1) acknowledging feelings, (2) setting limits, and (3) considering benefits of the plan.

1. Acknowledge your child’s feelings with empathy

“You’re are right; the school year is busy with homework, church and sports. I agree that there should be some laziness and fun for everyone."

2. Set limits by using family values

Together let’s look at a few of our family values see if there is a way we can take care of responsibilities and still have some fun this summer.

    · Education - What are some activities that you enjoy or are willing to do to stimulate your brain? David decided he would read. Together David and his mom agreed on one book a week of the teens choosing. The only restriction is that it had to be 200 pages and it had to have words.

    · Serving others - David decided to serve two seniors in his neighborhood by mowing their grass and doing yard work for no charge.

    · Contributing to the family - David was not old enough to find a job outside the home. Together he and mom came up with three summer projects, stain the deck, paint the hallway, and the exterior doors.  Together they set a timeline for task completion and created a contract outlining both mom and son’s responsibilities.

    · Team work - David agreed he would cook dinner two nights a week and pick up some of the daily and weekly chores. This allowed Heather some time to enjoy the long summer nights and the warm weekends.

3. Reviewing the benefits of the arrangement (Positive consequences)

Together Heather and David reviewed the benefits of their plan.

   · By reading, David was still learning new things, it would make the adjustment of going back to school easier, and he would have something besides sports to talk to his mom about.

   · By mowing the grass for the neighbors, the seniors felt cared for, they were able to take pride in their own homes because the outside was being taken care of, and David was showing the neighbors that teens are capable and responsible.

   · By completing the summer projects, David would learn new skills that would help him when he owned his own home. The family was able to save money because the tasks did not need to be hired out, and the family could use that money to go on a camping trip instead. Heather was able to enjoy the summer more knowing those pesky projects were being completed.

   · By completing general household tasks and cooking dinner two nights a week, 

David learned how to cook and meal plan, mom was more relaxed after work and had more time to spend with David and drive David to friends or other activities.

When I asked mom, how the summer planning went her response was: 

"Well, my David was not thrilled with the whole conversation, and at times I got some eye rolling and frustrated sighs. But you know, I think we both walked away feeling OK about the summer plans. Using our family values helped us create a plan we can both live with."

Conversations like the one Heather and David had, share control with teens while building problem-solving skills. It builds confidence and more importantly it builds relationship. Teens do what parents want them to do, not because parents make them, but because teens are in relationship with their parents.

I saw mom at the end of the summer and asked how things went. Heather replied," It was one of the best summers ever." Knowing what was expected, her son was able to stick to the agreement. When he faltered from the agreement, instead of nagging, mom pointed to the contract. David learned that mom really was not asking too much of him, and if he got going right away in the morning he was done by noon and still have plenty of time to have fun with friends and be lazy. Heather was not thrilled with the amount of screen time, but because things were getting done around the house she was able to let that go causing less tension. David also discovered the benefits of helping others. The two neighbors were so grateful that he came and mowed the lawn for them; they showered him with praise and cookies. Who can ask for more?

Lisa Krause MA., Certified Family Life Educator, parent coach and adjunct professor at Concordia University. Lisa is passionate about helping professionals and parents grow strong and healthy families. Click here to learn more about Lisa and Parent Coaching.

There is more help about avoiding overindulgence in How Much is Too Much? Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).

All photos from MorgueFile free photo. 

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;