The teenage years can be difficult on both parents and teenagers. Teens are ready to display their independence, yet they are still dependent on their parents. While teens may act like they can handle things, they are still developing their identities and having boundaries in place is necessary. Boundaries give structure and provide safety. They also help guide teens along the right paths as they progress into adulthood.
How to set boundaries with your teen
Talk to your teen about the boundaries you are setting and tell them the reasons for each one. Teens are more likely to stay within their boundaries if they understand why they are in place. Be open to your teen’s viewpoint and input. Negotiate on things that you feel are open for negotiation. Stay firm on things you do not feel are open to negotiation.
Keep in mind that as your child grows into an older teen, you will need to adjust the boundaries you have set for him. The rules that apply to your teen when he is 15 may not work when he is 17. As your teen grows in maturity and responsibility, so should expectations and limits grow and change.
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If you are not sure of the areas where boundaries should be implemented, here are some questions you can think about to help you get started.
Responsibility boundaries for your teen
- Should your teen wake themselves up in the morning?
- Are there household chores your teen is responsible for? If so, which ones?
- Is your teen expected to prepare his own breakfast or lunch?
- Does your teen do his laundry?
Financial boundaries for your teen
- Do you give your teenager an allowance? If so, how much do you give him and what does he need to do to earn the money?
- What do you pay for and what does your teen pay for?
- Does your teen have his own bank account?
- Is your teen required to save a portion of his money?
- Will you lend your teenager money? If so, how long does he have to pay back the money owed to you?
Physical boundaries for your teen
- Do you and your teen knock before going into each other’s rooms?
- Can your teen borrow your things without asking?
- Do you have the right to go through your teen’s room and belongings?
Communication boundaries for your teen
- Will you keep what your teen shares with you private or should it be understood that you share everything with your partner?
- What communication tones and attitudes are acceptable to you?
- Are your teens allowed to swear? If so, what words are allowed and which words are not allowed?
Social boundaries for your teen
- Is your teen allowed to date? If not, at what age can he date?
- How many nights per week can your teen go out with friends?
- What is your teen’s curfew on weeknights? Does your teen have a different curfew on weekends?
- Is your teen allowed to have opposite-sex friends in the home when no adults are present?
- Do you have the right to inspect your teen’s email, text messages, phone records, and other correspondences?
Driving boundaries for your teen
- If your teen is driving, who pays for his insurance and gas?
- What happens if your teen gets a ticket?
- Is your teen allowed to have passengers in his car? If so, when can have he have passengers and who can they be?
When possible, let your teen suffer the natural consequences of things. For instance, if your teenager hasn’t managed his time and he is going to be late for work, do not call your teen’s supervisor and make an excuse for him. Doing so only enables the teen and he will not learn how to manage his time.
For situations that do not have a natural consequence such as breaking curfew, you will need to come up with a form of discipline. This may be loss of driving privileges, being grounded, or some other form of discipline. When you do give a consequence, stick to it. Don’t let your teen talk you out of it. If you do, you will lose credibility. It can also set a teen up into thinking that boundaries really aren’t that important.
A parent’s job is to help children grow into responsible adults. Teaching your teen about boundaries, and the responsibility of staying within their boundaries, is one way this is achieved. If a teen doesn’t learn how to follow the rules and respect authority at home, the chances are high they will have problems when they leave home as young adults.
Recommended reading on raising teenagers
For more information and advice on raising teenagers, take a look at the following books: