Between getting a handle on identity issues, struggling with hormone changes, and fighting off the urge to engage in vices, the teen years can be confusing for kids, and raising teens the right way can be pretty challenging for many parents.
Most parents rush to set boundaries for teenagers in the hope of controlling them. However, it doesn’t take too long before teens test their limits and push whatever boundaries parents set for them.
The thing is, setting boundaries with the mindset to control your teenagers will result in disappointment and frustration most of the time. You must adopt a different approach to establishing rules and setting limits if you want your teens to respect boundaries. Keep reading to learn how to set boundaries properly for teenagers.
Effective Approach to Setting Boundaries
Some decades ago, you were in the exact position as your teen. You wanted freedom and got your kicks from pushing your limits and expanding your boundaries.
These experiences come with the teen years, so it shouldn’t be surprising if your teenage kids want to do what’s only natural.
Your role as a parent is to create “safe zones” where your teenager can safely explore. That’s where using the right approach to set good boundaries comes in.
Instead of trying to control teens or force them into obedience using rules and limits, think of setting boundaries as giving your child the opportunity to practice and develop self-control.
Children must push against boundaries; it’s a normal part of growing up. With this in mind, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and frustration when your children do what they are hard-wired to do.
That said, neglectful parenting ― allowing your teens to do as they please ― can have damaging effects on children. Not setting boundaries for teens is essentially setting them up for a difficult future.
Examples of Boundaries for Teenagers
As a parent, you must give your teenager a sense of structure, responsibility, and safety. If you’re unsure how to do this, here are some examples of helpful boundaries to set for teens:
- Personal boundaries: Get your kids to establish their personal space from an early age. This could include rooms (bedrooms), personal belongings (clothes, shoes, and hygiene kit), and gadgets. Establishing personal boundaries teaches teenagers to respect themselves as well as other people’s personal space.
- Behavioral boundaries: Want your teen to steer clear of risky behaviors? You must establish clear rules about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Let your teenager know the dangers of illegal substance abuse, fighting, risky social media use (such as sexting), trespassing, and vandalism. Behavioral boundaries help teenagers make responsible decisions.
- Communication boundaries: Help teens develop healthy communication skills by teaching them to communicate their needs and feelings effectively. At the same time, teach them to respect other people’s needs and feelings.
- Time boundaries: Effective time management starts at home when parents establish time limits for screen and set curfews. While time boundaries can vary widely between families, not having curfews and time limits for TV and other gadgets will do your teens or younger kids more harm than good.
- Social boundaries: Realistic limits on social interactions can help teens develop healthy relationships, stand up for themselves, respect people’s opinions (even if it differs from theirs), resolve disagreements amicably, and not be influenced by peer pressure.
Here’s something to keep in mind when setting boundaries for teenagers.
Just because a rule works for most people doesn’t mean it is good for your family. Consider your teen’s unique needs, circumstances, and family values when setting limits.
7 Tips for Establishing Boundaries for Teenagers
1. Start the Boundary-Setting Process Early
A good time to set boundaries is before children reach the adolescent age. Kids are more malleable (so to speak) when they are younger than when they become teens.
Start with simple instructions like putting on their coat when going out in cold weather. Getting your kids to follow simple instructions from a younger age means they are already familiar with what’s expected by the time they are teenagers. This way, transitioning to full-blown house rules and limits will be much easier when the time comes.
2. Involve Your Teen in the Process
You don’t want your teenager to see you as a dictator; it puts a wedge between you and them. One way to avoid this is to involve them when setting boundaries instead of dictating rules to your teen.
Explain to your teenager the new rules, why they are important, and the benefits of staying within limits.
Here’s the thing, though.
Involving your teen in the boundary-setting process goes beyond telling them about new rules. Ask for their input to give them a sense of participation. After all, the rules are for their own good, so they should have a say on what they think is reasonable. And when you ask for input, be willing to tweak things so that you can reach realistic guidelines that suit your family values.
3. Choose the Right Time
Timing is crucial when it comes to setting boundaries. If you lay down rules when you are angry or as a reaction to some bad behavior, you are essentially establishing a rule that your teenager will kick against from the get-go.
Why is that?
Your teen will consider the rule as punishment for something they did wrong. A good time to discuss boundaries and establish rules is when you are in a good headspace and your kids are relaxed.
4. Set Clear Rules and Consequences
You want to be as clear as possible when it comes to establishing rules and consequences. Never leave your teenager in the dark about what is expected and the consequences of breaking the rules.
For example, be clear about curfews. Instead of saying, “I want you home before dark,” set a more specific rule so that your teenager clearly knows:
- When the curfew is (for example, 8:00 pm or whatever time works for you).
- What to do if something comes up that will keep them late (for example, call home and explain why they’ll be running late rather than make excuses afterward).
- The consequences for missed curfews (for example, rolling back the curfew by an hour).
5. Be Consistent
Do not shift the goalpost to suit your child one day and be strict the next. Sometimes certain rules will need to be revised, but don’t do them on a whim.
If something needs to be adjusted, approach it as if you are setting a new boundary. In other words, have a chat with your teen about the new rule and why it is important to make the adjustment.
6. Flexibility Is Key
Consistency is great; it helps your teen know exactly what to expect. However, no one is perfect, and there is no ruling out mistakes when it comes to following rules.
Sometimes, your teenager will have genuine reasons to make a “judgment call,”, especially in situations that require thinking on their feet instead of blind obedience.
Be willing to listen to your teenager and adjust the rules if necessary. By the way, always remember to praise your teen when they demonstrate good judgment.
7. Practice What You Preach
Lastly, set a good example for your teenager. Respect and follow your own rules if you want them to do the same.
Live and lead by example. For example:
- Drive within speed limits even when you are in a rush.
- Don’t stay out late.
- Call home and explain to your spouse why you are running late.
- Take breaks from your gadgets.
- Treat others respectfully, including those with lowly jobs.
- Don’t talk badly about people, especially behind their backs.
Getting your teenager to respect and take you seriously goes beyond laying down house rules. You must model the behaviors you want to see in them.
I’m a big believer in unconditional parenting. But loving your children unconditionally doesn’t mean they are free to do whatever they like whenever they want. Regardless of your parenting style, you’ll do your teens a world of good with some healthy boundaries.
While it is important to set boundaries for teenagers, don’t forget to explain to your teen why these limits are important. Remember to ease the limits as they grow older and demonstrate good judgment and responsibility.