Understand Ages & Stages

Tips for Setting Boundaries

One of the things that define the teen years for many parents is difficulty with boundaries and discipline. Teens are eager to assert their independence, and this can often conflict with the rules you’ve set for your family. Dealing positively with these conflicts is important and will set a good example for your teen as he or she matures into adulthood.

  • Let your teen know you understand her need for independence, but it’s important to maintain family boundaries as well. Share a story from your teen years about when you broke a rule, what the consequences were, and what you learned from the experience.
  • Don’t get overly angry with your teenager for misbehavior. If you have set appropriate expectations for behavior, all you have to say when your teenager misbehaves is, “You knew what the rules were and what the consequences would be.” Convey that the consequences are a result of your teen’s behavior. This helps teenagers understand that they are ultimately accountable for their actions.
  • Negotiate rules with your teenager—teens are much more likely to obey rules if they have a say in the creation of them. They are also more likely to obey rules if they understand the reasons behind those rules, so explain to your teen why you’ve chosen the boundaries that you have.
  • As kids enter puberty, their behavior can change drastically. Continue to monitor which behaviors your child has trouble with and help them improve those behaviors.
  • It is almost always a good idea to allow natural consequences to play out in the situation—be supportive, but let your teen deal with the resulting consequences. For example, if your teen is serving time in after-school detention, make her responsible for calling her employer to rearrange her work schedule. Resist the temptation to bail your teen out or minimize consequences.
  • Keep money out of your discipline methods. Don’t give kids money to entice them to do something, and don’t cut their allowance for misbehavior. Find other positive methods to deal with behavioral issues.
  • Curfews are an especially contentious issue with teens—be sure to make these decisions before your teen is begging to go out for the evening.
  • It’s especially important to follow through on the consequences you have set for your children. Giving in or letting your child talk you out of enforcing your rules reduces your credibility as a parent, and your child may grow up thinking that boundaries aren’t important.

Boundaries and discipline can become sensitive issues during your child’s teen years. But with open communication, some forethought, and a lot of patience, you can set boundaries and enforce consequences in a fair manner that will help your teen learn valuable lessons for the future.