Thoughtful Parenting: Setting boundaries for teens
Remember the days when you would battle your parents to stay out just a little bit later, or beg them to let you go somewhere you knew they wouldn’t allow?
It is nothing new for teens to test limits; pushing their parents’ boundaries is practically a given during the teen years and part of learning how to be independent. However, it is extremely important that teens do have set parameters, that they know they are responsible for their actions, and that those actions have consequences.
Some parents may want to be more flexible with their own child than their parents were with them. While this may be tempting, it may also be confusing to your child. Your child will certainly enjoy this freedom, but it may cause him or her some level of uncertainty and raise the questions, “Don’t my parents care enough about me to set rules?” or “If I don’t have any rules at home, why should I follow the rules of society? Or at school, or work?
Boundaries let kids know where they stand and reinforces the idea they can’t just behave however they want without repercussions. And while many children argue they are old enough to make decisions on their own, this is exactly what boundaries are for — they allow kids to make choices within established parameters.
One of the first rules of boundary setting is to do it in advance. Children need to know what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if they deviate from the rules. Consequences need to be appropriate and rational to the child so the child learns a valuable lesson.
Second, be empathetic to your child’s feelings while standing firm. If your child breaks the rules, you, as a parent, need to impose the consequences. Remember, your child does not need another buddy. You may not be popular with your child, but children need a parent who will love them and guide them toward a positive future.
Third, set age-appropriate boundaries. Be willing to change the rules as your child grows older. For example, your 13 year old may have a curfew of 9 p.m., but is that an appropriate curfew for an 18 year old? Be flexible as your teen matures.
Married parents need to present a united front when it comes to boundaries so that each will back up the other. Divorced or separated parents need to stick to their boundaries and be consistent, even when the rules and boundaries of one parent differ from those of the other.
And lastly, know that no child is going to be perfect; they will fall or disappoint or any number of things. Don’t take this personally. Remember, failure and mistakes are part of the growing process and will help your child grow into a resilient adult.
• Set appropriate, logical rules and consequences in advance
• Use empathy, consistently impose consequences when rules are broken
• Be willing to modify rules as your child matures
• Ideally, parents should be united on rules and boundaries
• Stay positive and encourage your child, even when they fall short of expectations
Kris Andersen is the administrative director for the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation. For more information on CSFF, visit yap4rc.org.
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