Setting Boundaries with Teenagers: Why You Should and How to Do It

Making sure you have solid boundaries set for teenagers is important–what’s even more important is that both you and the teens understand exactly what these boundaries are.

You need to figure out exactly what you want those boundaries to be and ensure that your teen or teens understand them. Not only you need to ensure boundaries are set and understood, but you need to decide what consequences will take place if those boundaries are broken or upset and make sure that your teen understands what those consequences will be. 

Boundaries are essentially rules that you set for your child all throughout their life and as he or she gets older, you have to change them to work with the age of your child. Once your child is a teenager, you need to work on understanding that boundaries will change more frequently–life goes fast for teens.

Both boundaries and consequences are important for teens to have. Certain things such as dating, going out with friends, chores, and everyday activities need to have certain rules set. It is crucial that your teen understands both of these things and why they are in place.

Why are Boundaries with Teens Important?

Boundaries help teenagers learn rules and how to obey them as well as what will happen if those rules are broken in any way. The worse a rule is broken, the more severe the consequence will be. This will help to teach them that once they are in the ‘real world’ and starting a career, they can’t do whatever they want.

Setting boundaries also show the teenagers that they are not in charge–they will better understand that their parents are in charge and they must respect them. Boundaries can help teenagers learn respect for higher-ups in life, whether it be their parents, teachers or boss. In learning this, they will also learn basic human respect as well.

As parents, you know you have one main goal: to help your child grow from a teenager to an adult successfully. Setting boundaries help us to be good role models for our children by showing them what’s okay and what isn’t as well as teaching them rewards versus consequences.

What Boundaries Should Be Set with Teens?

There are many different boundaries that parents can set, and it really depends on two things:

1. How strict the parents are

2. How unruly the teen is

The more strict you are as a parent, the more boundaries you are likely to set. However, being too strict can have a negative impact on your child, so try to be understanding and loosen your reigns just a bit. Teens need to have some freedom.

The more unruly the teenager is, the more boundaries will be needed to help teach them discipline. Here are some types of boundaries that may be set for any teen, unruly or not:

Hours for being out with friends/dates

  • Give them a time limit and expect them to be home by that time.
  • How late they determine the level of punishment

Having significant others over

  • Tell them what rooms they can be in
  • Give a time on when he or she needs to leave

Chores/important tasks before the fun

  • Teach them that important tasks like chores need to be done first

Basic rules including:

  • Alcohol/smoking/substance use
  • Homework first
  • Personal care and space
  • Emotional and mental boundaries

These are just a few examples. Every parent knows how they plan to raise their child and has their own set of boundaries.

Consequences for Breaking Boundaries

Consequences are crucial. Without them, you won’t be able to teach your teen why what they did was wrong. Sure, you could explain it to them, but unless you give them some sort of punishment, chances are they won’t really learn from it. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

Now, we aren’t saying to go and physically punish your child–that has been proven ineffective. However, take away some privileges. Here are a few examples of taking away privileges as a consequence:

  • Only allow them to use their phone when they aren’t at home.
  • Don’t let them go out on the weekends with friends.
  • Take away their video games.

There are other ways you can punish your child as well, such as adding extra tasks on to them. For example, you can give them extra chores around the house and yard.

Also, allow for natural consequences to take place. If something negative happens when your teen breaks a rule, then let it play out. Let them learn from this and rather than give them another punishment, explain to them how they can prevent it. Give them a second chance with whatever rule they broke.

Rewards for Following Boundaries

Praise or rewards is a great way to show teens that you are proud of them, especially if they are continuously following the rules you have given them. Rewards are always the more fun thing for us as parents to give our children, too! Here are some example of good rewards:

  • Allowing them out later than usual here and there
  • Getting them a surprise gift such as a T-shirt they like or a gift card
  • Taking over one of their chores on occasion
  • Telling them how proud you are of them and what a great job they are doing

Remember, there are almost endless ways to reward and praise your teens for good behavior! Don’t be afraid to get creative with it.

Tips for Successfully Setting Boundaries for Teens

Before you go and print up a big list of rules and hand them out to your teenagers, here are a few things you need to know about successfully setting boundaries.

Talk With Your Spouse/ Other Parent

Make sure that both parents are in agreement with the boundaries being set as well as the consequences, especially in a shared custody arrangement. This will help avoid arguments and the teen favoring one parent over the other. Sit down together and discuss what you believe to be the best way to set the boundaries before you tell your teen what they are. Make sure you are open to compromise.

Be Understanding and Patient

Don’t act like a dictator. While you do need to be assertive, you also need to be calm and patient when explaining to your teen what the boundaries you have set are. Let them express themselves if they have an opinion about it and be open to altering what you have set a little bit. Remind them that following the boundaries will result in more freedom and breaking them will result in less.

Remember to also respect your teenager. Listening to them and hearing what they have to say will help them respect you more too. Allow them to have their privacy and space too.

Change Boundaries

As your teen gets older, boundaries will need to be altered to match their age and teach them new responsibilities. You can sit down with them and ask them what they think would be fair and, based on their past behavior, see if you agree. If not, compromise a bit and work both sides into the boundary.

Stand Your Ground as Parents

Don’t allow your teenager to walk all over you. No means no, and if they can’t accept that, tell them you’re going to have to be a little more strict until they do. After all, your job is to guide them to be the best adult and person they can be. Being firm is a must as a parent and while it is important to be understanding of them, they also need to be understanding of you.

Remember, you are the parent first and foremost, not a friend. Allow them to get mad at you and don’t take it personally.

Raising a teenager can be hard, but it is very rewarding when you see that you did a good job and they are off being successful adults–all because you taught them how. Setting boundaries with your teen are important and should not be overlooked or forgotten. Remember to be understanding of your teen yet remain the parent and remember: always finish by telling your teen that you love them!

Related Questions

My Teenager Won’t Listen To Me: What Do I do?

There are a few things you can do in this situation. First, try not to get overly angry and yell. Sit down with them and explain to them why you are frustrated with this behavior. Be honest and open. Allow them to explain to you why they are acting the way they are and tell them to also be honest with you. Remember to be a parent rather than a friend. This might make them angry, but eventually, they will see that you do care.

How Can I Deal With My Stubborn Teenager?

First, remember to remain patient and not freak out and yell at them. While you need to stay the parent, you don’t want to become the ‘bad guy.’ Allow them to express themselves how they want through their hair, clothing, and music–and remember not to judge them. Let them know when you are proud of them and remind them that no matter what, you are there for them when they need you. Remind yourself it’s just a phase too, that your teenager is just figuring life out and might be having a hard time. Remind them that you love them.

Amber Harrison

Amber Harrison

Inside the mind and life of a first time stay at home mom–recipes, DIY and adventures!

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