Every parent of a teenager wishes at one point or another that their teen was still a toddler. That’s before there were frequent arguments over curfew, homework, and dating. Sometimes the “terrible twos” can seem like a much easier time compared to the difficult teenage years. When children become teens, parenting stops being fun and becomes hard work. How do you create household rules for your teens?
To create effective household rules for teenagers, you need to focus on their:
- Budding social skills
- Health habits
- Sense of morality
- The future
Teenagers want nothing more than to feel they have independence. They need freedom to explore their life, find out who they are, and begin the transition into adulthood. It’s important to remember teens are not yet fully matured. They need guidance to remain on the right path and avoid dangerous situations. Teens also need to learn to master self-discipline. This is where having a strong set of household rules comes into play.
In the following article, we’ll elaborate on the five types of household rules to help your teen grow. We’ll also give you some pointers about setting your own rules. This article is a must-read for any parent of teens.
The Five Types of Household Rules for Teens
Being a parent of a teenager requires a certain degree of balance. You have to give your teen the guidance to make healthy decisions on their own. At the same time, you must offer them enough freedom to make a few mistakes along the way. Your teen’s mistakes or failures can be a teaching tool for life lessons with your help.
Teens need to have discipline in their life. The household rules they follow should fall into the five main categories we discussed in the intro.
When you’re crafting rules, you should think about areas where your teen needs more guidance. For instance, if your teen has trouble following your rules, take it as a sign they need stricter guidelines in place. They’re not yet ready for increased responsibility. As they begin to show they can follow the rules, then you can let your teen have more freedom.
Let’s take a look at the five types of house rules for teens in more detail now.
Enhance Your Teen’s Social Skills
Teens often need extra assistance when it comes to their social skills. Set household rules to help your teen learn to cope with their emotions and interact more effectively with others.
- Dating: Creating dating rules can be complicated. Your teen needs to have some freedom to explore romance while being kept safe at the same time. Make sure you’re clear about how much physical contact you consider okay. Completely reveal your expectations for what can and can’t happen in your home.
- Emotions: Teens can be very emotional by nature. It’s important to have rules to promote anger management if your teen lashes out when angry. Take the time to help your teen learn different problem-solving skills to manage their emotions. This will enable them to handle their issues independently.
- Friends: Your teen’s friends will play a large role in their behaviors in the coming years. Your teen may have a circle of friends who spell nothing but trouble to you. If this is the case, limit the time they can spend together outside school. Offer your teen guidance when it comes to dealing with bullying in school as well. Talk to them about any disagreements between friends and how to handle these.
Encourage Your Teen to Have Healthy Habits
Teens aren’t known for having the most motivation in the world. More often than not, they need help from their parents to develop healthy habits. Use this opportunity to teach your teen to make the best use of their time while taking care of themselves.
- Free Time: Teens need rules to help govern how they spend their free time in a productive way. Limit computer usage to keep your teen’s waking hours from being spent only in front of a screen. Be very clear about places your teen can consider a hang-out spot as well.
- Self-Care: Most teens don’t need reminders to do daily things such as brushing their teeth. That doesn’t mean they don’t still need a push when it comes to self-care. Come up with rules to promote exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep habits.
- Work: Household chores, part-time jobs, and homework don’t usually rank high on a teen’s priority list. You may need to consider setting rules to ensure they handle their responsibilities anyway. Try linking your teen’s privileges to getting their chores done or set aside a time each day for homework. This is also a great chance to teach them about spending and saving money.
Promote the Safety of Your Teen
Many teens like to think they’re invincible or immortal. They can also be rather impulsive. As a parent, it’s important to establish strict rules to promote the safety of your teen.
- Curfew: When it comes to teens, almost nothing good happens after midnight. Establish a solid curfew with your teen. If they prove to be responsible enough to honor the curfew you set, then consider making it later as a reward.
- Driving: Teens need to have clear rules in place about driving safety and privileges. Make sure you have enforceable limits in place on the use of cell phones in the car. You must be just as clear about speeding, distracted driving, and passengers as well.
- Drugs and Alcohol: Have a frank discussion with your teen about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse. Teach them how to make good choices for themselves. Make sure the consequences for experimenting with drugs or alcohol are heard loud and clear. Craft a plan for your teen to get out of a potentially bad situation if they need a lift home.
Teach Your Teen to Have a Good Moral Compass
Teens have many opportunities to explore different values as they mature into adults. By establishing their moral compass now, you can influence the values your teen will adopt.
- Honesty: Sit down with your teen and set rules to encourage honesty. Explain how consequences will be more intense if your teen tries to lie to cover their misdeeds. Consider rules to discourage cheating at school, whether it be on homework or exams.
- Respect: Teens need to have rules put in place encouraging them to treat others with respect. Teach important life lessons through rules against bullying, gossiping, and talking back.
Prepare Your Teen for The Real World
Teens have a short window of time to start practicing for life in the real world. Observe your teen’s behavior over a period. This will show you what else they need to learn so they can be ready to enter the adult phase of life.
- Finances: Prepare you teen now for budgeting in the real world by teaching them how to handle money. Set goals for how much they should save each month. Help them to make good choices when it comes to how they spend their money. Cover the basics of needs vs. wants and instruct your teen on how to learn the difference.
- Self-Discipline: For teens to live on their own, they need to understand self-discipline. Set rules which give your teen some freedom and allow for consequences where needed.
Three Easy Steps to Setting Household Rules for Your Teen
1. Have a Conversation
Broach the topic of rules with your teen by first figuring out what’s really important. As a parent, you have to decide which issues are negotiable and which are not. Sit down with your teen to express your concerns or displeasure. Air your issues but do so in a way where you don’t set an expectation to resolve them right away. Let everyone leave to think things over and consider where they can be flexible. Sit down again at a later time to discuss things again.
Having these discussions with your teen is the first step towards setting limits. These limits allow you to create a system of communication which is both healthy and effective. This also lets your teen know how valuable their viewpoint is in the discussion. They will begin to learn to take ownership of their words and actions. In time, your teen will understand, accept, and adhere to the limits put in place.
2. Allow Your Teen to Negotiate
Teens need to feel as if they have some choice in the matter. Parents of young children have more ability to issue commands with their kids. They can say things like “go clean up your toys now” or “no snacks unless you finish your lunch”. Teens need a bit of a different approach. A parent may say “you can make sure to be home by 10:30 PM, or I can pick you up at 10 PM. What would you rather do?”
The best thing to do here is script out different options and let your teen make the choice. This is a healthy way for them to create their own outcome through their behaviors. Make sure you’re thinking of different options you can live with. Going back to our example, you shouldn’t offer to pick your teen up at 10PM if you know you won’t be able to do so.
3. Outline and Enforce the Consequences
Consequences are a different approach to parenting than a punishment. When a parent imposes a punishment, they’re usually angry and want their teens to suffer to a degree. Good consequences decrease the likelihood of bad behaviors being repeated. Consequences can be a chance to learn when they’re appropriate and relevant to the situation.
The consequences your teen faces should match the severity of the offense. Before you impose any consequence, make sure it’s something you’re okay with. You need to be able to follow through as the parent in the situation. Don’t revoke your teen’s driving privileges if you need them to take their younger siblings to school.
Another consideration is whether a consequence has already been imposed from outside. If your teen lost a spot on their school sports team for cheating on exams, that may enough. Don’t take away life events like going to prom from your teen unless their behavior is truly egregious.
Always include chances for your teen to make things right when imposing consequences. If you feel they have gotten the message and show remorse, be willing to renegotiate things. Have an honest conversation with your teen and come to a resolution.
Enforcing the rules you put in place won’t always be a walk in the park. Some days are going to be much more difficult than others. You may wish you could hand off your responsibilities to someone else. Throwing in the towel isn’t an option when it comes to parenting. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when dealing with rebellious teens.
Excessive Rules Might Backfire on You
Teens are discovering their own independence. One of the best things you can do as their parent is support them on their journey. Imposing too many rules may end up creating an endless cycle of control and rebellion. The more you try to control your teen’s behavior, the more they rebel against you.
As an example, consider parents imposing a strict 9 PM curfew on their 15-year-old. They have no flexibility when it comes to curfew. They also regularly check the teen’s emails, text logs, and social media accounts. The slightest perceived violation of any rule is met with harsh punishments. The teen grows angry and resentful. They feel no matter what they do they’ll be punished. At that point, breaking the rules no longer matters.
Understand There Will Be Tension
Tension between teens and parents can sometimes be unbearable. Your daily parenting decisions may be seen as unfair, which will result in bad feelings. Sometimes parents back off from a rule to try and diffuse teen anger. Other parents are okay with being temporarily despised by their teens.
Keep in mind that even when your teen protests to the point of being exhausted, they may secretly want you to say no. Rules and consequences can act as a scapegoat away from peer pressure. It lets teens blame good behavior on their parents and escape ridicule from friends.
Be Dedicated to Following Through
Parents must be able to follow through on any imposed consequences. One common reason parents cave on follow-though is because they don’t want their teens to be angry with them. Acknowledge your fears if you’re presented with a situation where your teen tells you they hate you. Understand teens sometimes rely on shock value. The things they say during an argument are out of anger and aren’t always genuine feelings.
You can always create a support group for yourself to cope with this type of difficult situation. Here are some things you might do as well:
- Talk to your spouse about the interaction
- Call a close friend or other family member you can confide in
- Seek professional counseling if necessary
- Pick up a self-help book for extra validation
- Be a model of good coping skills for your teen
The most important thing you could ever teach your teen is their development into an adult. Your teen needs guidance to be healthy, independent, and self-confident. When they encounter struggles along the way, it’s up to you to provide them the tools for when you’re not around. The mistakes your teen will make can become a learning experience for adult life.
Teens may feel like there isn’t a need for so many rules. They could feel a little resentful over the rules or even get outright angry. If arguments flare up, remind them the rules are in place because you love them. Your teen might not understand in the moment, and that’s okay. One day in the future they’ll thank you for helping set them on the right path in life.
Nicole Malczan is a content marketing writer and freelancer. She's applied her knowledge of marketing and SEO to many clients over the years, ranging from food service to facilities management and currency exchange. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, and music.