Effective Boundaries for Your Teenager – How-to Guide

Five Steps to Establishing Boundaries without Going Overboard

By Chantelle Kadala

Raising a teenager is hard! I know, because I have one, and more often than not, it’s exhausting finding the right balance between being overprotective and being too lax.

There is a healthy middle ground, and finding that sweet spot was tough. Staying there is even harder as teens grow and mature, but there are steps you can take.

Five Steps to Establish Boundaries for Your Teen without Going Overboard:

Communicate Expectations. Successful communication means sharing your expectations from the start. Don’t wait until someone has stepped out of bounds to let them know where the boundaries are. These conversations build trust and accountability. They also create an opening for discussion and an agreement on consequences with your teens input. TIP: Be sure you are not sending mixed messages and always follow through on consequences and rewards.

Establish a Parent/Child Relationship. Teens are not little adults. It’s important they are not expected to act as your same-age best friend in some situations and a child who must follow your rules in others. Parents and teens can have wonderful relationships while remaining in their respective roles. TIP: Make certain they know they can make mistakes without losing your love and because of that love, you want what is best for them.

Find Balance. People feel valuable when you set high (but achievable) standards for them. They gain confidence when they see you trust their ability to make good decisions and figure things out. You can do this with your child while still making sure they stay on the right path by remaining consistent and fair. TIP: Strike the right balance of love and discipline and your teen will feel secure and valued.

Discipline and Correct. Make the effort to center discipline on your teen learning from their mistakes. Clearly explain the reason for the rule and the consequence to help your child process the intent of the discipline instead of only concentrating on the negative emotions that come with being in trouble. When they make a bad decision discuss what they could have done differently and how they will handle the situation the next time. TIP: By setting boundaries and letting your teen make minor independent decisions and deal with the consequences of those choices, you give them experiences that exercise the problem-solving and coping skills they will need in life.

Give Respect to Get Respect. Lead by example and give respect to your child so they know what respectful interactions look like and what they sound like. As parents we need to not act in the heat of the moment with angry outburst. A delayed consequence is better than an ineffective, or hard to enforce one, so stick to your terms. TIP: For the best results discipline should be done in private to avoid shaming, and praise should be given as often as possible to encourage repetition.

Don’t underestimate your power in this process! Not setting boundaries may imply to your teen that there are no rules or that you don’t care what they do. Commit to creating a positive and respectful relationship built on a foundation of effective communication and proper discipline.