Set Boundaries

Learn How to Set Boundaries with Your Teen

Parents, if you don’t know how to set boundaries how can you enforce them?!?!

Setting boundaries with your children, especially with your teenagers is critical for parents to maintain order, discipline, respect, and control in their home. Unfortunately however, parents frequently struggle setting boundaries and quickly lose control. Common reasons for parent’s unwillingness or inability to set boundaries include:

=> Not wanting to be viewed as too strict

=> Wanting to be the “fun” parent (i.e. be their teens friend)

=>Feelings of guilt over long hours of work, divorce, etc.

=> The desire to give their child a better life than they had themselves

*** Risks of Not Setting Boundaries ***

Teenagers, by their nature, are rebellious to structure and rules. As they transition from child to adult, they “spread their wings” and push the envelope/see how far they can take things. As harsh as this may sound, teens look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their parents. They then use/take advantage of these weaknesses in order to get their way. Parents that do not have clear, consistent boundaries will take advantage of their “limitless” home environment and pretty much do whatever they want. Additionally, they will lose respect for their parents, and likely have less respect for the other adults (i.e. teachers) in their life.

On the flip side, parents who do have clear, defined boundaries set the stage early on with their teens. Now, I’m not saying that these boundaries won’t be pushed by their teen; they definitively will. However, at the same time, their teens will know that they parents “mean business” and will only push so far. Although they won’t always like it, they will acknowledge and respect the fact that their parents are “in charge”

*** How to Set Boundaries ***

1.     Make sure you and your spouse/co-parent are on the same page; As discussed above, teens can spot weakness a mile away. You and your spouse/co-parent should discuss the boundaries that you want to set with your teenager so that you have a cohesive front when discussing them with your teen.


2.     Involve your teen; make it a collaborative process; Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that your teen gets to set their own boundaries – that would make no sense. However, if your teen is actively involved in the process, they will feel a sense of ownership and “buy-in” and will be more likely to follow them. Additionally, your teen will take the fact that you are involving them as a sign of respect and they will feel as if their opinions matter/are validated


3.     Start “small”;  – If this is your first time at truly setting boundaries with your teen, you want to start small; maybe with 3-5 items on the “list”. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your teen with a long list of “rules”


4.     Make the list visible in your home; – I know this may sound odd, but post your list of boundaries somewhere in your home where everyone can see it. Then, if your teen does not adhere to an item on the list, you can simply point to the “posted” list and remind your teen about what was agreed to.


5.     Celebrate success; – The boundary setting process does not have to be all about setting rules and creating consequences. It is important that you acknowledge the success of your teen. Now, I am not suggesting that every time your teen adheres to a boundary that you celebrate or reward them. At the same time, however,  a small gesture or kind word can go a long way…..

*** Make Boundaries Adjustable

Boundaries are the most successful when they are flexible and not rigid. What I mean by this is that they need to adapt as your teen adapts and grows. For example, a curfew of 8:00 may be reasonable for a 13 year old but maybe 9:00 is more appropriate for a 16 year old. Listen to what your teen has to say and be willing and open minded to adjusting the boundaries as appropriate.

Remember – Let’s ‘parent with intent’