“It’s not fair!” I’m sure you’ve heard that before.
Your teen wants more independence, you want them to be healthy and safe. Setting and enforcing limits with teens is a daunting and frustrating task. Teens are constantly pushing the limits and want to be treated like adults.
In my counseling practice I often hear complaints from teens about the rules …
“My parents treat me like I’m 5 years old!”
“My punishment makes no sense.”
“They won’t listen to my side of the story.”
“The rules just depend on how my parents are feeling that day.”
So, what’s a responsible parent/adult supposed to do? Here are some ideas that may help.
- Discuss limits in advance – Have an ongoing conversation with your teen about the rules, ideally before a situation arises. Be sure to cover all the bases: technology use, going out, chores, homework, etc.
- Be specific – What do you mean when you say “have a good attitude”? What are the behaviors you want to see? Clearly define your expectations and use examples about the rules and consequences.
- Explain your rationale – Young people often see limits as arbitrary, explain why the rule is important. “Because I’m the parent” is NOT an explanation. If you can’t explain it maybe you should re-think it.
- Consider your teen’s perspective – Be willing to listen to your teen’s side. They probably have some valid points regarding the rules and consequences.
- Be age appropriate – Your teen is not 8 years old and should be given more freedom and responsibility as they get older.
- Use natural consequences – Teens should be allowed to experience the natural consequences of their actions. You don’t always need to jump in to discipline.
- Be Consistent!
- Recognize good behavior – Young people often feel like adults are only trying to catch them doing something wrong. Try to catch them doing something right!
You and your teen need to be on the same page about what the rules are and the consequences. Your teen may not necessarily agree with all the rules … but if they understand what is expected of them things should go a little more smoothly.
What has worked (or not worked) for you while setting limits with teens?
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