8 Things to Consider When Creating Rules for Your Teen

“It’s not fair!” I’m sure you’ve heard that before.

8 Things to Consider When Creating Rules for Your Teen

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?

Other articles you might enjoy:

A Case Against Punishment

Teen Expectations

How to Know When Your Teen is Ready for More Freedom



7 responses to “8 Things to Consider When Creating Rules for Your Teen

  1. Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC

    Hi, Jodi! I’m loving your list and especially like #1 – Discuss limits in advance. I’m always amazed at parents of my clients who give 100% freedom to their teens and then when the kid runs into problems is stunned that the teen is non-compliant. It’s so much easier and more effective to start out with narrow boundaries and let those kids “earn” the right to more freedom.


    • Hi Tamara! I completely agree! I have many clients (teens) who are confused by their consequences because they did not fully understand what was expected of them. We all like to know what expectations are for our behavior or performance ahead of time. Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Hi Jodi:
    This is a great list. Thank you so much for sharing it. I really resonate with the point about listening to your child. I think that when we get scared about our kids’ safety that it can be easy to just shut them down when they try to explain what happened because we don’t want to hear excuses. Often though, they may have some good rationale, even for part of what happened, and understanding their thought process can help us help them make better decisions in the future. I love how you point out that they might have some good input about how to adjust the rules in a way that makes sense for them and for parents.


    • Hi Amy! I find that teens can be very insightful about what kinds of boundaries and consequences make sense for them. An honest discussion with a teen about their perspective can really make rule setting a less contentious process. I appreciate you stopping by to share your thoughts!


  3. Pingback: Five Ways Teens Manipulate Their Parents | Shh!! Momma's Writing!

  4. Hi Jodi,
    Thanks for linking to my article!
    I think your point about being specific is a good reminder. Parents and teens often (always!?) have different perspectives and ideas about what is expected. For example, are they supposed to just “say hi” to grandma? Or, are the expected to stay in the room and engage her in a conversation? I can see how being specific can ease the tension and arguments when the situation comes up.


    • Hi Nicole,
      Thanks for stopping by! You are so right about parents and teens having different perspectives about expectations. I think we as adults often assume teens know what we are talking about because it seems so obvious to us … this almost always gets us into trouble. If we can really spell out the behavior expectation then hopefully some conflicts can be avoided. Thank you for your thoughts!


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