Parenting a teenager is a time that proves to be difficult for many. Parents face obstacles with their children as they grow older, and let’s face it, children don’t come with an instruction manual. At some point when children reach the age of 11 or 12, many parents begin to stress over the upcoming and dreaded teen years. There are many factors which influence an adolescent: family, friends and peers, and their community at large. Therefore, when teens “act out” or make poor choices, it is counterproductive for parents to question what they did ‘wrong’ or to self-blame. Instead, it would be more important for parents to effectively utilize limits and boundaries with their adolescent.

To implement limits and boundaries successfully, practice is required. You will also need patience in the process of practicing limit setting. Often times, teens will try to “split” parents, meaning that they may ask one parent to engage in an activity or behavior, and then ask the other parent to try to get a different response. Sometimes, the adolescent might get a sense that one parent is “weaker” or more laid-back with rules, and they may go to that parent first to get the answer they want, even though they know their other parent won’t allow it. Therefore, being on the same page as parents together can help prevent splitting and prevent the adolescent from manipulating parents to get what they want.

Yes, your adolescent will probably be angry and might even nag one or both parents, but by sticking to your unified response and setting this limit, you can demonstrate to your teen that they cannot manipulate. Not only is limit and boundary setting important for parenting your teen, but doing so also sets a good example to your teen so they can learn to set their own limits and boundaries within their relationships with friends, peers, or future romantic partners.

So what are some ways to successfully establish limits and boundaries? First and foremost, always consult with the other parent about the teen’s request before giving an answer or making a decision. If your teen asks to go to a party and you say ‘yes,’ but then your spouse says ‘no,’ this can create a discrepancy in limit and boundary setting and cause confusion and frustration for your child. Let your child know when you will have an answer for them. If you need to consult with your spouse, tell your teen that you will let them know by the end of the day, or by the following day. Your adolescent will know that they are not being forgotten or dismissed.

When setting limits and boundaries, keep calm in your tone of voice and try to validate your adolescent’s feelings. Even if your child tries to argue with your boundary, calmly repeat it rather than argue back. This is a positive tip for parenting, but also for general communication with your child. For example, if your teen wants to go to a party: “I hear that this party is important to you, but I need to talk to your father and I’ll let you know at 6pm” or “I understand the importance of going to this party, but you cannot go tonight because of the poor grade on your report card.” In these examples, you are showing your child that you hear them and can understand, but you still stand firm on your boundary.

It is essential to set limits and boundaries that are realistic and time specific. When implementing consequences, it is important for your adolescent to know how long they are going to experience the consequence. For example, if you say to your teen that you are taking their phone away FOREVER, they may not attempt to improve behaviors because there is no hope to get their phone back. If you let your teen know they are losing the phone for two weeks, they might be frustrated, but attempt to improve behavior within that time to get their phone back. It’s important to remember not to establish a limit or boundary that you will not follow through with. This sends the adolescent the message that they can essentially do what they want without consequence.

For more information on limit and boundary setting, parenting, and adolescent issues, call Specialized Therapy Associates at (201)-488-6678. By calling this number, you can also obtain information on counseling services, parenting group therapy services, adolescent group therapy services, and holistic physical and mental health and wellness services.