7  Tips for setting boundaries with teenagers

Why do teens test the boundaries? Why won’t they listen to you? How can you control their behaviours more? Common questions, with a Secret Solution. Teens test the boundaries for several reasons; to aim for a sense of freedom, to get your attention, to determine what they can and can’t get away with and to feel like they have power and control. In order to better respond to these reactions from your teen, check out the following tips:

Tip 1 – Remember your teen is a Developing Adolescent

The four cornerstones of adolescent development are independence, body image, peer relationships and sexuality. Your teen’s behaviours are driven by these factors, so keep this in mind before you discuss your desired boundaries.

Tip 2 – Work together to find an agreeable compromise

We have found you are more likely to gain agreement on the boundaries when you try to  understand what they are trying gain, what they want to explore and why they think they want it. – keeping in mind what stage of their development they seem to be in.  If you can reach an agreement with your teen, ensure it is fair, safe and teaches your teen that something or part of their request is better than nothing at all. Refrain from adopting the Brick Wall Parenting approach or “My Way of the Highway” syndrome, as this WILL lead your teen to rebel even more.

Tip 3– Set boundaries that teach Cooperation & Responsibility

With this focus, teens will develop a real sense of freedom through being empowered to take responsibility, and thus be confident in making more choices for themselves. They can become problem solvers and feel compelled to be more useful and helpful to others.

Tip 4 – Communication is the Key

Be assertive and stick to your guns when setting boundaries. Emphasise what might happen if the boundary wasn’t upheld, but don’t resort to “Worst Case Scenarios” or make verbal threats. Consider making the conversation future-focused, highlighting the long term benefits and rewards for your teen by them following boundaries now.

Tip 5 – It’s up to You to Control the Conversation

Plan and prepare for your talk I advance; this has many benefits. By knowing your desired outcome, you can structure the talk around boundaries and be more prepared for your teen’s possible refusal and defiant questions.

Tip 6 – Use the Power of Positive Reinforcement

When your ten follows and respects your boundaries, reward them for it! You can just simply come out and say “I’m proud of you”. Even cook them a special meal, increase their pocket money, or do something fun together. Rewards will encourage your teen to continue to follow the boundaries and see the benefits in doing so. But remember to reward reasonably.

Tip 7 – Always Keep an Open Mind

Try your best to let go of strong judgement. This can reduce disappointment, prompt effective questioning and honest answers and build self-awareness in your teen, and you. Consider multiple approaches to setting boundaries and try them all.

Bonus Tip – Focus on the Relationship

Get to know your teen as they change and grow. Spend quality time with them, but also allow them their space and independence. Ask questions about their day, offer suggestions by telling them about an article your read or create a story of how something worked well for another family so you can still get your advice “out there” without them thinking you are telling them what to do or nagging them.  It works a treat! It also helps to keep a healthy relationship because teenagers tend to steer away from advice and may clamp up if they know you are going to advise them all the time.  The better your relationship is, the better behaved and safer your teen will be.