Teens need parents and rules to push against. When parents set reasonable limits they give their kids the boundaries they need to help them become responsible, successful adults. More importantly, by setting limits parents protect their teens from potential danger. Parents of teens need to sometimes say “no.” Sometimes a teenager knows they shouldn’t be in a situation and they need to use their parent as an excuse to get out of it.
Part of being a teenager is finding out how far you can push a limit before your parents stop you. Some adolescents use the little-by-little approach and wear parents down gradually. “Can’t I just stay out till…” Others use the no-hold barred approach and totally ignore rules. Either way, parents need to back up their limits with consequences to let their kids know they mean business. We have all seen the parents that threaten and threaten, but never deliver. Teens are great at figuring this out! The lack of consequences actually makes kids feel uneasy and could make them even feel unloved.
Often the best consequences are those that happen to our teens naturally. Parents just need to sit back and not rescue the teen. Natural consequences give teens the ability to make choices, deal with the consequences and learn responsibilities.
When natural consequences can be harmful, either physically or emotionally, or when there aren’t natural consequences parents need to step in and impose consequences that are a logical response to the situation. A parent that lacks confidence in their teen’s ability to learn deprives them from experiencing valuable lessons.
Here are some tips on limit-setting that may help when it comes to establishing and enforcing rules with your teenager:
• Start with active listening to your teen both when you are creating rules and if/when they are broken. Allow your child some say in what some of the rules will be. When a rule is broken don’t just jump in, listen for a cause.
• Work on your communication/relationship with your child or no discipline will be successful.
• Avoid physical punishment with a teenager.
• Decide what is really important and establish only a few non-negotiable rules based on safety. These should include rules about drinking, driving, drugs, smoking and curfews. Pick what matters most.
• Don’t decide on rules in the middle of a crisis.
• Rules about other issues (like school, chores, or activities for example) should be clear and have defined consequences that are consistently enforced.
• Network with other parents of your teenager’s friends.
• Try not to loose your “cool” or allow yourself to get into long debates with your teen regarding the consequences when it is time to impose them.
• Speak to your teen with respect and good manners even when you are upset about something they have done. Always convey love and concern. Avoid yelling or insulting. Also try to avoid making a scene in front of others.
• Help your child to understand their responsibility in their choices and the consequences that happen afterwards. Assist them in becoming a totally responsible person, not having a “victim” mentality.
• Work with your teen on building their problem solving skills. Ask the questions and don’t give them all the answers. “What do you think you think would have worked out better in this situation?” “If you had this all to do over again what would you do differently?” Give them positive feedback for good answers.
• Assess your expectations often. People and situations change. Age and responsibility should be recognized and rewarded. A 17 year-old should have more responsibility and freedom than a 13 year-old.
• Be responsible, fair and clear with your expectations.
• Make your consequences as immediate as possible but also not too long.
• After you have dealt with a problem help your teen to save face and point out some of their qualities that you admire.
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