Knowing How to Set Boundaries for Your Teenager


Today’s twelve-year-olds know things that I was still puzzled about when I was eighteen. Nothing is left to the imagination (or to the future). It is sad to see such a loss of innocence, and hard for parents who do not want their children to grow up too fast.

Setting boundaries for our children is harder than ever, because there are such a wide variety of parenting styles now. It is hard to say no to your child when they would have you believe that all the other parents are saying yes. Yet, bowing to pressure is not the answer either. My belief has always been that I would rather err on the side of being too protective, than not protective enough.

Parents often ask me what is reasonable for junior high age students. My answer (to the dismay of the students) is that they should probably not be going out at all on school nights, other than for structured activities. There should be a regular time set aside for doing homework and studying. School and home responsibilities should be top priorities. These are important years for friendships and socializing, and parents need to recognize that. They are also vulnerable years.

It is reasonable for parents to expect to know where their children are at all times. It is reasonable to know who their friends are, and to provide some parental supervision. The more responsible the child, the more freedom they can handle. If a child is not doing well in school, and/or lies to his or her parents, then the stage is set for serious problems.

If a young teen feels he or she does not need to listen to teachers, or complete assignments, and also feels no need to respect parental wishes, the situation is already bordering on being out of control. If home and school demands are not being handled in a responsible manner, the child is not mature enough for a social life. It’s as simple as that.

What works best is for our children to know that we want them to be happy, and that it is our responsibility as parents to keep them on the right path, until they can stay there themselves. We want them to have fun with their friends, but if it is not the kind of fun that they want us to know about, then something is wrong. When a teen is in high school, and is behaving responsibly at home and at school, and is perhaps holding down a part time job, they are in a much stronger position to negotiate for a little more freedom.

It is very challenging these days to be a parent, but we must be willing to stand up for what we believe is right for our children. It is much easier to loosen up the boundaries later when we see that they can handle themselves, that it is to try to tighten things up when they are out of control. And it would not be fair to blame them for messing up if we were the ones who set the stage for it.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.

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