Raising a teenager can be challenging. As teens experience labile emotions, bursts of energy followed by long periods of “tiredness,” social challenges, and personal trials at any given time, boundary setting can be perplexing. While all parents have gone through the teenage years in the distant past, their experiences are obsolete in comparison to “modern day” teens. As a matter of fact, to gain a better understanding of the new generation of teenagers, I consulted with my 15-year-old son to discuss effective discipline and boundary setting.
Boundary Setting Starts Early In Life
Boundary setting begins when a child is very young. As a mother of 6 children, I began setting small boundaries when my babies were developing communication skills. The technique that I use is simple: redirection of unfavorable behavior combined with an explanation of the associated feeling. For example, if my baby bites, I will redirect the behavior by providing a teething toy. Additionally, I would associate the biting with pain by saying, “Ow, biting hurts!” While the baby may lack full comprehension, eventually he/she will understand. I use this same method (age appropriately) throughout the years and find it to be very effective. Yes, this works for teens as well!
Parents: Mirroring Good Behavior
The teenage years is a transitional period from childhood to adulthood. With this in mind, I have noted that the most effective method to setting boundaries is mirroring good behavior. Teens tend to mimic their parents. While at times they identify with their social circles, their baseline mannerisms are learned from home (I am not referring to their occasional blunders). Therefore, it is especially important for teenagers to have positive role models at home.
Offer Simple Explanations
Another boundary setting method found to be effective is providing simple explanations for your actions. According to my 15-year-old son, an adult who takes time to explain the reason for a boundary is perceived as respectful. In return he is obliged to be respectful to that adult. Often teens simply do not understand why a boundary is in place. It is important for parents to provide simple explanations. For example, informing your teen that he/she is not allowed to chauffeur his/her friends in the car, accompanied with a brief conversation about teenage car accidents while driving with other teens may be very effective. Additionally, teens are very visual beings. A brief internet search will provide many pictures and news articles to support your explanation.
Other tips to keep in mind when setting boundaries for teens include
Be consistent. Your boundaries are a set of rules that requires compliance.
Follow up. When you give a teenager a task be sure to follow up with them, verifying (visually) that they completed the assigned task.
Be respectful. Regardless of the situation, maintain respect for yourself and your teen. Remember you are the ultimate role model.
Educate yourself on the stages of child development. By being more aware of behaviors, parents can focus on strengthening the “true” areas of weakness within their child.
Reward good behavior. By simply hearing their parents say, “Good job,” teens become more encouraged in producing good behavior.
It is okay to apologize for your mistakes. Your teenager is watching you closely. Eventually, he/she will learn to apologize for his/her shortcomings.