Setting boundaries for teenagers may seem difficult, if not impossible. Parents can be successful at setting appropriate boundaries for teens that assures parents that the teen is less likely to become involved in dangerous situations, yet gives teens enough freedom so they do not feel imprisoned in their own home. Being successful at setting boundaries requires knowledge of what is and is not appropriate and the difference between a protective parent and helicopter parent.
But All My Friends Will be There
Sound familiar? It is called a guilt trip and you may have become a victim of this great act pulled by your teen. You do not want your teenager to be the only member of his or her class, sports team or drama club who does not go to the party. So you give in, even though it will be so un-cool if you drop your teenager off that they will “just die.” What a mistake you just made! By not setting the boundaries that you will talk to an adult (the 18 year-old classmate who will be there does not count) and verify that other responsible parents are letting their kids go, you are setting yourself up for all kinds of potentially disastrous situations. You do not know if there will be adult supervision, so you may not look like a responsible parent if the homeowners who left their teenager home alone during a weekend trip show up wanting to know why your daughter was at their home with their son. You may look even less responsible if the police are called due to the loud noise and drinking and you answer the door to find the police with your son or you have to go to the police station at midnight to pick him up.
Planned Parenthood says that even though teens are naturally given more freedoms than younger children, “We need to establish clear expectations with our teens and check in regularly to be sure those expectations are met.”
Refrain from being a Helicopter Parent
If your teenager complains repeatedly that he or she is never permitted to go anywhere without you, then you may need to take a serious look at that statement. When a child becomes a teenager, the family camping trip or church picnic does not count as “going somewhere” to most teenagers.
There are many teens who probably claim their parents are “helicopter” parents. While women are guilty of this far more than men, there are plenty of men who are guilty of being a helicopter parent. A helicopter parent is one who is overly involved in their children’s lives, constantly hovering over them. Copper Canyon Academy gives the example of a helicopter parent interfering in the life of a teenager by explaining that “Helicopter parents are so named because they hover over their children, focusing so intently on protecting their child from harm, disappointment and unhappiness that they keep them from experiencing the consequences of their actions.” It is further explained that “Since the teen expects to be rescued, they never become self-reliant but become skilled at manipulating their parents to do even more for them. It is also common for teens to act out and rebel in an effort to escape their parents’ persistent over-involvement.” So if you are a helicopter parent, you are doing more harm than good.
In Your Teen for parents, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, M.D., known to patients as “Dr. G,” says that “If we protect them from consequences when they are teenagers-and don’t teach them resilience-they will be shocked and betrayed by the real world. We’re setting up false expectations for how they will be treated in every aspect of their lives.” If you are a helicopter parent, your teenager will never develop skills necessary to deal with real life.
So set boundaries, but do so without being a helicopter parent. By the time a child is a teenager, certain freedoms should be extended, without you following them, calling and texting them repeatedly or watching them, without their knowledge, from the other side of the mall. You must learn to let go and give your teenager some freedom. Start out small when giving teens freedom. As they gain your trust, perhaps the boundaries can be revisited.
You do not believe you are a helicopter parent? Take this quiz at Baby Zone; you may be surprised.
Keeping a Healthy Balance
Planned Parenthood says that a healthy balance is the key to setting boundaries with teenagers. Do not smother them or follow them around, yet the teen must expect that you will know where they are going, who with and when they will return. There will be consequences for breaking curfew or for infractions such as not being where they were supposed to be going.
Opposite Sex Boundaries
When your teen asks permission to go on a date or informs you that he or she has a girlfriend or boyfriend, you may not know how to respond. The wrong thing to do is to forbid it, unless you have definite knowledge that the other person has a criminal record or something similar. If you absolutely forbid the two from seeing each other, that will only draw the teens closer and you will be in the midst of a serious rebellion. Instead, have a calm conversation. Explain your expectations, such as no time totally alone, the other person will not be in your home without an adult and vice versa. Talk to your teen about personal and physical boundaries, encourages Global Post in “Proper Boundaries for Teenage Couples.”
When giving some freedoms to your teen that starts dating, that does not mean a first date should be totally alone. My 16 year-old granddaughter recently went on a date and that date was bowling-a public place with plenty of other people, even though mom and dad were not hovering around to swoop in with embarrassing helicopter parenting tactics at any moment.
Social Media Boundaries
While your teenager may think it is the end of the world when you set boundaries for social media or internet use in general, explain the reality of the dangers to them. Teens are old enough for you to use explicit language when you explain that child rapists and predators are lurking on social media, as explained by WRIC-ABC. Pedophiles often pretend to be a teen themselves, and can easily discover who and where your teenager is. Set boundaries with your teen that includes the rule that under no circumstances will your teen post an exact location on the internet. Most social-media savvy parents have probably seen exact locations of individuals pinpointed on social media-right down to the exact mall or street that the teen is on visiting friends or exact fast-food location where your daughter or son is with friends at this moment.
Explain once that there will be consequences for violating social media boundaries. If it is violated, take all social media access away for whatever punishment time period you normally use. If you are new at social media boundaries, a week or two is long enough to get your point across. Your teen will get the message.
Benefits of Setting Boundaries with Teenagers
Setting boundaries with teenagers and how you set and adhere to those boundaries is one of the most important aspects of your relationship with your teenager. By setting boundaries with your teen, you are teaching important life skills and a strong value system. You are giving your teenager real-world experience, with the knowledge that boundaries are needed which protect them while allowing them to explore the world in a mature and responsible manner. By establishing and adhering to appropriate consequences for violation of boundaries, you are not being “the meanest person in the whole world!” You are being a responsible parent who is preparing your teen for real life in the real world.