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HomeArticlesBoundaries with Teens

Boundaries with Teens

Raising a teenager? Then you have likely experienced the joy and frustration of boundaries… boundary-making, boundary-breaking, and boundary frustration.

Being a teen has its challenges as does it for the adults who love them. Parents are learning how to interact with their children as they grow and mature. Teens are learning how to become separate from their parents to become independent adults.

This is no easy task for any of us! Boundaries will look different for every household, but they hopefully will be consistent, respectful, achievable, helpful, and coming from a place of love.

Understanding Boundaries

Boundaries are the rules that define our limits and expectations. Boundaries help define our family culture and teach the values and skills our teens need to feel the most secure at home and when they are with others as well as learn skills of responsibility, accountability, and independence for the real world.

As a parent, knowing yourself and what you want for your home, and your relationships is key. Knowing what you want to teach your teen will help clarify and structure the boundaries you have in your home. It is important to know your limits and values.

Remember, it is a balance of when to compromise with your teen and where to draw the line. When we are clear about who we are and what we are willing to do, it makes the boundary expectations, consequences, and rewards clear. When the inevitable push against parents’ boundaries occurs, it is easier for us as adults to manage when we understand the why behind the boundary.

Healthy Communication

This is a two-way street. When we are respectful and communicate healthily with our teens it models how we would like for them to communicate with us. Remember this is a learning process for your teen. We strive for progress, not perfection. Being as aware of your feelings can help guide you in your communication with your teen. Strive for respect, clarity, and kindness.

Setting up Boundaries

Be clear about the rules, i.e. boundaries. Write them out so that everyone is clear about the expectations. Creating accountability is an important life skill. Involving your teen in creating the expectations of boundaries and consequences will give them a sense of ownership and understanding. Compromise is important but only if you are comfortable with the boundary. Involving your teen in creating the boundaries collaboratively will foster accountability and help your teen learn about compromise and responsibility and hopefully have them feel more invested in the boundaries.

Boundaries, Consequences, and Rewards

It is important to work out the consequences at the time when the boundary is being set. We want to discipline your child, not punish them. Discipline teaches while punishment is just that. If the consequence is clear and natural it helps your teen understand the expectation and how to prevent the consequence the next time. When creating your family boundaries keep in mind, we don’t want to be rigid, we don’t want to be permissive, but we strive for something in between. Being consistent in expectations and consequences will help enforce the boundaries. Rewards are important to strengthen positive behavior and show you are aware of your teen’s success. “I noticed you got home before curfew last night.” Acknowledging when your teen is doing something well with a reward is also a great incentive to keep that positive behavior going.

Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW
Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW
Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW is a therapist and partner at The Counseling Consultants, a group of mental health providers located in Arizona, focusing on teen, family, adult, and couples counseling support. Rachel also contributes articles for, which supports teen health & wellness.



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