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Our Favourite Ways to Set Boundaries for Teenagers

We've all heard stories about unruly teens, but according to Barbara Whiting Smith setting house rules and consequences helps families cope through difficult periods

 

We live in a world of boundaries and structure. Without rules and boundaries there would be chaos. Teenagers recognise rules and boundaries at school and the consequences when these rules are broken.

We asked Barbara Whiting-Smith, a Parent Support Adviser, to offer some advice to parents on how to set effective boundaries with their teenagers.

Passionate about helping parents manage their own unique situation, Barbara works in partnership with parents to make the changes that they desire.

"I think that parenting is the toughest job that we do and I think it is normal for all parents to struggle at times. I work one to one with parents in their own homes and I also run groups for parents in schools where I can give resources to help them change challenging behaviours in their children from age 5-18. So I have had many different experiences with a lot of unique family scenarios."

Over the years Barbara has noticed that parents are often reluctant to have specific rules at home for children, as they think that these are restrictive. Parents often have unwritten rules, and are left feeling disappointed when these are broken or ignored, leading to tense familial relationships.

There is clear evidence which suggests that a few basic House Rules, no more than four or five, can help teenagers know clearly what is expected of them and learn to accept limits.

Setting house rules for children and teenagers

When setting your house rules there are a few things that you should remember:

  • Decide on a small number (4-5)
  • Make sure they are understood and easy to follow
  • Make sure the rules are fair
  • Make sure that each rule has a consequence when broken
  • When deciding on the rules, make them positive rather than negative.
    For example your rule might be "speak in a pleasant voice", rather than "don't shout"
  • House rules and consequences should be discussed and agreed together with the teenagers if possible.

Popular house rules for teenagers

Every house will need to have different rules, as the relationships differ and so do the circumstance, but as you discuss the rules with your teen, you'll discover what's right for all of you.

We asked Barbara to give us some examples of rules that she has seen used effectively:

  • Everyone in this house keeps their hands and feet to themselves.
  • We speak politely to each other
  • We speak quietly
  • We respect each others privacy and property.

Consequences for teenagers

It is important that consequences are decided in advance for when House Rules are broken as this avoids the need for parents to over-react and apply inappropriate punishments.

When you are deciding on consequences, Barbara has a few suggestions when deciding what is fair and just:

  • Grounding teens for long periods of time tends not to be helpful
  • Consequences are more effective when an activity is stopped for a short time. For example, the TV is turned off for 1 hour - or something is taken away, perhaps their mobile phone for 24 hours, and then returned
  • Decide on consequences in advance so that when rules are broken the consequences are already in place
  • Consequences for rules broken can be different if there are children of different ages.

When behaviour is difficult and life is tough get out the baby photos and remind yourself of how far you have come and how well you have done. Celebrate your successes.

It's a work in progress and you are all on the rollercoaster ride of adolescence together so hang on it can be a bumpy ride!

More information for parents

Barbara Whiting-Smith RGN; RHV; DipCouns; MBACP, is a Parent Support Advisor and works with groups and individuals in Surrey.

 
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