Limits and boundaries (Part 2)

Some parents are resistant to providing structure for their teens.  Some may believe that setting limits and providing consequences will turn them into police officers in their own home.  Some feel like they are being too harsh on their teens, others may believe that providing limits will create resentment or drive a wedge in their relationship, and still others fear structure will remove their teens autonomy.  While initially providing structure is very difficult, over time teens will begin to predict the consequences of their behavior, make better choices, and reduce conflicted interactions between parents and teens.

The first step is to set up this structure.  Parent should decide which are the most important rules to enforce and what the consequences are before these rules are broken.  Common rules that parent come up with initially include rules around curfews, phone/internet use, and homework.  One effective way of setting this structure is to make it a collaborative family effort.  Many families will find that enlisting their teen in the decision making process will reduce the arguments about the rules and consequences later, because teens are less likely to claim a consequence is unfair if they helped to come up with it in the first place.  Having these decisions made ahead of time will allow the parents to enforce rules more calmly, rather than becoming frustrated with needing to come up with a consequence on the spot.

Commentary from Margaret Murchan, LCSW

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