Building Appropriate Boundaries with Your Teen: The Fine Line Between Parent and Friend

By: Beverly Reyes
After-School Counseling Program Intern

As teenagers grow and start to individuate it is sometimes difficult for parents to find that fine line between parent and friend.  Parents with loose boundaries and rules may find it easy to get along with their teen because there is no power struggle and no arguments.  The teen is able to do what they want when they want.  However, if and when the situation gets out of control and parents start to create boundaries it becomes difficult because the teen is already use to a certain standard.  The teen may then disregard or rebel against these new rules.  Parents who are too rigid and strict don’t allow their teen to individuate and take partial control of their lives.  This can cause later resentment or anger towards the parent.  So how can parents find that perfect balance to help guide their teens and allow them to learn from the mistakes in their child make the right choices?

  • Discuss expectations, rules, and consequence with your teen.  When there is clear communication of what is expected confusion decreases dramatically.
  • Enable your teen to have a voice.  Have your teen be part of the discussion instead of drilling out rules and consequences, this way there can be negotiation and compromise.  Your teen will feel heard.
  • Be consistent and follow through with consequences.  If a rule is broken make sure to set the correct consequences and follow through with them.  This will show your teen that the rules are important and should be followed.
  • Assign chores / responsibilities to your teen.  This gives them the feeling of being an active participant in the family.
  • Talk opening with your teen in order to build trust.  Don’t automatically punish or shame your teen for doing something you don’t approve of.  Talk through the situation and discuss possible outcomes and dangers of putting themselves in those situations.
  • Share your own experiences with your teens.  What did you learn the hard way and what struggles did you go through as a teen.
  • Have your teen be an active member of the family.  Discuss family decisions with them and ask for their opinion.  This doesn’t mean that they make the final decisions, but at least they are being heard.
  • Be flexible and compromise.  If you see your teen making responsible choices, give them more freedom.   Discuss what is working and what isn’t.  Find a common ground so that both parties are happy.

These steps can help you and your teen build a healthy strong relationship.  Applying these steps and principles will not always be easy, but open and respectful communication is key in all relationships.  Appropriate boundaries will make life with your teen more pleasurable and manageable.

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