Maintaining good boundaries as the parent of a teenager is important. Boundaries are about maintaining good self-care and setting limits on how much others can put on you or take from you. Having clear and healthy boundaries can help you avoid a lot of problems in relationships because others know what to expect from you and know your limitations without taking things personally. As you well know, teenagers can be very self-absorbed which is a normal based on their developmental stage. This self-absorption can really push the boundaries of others, and especially of parents, if there are not clear boundaries in place.
Below are some examples of how boundaries of parents can be tested by their teens along with suggestions for helping you maintain good boundaries during this challenging time:
1. My teen is always running late and throws off my schedule. This can make parents feel like they can never be on their own schedule because their teenager is always dictating when they need to be dropped off, picked up, etc. In these situations, you can maintain good boundaries by clearly stating what time you will be leaving to go out or what time you will be available to pick them up. If your teenager is running late, you should still leave at the previously stated time and do this consistently. Of course the first time or two your teen will be very upset, however, you can remind them that you will be continuing to leave when you say you will and suggest that they try to get themselves ready a little bit earlier. It is amazing how quickly they will respond!
2. My teen will not get up in the morning and I end up having to go into their room 10 times to wake them up. I have heard this over and over again from parents who feel like their morning is ruined every day because they are nagging and badgering their teen to get out of bed. In this situation, you should tell your teen that you will come into their room one time to help remind them to get up for school and that if they miss the bus, they will need to walk or use their own money for a cab ride to school. Again, the first time your teen misses their bus and needs to pay for a cab or walk they will be irate and blaming, however, they will quickly get the message that you will give them their one reminder to get up and that is it. This will result in you having time for yourself in the morning rather than being so focused on your teen who is likely fully capable of getting up and ready on their own.
3. My teen always wants more money for things they “really need”. This is always tricky because teens feel like their parents have a never-ending supply of money for them to use. When parents do not set a boundary on this, it can lead to excessive nagging and badgering from teens who are always going to want or “need” one more thing that costs money. One of the best ways to manage this is to have an allowance system with clear chore expectations. Teens should be reminded that they have their own money for certain things (parents should be clear about what they will and will not pay for ahead of time) and that they will need to save for these items or wait for a holiday or birthday if appropriate. Being consistent is the key to maintaining good boundaries in this area.
4. My teen puts me on the spot in front of their friends. Let’s face it, teens are good at getting what they want. One particularly effective technique they use is asking for something right in front of their friends, hoping that you will be more likely to say yes. This could be asking to have the friend stay over, asking for a later curfew or asking for a few dollars. The best way to maintain good boundaries around this is to not let it happen at all. I have worked with parents who have learned to say, “as you know, these are not decisions we make on the spot like this so I will have to say no for now until we can discuss it privately”. Keeping a friendly tone and being consistent will result in your teen no longer setting up this dynamic.
5. My teen says they will help out around the house but they never do. This can be very frustrating and often results in parents doing the chores their teens were expected to do because they cannot tolerate them not being done. A couple of suggestions for this situation are: 1. Implement an allowance system and ONLY give the allowance if the chores are done as you have agreed upon. For example, if the trash is supposed to be taken out on Wednesdays and Saturdays and this week your teen only took it out on Saturday when it was overflowing because they did not do it on Wednesday then they should not be receiving their full allowance. 2. Limit what you will do if they do not do what they agreed to do. For example, if they are supposed to clean up the kitchen and do not, tell them you will not be able to make them dinner (they can make a sandwich or have some cereal instead). If they do not cut the grass but then expect you to drive them to their friend’s house later in the day tell them you cannot hold up your end of the bargain to give them a ride if they did not hold up their end of the bargain to cut the grass.
Some of these things will create conflict in the moment the first one or two times you set the limits and stick with your boundaries, however, teens will quickly learn your limits and will stop attempting to fight them. In addition, most of these techniques will also teach responsibility in teens who need to learn that relationships are generally cooperative in nature. Finally, establishing these clear boundaries will allow you to reduce your stress and have some time for yourself.
Go to www.HowToParentATeen.com for a FREE audio program with specific techniques for parents of teenagers. These tips will help with behavior, communication and your overall parent-teen relationship.