Are you constantly at odds with your teenager? Tired of making rules only to have them broken? Do you wish your feelings would be heard?

Here are three important steps to consider when communicating with your adolescent...

We Know: How to Set Boundaries with Your Teenager
A few helpful hints on parenting from former middle school teacher and children's writer Molly Hersage.

Why is it so difficult to set boundaries with my teenager?

Adolescents are by their nature rebellious, self centered and preoccupied. If as their parent, you try to set boundaries for them, they will not always adhere to it. Instead, boundaries need to be made together with parents and children both playing an active role in the discussion.

How can I successfully set boundaries with my teenager?

Boundaries are created when they are:

  1. defined
  2. inherited
  3. realized, and
  4. adjustable.

All four steps for boundary setting must be taken collaboratively with parents and teenagers in agreement.

1. How is a Boundary defined?

Boundaries are any qualities a parent desires their child possess, or vice versa. Boundaries can be agreed upon with your child for a variety of issues: From obeying a curfew, to participating in chores around the house, to managing time for activities such as hobbies, schoolwork, family activities, etc. Boundaries, created by parents, must be communicated openly, and honestly to children. They must neither insinuate blame, nor judgment of a child if they are not immediately understood or adhered to.

2. How is a Boundary inherited?

Boundaries are the most successful when inherited by a child, from his or her parents. In other words, parents need to model the qualities they want their child to value. If there is a quality you think is important which you possess, then embrace it. If you wish your child to inherit this quality, then articulate to him or her why it is important he or she inherit it.

3. How is a Boundary realized?

The boundaries you set as a parent will only be successful if they are realized by your child as his or her own. When setting boundaries you must accept the reality that they may not become permanent fixtures of a teenager’s personality. Limits and expectations parents set for their children are artificial. They only work if the child chooses to respect them. A boundary is only as solid as the teenager who allows it to exist.

4. Why do Boundaries need to be adjustable?

Finally, boundaries are the most successful when they are adjustable. While it true elementary aged children might follow directions simply because there is a parent instructing them to do so, setting boundaries is not as straightforward with teenagers. Teenagers will criticize, challenge and question the boundaries you try to set for them, if you do not include them in the creation process by communicating honestly and openly with them. Listen to what your adolescent has to say. Be open to revision, should your child raise an objection. And be ready to discuss with your child what he or she believes is necessary to embrace the boundary as his or her own. Flexibility is key!

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