Teen Advisor Teen Advisor
  Home About Us Contact Us

Rules and Limits

     Along with discipline - rules are important - especially for the teen who is testing the boundaries of their independence. Here are some tips on how to have a healthy rule system in place that teens will respect not resent.

Set Better Limits

     Limits and rules are necessary to create order and productivity, the lack of which creates chaos and confusion. Rules provide the basis for understanding what is expected. If you want there to be harmony between you and your teen, then there must be a proper set of family rules, understandings or expectations that are based on your family values.

     If your teen is usually compliant and responsible, you will probably only need a few rules. However, if you are dealing with a difficult or defiant teen, you may already recognize the need for more discipline and clearly defined structure.

When Setting Rules:

1) First establish the basic core rules which must be abided, then support these core rules by establishing several preventative rules. A core rule could be that your teen is not allowed to do drugs. Therefore, preventative rules could include that they must tell you where they are going and who they are with. If a rule is that they child do their best in school, then the preventative rules could be that they have good attendance, and do their homework.

2) Once you have established your set of rules, compliance with the rules will depend on four things:

     1. The rules must be clearly defined and understood.
     2. The rules must be monitored.
     3. The rules must be enforced.
     4. Consequences are effective deterrents.

     If any of these four things are not in place, it will drastically affect success. In the next sections, we will address each of these in detail.

3) Clarify the rules. If your rules are not clearly understood, it leaves a lot of room for misunderstandings, conflicts and even manipulations. Many times parents assume that their teen understands the rules the same way they are intended. For example, if you tell your teen to clean their room, their idea of a "clean room" and yours may be miles apart. If you tell them to go to bed when a TV program is over, they may think that means anytime after the program versus immediately after. For these reasons, rules need to be very specific. To avoid misunderstanding, it is a good policy to have your teen write down or repeat back their understanding of any rule or expectation.

4) Keep monitoring the progress of rule following. Monitoring is essential in the administration of any rules. As parents, we must provide a safety net for our children by monitoring their behavior and successful completion of chores. How much we have to monitor depends on the amount necessary for success. Some teens require little and some require extensive monitoring. Let your teen know that you will be monitoring their behavior. This will keep them from being offended when they notice it and give them added incentive to follow the rules.

5) Be consistence. The hardest, yet most important thing parents can do is to be consistent. A rule, or understanding, that is not enforced can be the same as having no rule at all and can undermine the well being of a family. In order for our teens to feel safe, they need to know they can count on us to be consistent and dependable. If a violation occurs, we need to consistently enforce the PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED consequence. A difficult teen will test the boundaries at every chance to see what their true limits will be. That makes consistency so essential. Letting small things slide until they become large things will create chaos, confusion and resentment. While most of us do this from time to time, it is very ineffective parenting. Consistency is the key. Follow through on what you said you would do.

6) Consequences and deterrence are important. Consequences should vary depending on the violation as well as the teen's response to the consequence. Some teens may respond to the loss of a privilege to go out, while others may not be bothered at all. The key is: (1) to use consequences with significant meaning to your child. (2) the severity of the consequences should match the severity of the violation. Research has shown that immediate consequences are the most effective. However, some behaviors are so severe that an immediate consequence would not be strong enough by itself. That is why a combination of immediate consequences with some follow-up consequences is often needed. Immediate consequences might include such things as writing essays, time-out, room restriction, or a work project. "Immediate consequences" are defined as those administered on the spot and instituted before the teen resumes any normal activity. "Follow-up consequences" are those applied over a period of time such as loss of driving privileges, book reports, a major (long term) work project, being grounded, additional household chores, or loss of a planned upcoming activity. Again, a follow-up consequence is sometimes needed to provide an additional deterrent. Consequences used must be strong enough to be an effective deterrent. Otherwise, not only will consequences be ineffective, they will most likely be ignored.

Related Links
General Tips
Parenting Tips
Disciplining Your Teen
Teen Behavior
Sex & Relationships
Sex & Knowledge
Talking About Birth Control
Talking About HIV & AIDS
Talking About Self-Image
Talking About Puberty
Pre-Teens & Body Image
Early Development in Girls
Teaching Self-Esteem
Boy-Crazy Girls
Sexuality and Pre-teens
Drinking & Drugs & Pre-teens
Issues & Dealing
Problematic Teens