You are not alone if you have concerns about your relationship with your teen. As teenagers grow, they undergo significant physical and psychological changes which can cause a drastic behavior change.
While this shift is an inevitable part of life, teenagers often engage in risky behavior during this phase. This is when setting realistic boundaries with your teen becomes essential. At Paul Anderson Youth Home, each licensed therapist for troubled youths has experience working with young males aged 16–21.
Keep reading to learn about the four steps to help your teen stay safe and mature into a responsible adult.
Understanding the Teenage Brain
Before we discuss how to set boundaries, let’s take a moment to better understand why teens behave the way they do. If you feel that your teen misbehaves to punish or upset you, you should not. It is also false to believe that their lack of love or respect is the cause of their misbehavior. Most often, the changes happening in the brain cause the teens’ irrational behavior.
Generally speaking, the brain has two major areas: the front and the back. At the back of the brain, the amygdala controls emotions, instinctive behavior, impulses and aggression. The backside of the brain is also responsible for helping us perform such basic functions as walking. The prefrontal cortex, located at the front of the brain, is responsible for:
Distinguishing good from bad
In addition, there is an area of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex, which activates when people think about mental states. This part of the brain is highly involved in social processes.
When your child reaches their teen years, their amygdala is fully developed, and they start undergoing hormonal changes that lead to physical maturity. Yet, their prefrontal cortex is not fully formed. It only finishes growing and maturing in the mid-to-late 20s.
Also, the regions of the brain responsible for social interactions become more active. As the brain grows, it can accommodate communication with a broader range of people. These changes result in your teen making more impulsive and emotion-driven decisions and focusing on gaining their peer group’s approval.
The Importance of Setting Boundaries
While giving your teen freedom is vital for them to learn responsibility for their actions, setting boundaries is also necessary. As we saw in the previous sections, teens are not fully capable of making well-balanced decisions. Engaging in risky behaviors, such as being out late at night, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, or speeding, are all examples that can put their health and well-being in danger.
When setting boundaries, it is crucial to make it clear to your teen that your primary motivation is your love and care for them. Since boundaries will inevitably limit your teen’s freedom, they should not make them feel caged in. Teens are more likely to follow the boundaries if they feel that you genuinely care about their well-being rather than try to undermine their reputation among their peers.
4 Realistic Steps to Set Boundaries with Your Teenager
Step #1: Understanding Your Family
When it comes to choosing the boundaries you do not want your teen to cross, there is no universal formula. You must discuss the limits you want to establish with your spouse and other adults who care for your teen so that the teen does not get contradictory messages.
The best strategy is to go over what behaviors are entirely unacceptable. Your considerations could include:
Do you feel that your teen needs to have a curfew time?
Are you comfortable with your teen experimenting with sexual relationships?
How much freedom are you willing to give your teen when it comes to smoking and trying alcohol?
The answers to these questions will be unique to your family, values and views on right and wrong. The answers will also depend on your teen’s personality. Some teens experience the shift into adulthood with fewer mood swings and impulsive behaviors than others.
Step #2: Communicating with Your Teen
The idea that setting realistic boundaries is the same as giving marching orders to your teen is a common misconception. For this to work, you should be willing to listen to your teen’s input and be open to possible compromises. Ultimately, you will not be able to control your teen’s life all the time, and seeing them as separate and autonomous people is necessary.
It is also an excellent idea to let your teen offer feedback to you as a parent as well. It is no good when parents demand something from their teens and fail to show a positive example.
If you have younger children, you should also broaden the conversation to explain why the boundaries differ for different age groups. Transparency and open communication ensure they all feel equally loved and respected.
Step #3: Establishing Clear Boundaries
The key to setting realistic boundaries is making sure they and the consequences for crossing them are clear. Do not leave any loopholes, as teens are experts at finding them to avoid punishment.
Also, when coming up with consequences, such as grounding your teen or having them do extra chores, do not neglect the importance of positive reinforcements. If your teen behaves well consistently, reward them with something fun!
Remember that staying true to what you have discussed with your teen regarding boundaries is essential. If you are inconsistent with punishment for overstepping the boundaries, your teen will be more tempted to push them again.
Step #4: Reevaluating Boundaries
Remember that the boundaries you set with your teen are not carved in stone. The truth about setting realistic boundaries with teens is that they will change constantly as your teen explores the world and tries out new identities and behaviors.
Setting boundaries is not a one-time conversation. It is a consistent effort to keep your beloved child safe and healthy while also allowing them the chance to earn more freedom as a reward. This leads to a more well-rounded, responsible individual.
At Paul Anderson Youth Home, our therapists for troubled youths understand that sometimes teens may need additional support to become successful adults. We provide a holistic program to help young men overcome their struggles with the help of Christian values and a tenacious work ethic. If your teen needs help, contact us today.