“But everyone else gets to sleepover at Mara’s house, why can’t I? I hate that you don’t trust me, you want to ruin my life as I start high school!” BAM! The door slams and you are left standing in the upstairs hallway outside your 14-year-old daughter’s bedroom wondering how you got to this point in your relationship. You used to get along really well but over the past few months things between the two of you have become tense and uncomfortable, you just can’t figure out what’s happened.
In my work as a parent coach I hear stories regularly from parents wondering how their easy-going son or daughter has now changed drastically and the communication in the home has gotten to the point of continuous push back and arguments with every rule and restriction the parent tries to put into place for their son or daughter’s health and well-being.
Parents who love their kids have rules and set boundaries, right?
Boundaries are important, especially during the teen years! But as parents we can find ourselves struggling to create boundaries that stick…often because teens feel like the rules their parents put in place are too strict or unnecessary.
Would you like to know the five things you need to be able to set and hold boundaries with your kids?
Be warned…these are not “five-quick-and-easy-steps-to-get-your-kid-to-behave-perfectly.” Every parent knows there’s a lot of great aspects to being mom or dad, but little of it comes easy.
First, you’ve got to know yourself…and by this, I mean you need to take some time to figure out what your values are. Seriously. What do you stand for and what do you want to instill in your kids? You would be surprised how when you really begin to think about personal values you realize you might not be modeling what you keep telling your kids is important. Honesty, hard work, kindness, helping others…can your kids see you living out the values you wish to impart on them. Believe me, nothing will trigger you more than when you tell your teen one thing and do another and they (through their words or behavior) throw it back in your face.
Second, in order to establish boundaries that stick you have to be able to withstand your child’s (very natural at this stage of the game) sometimes dramatic reaction. Adolescence is a time of questioning others (especially their parents) and beginning to define themselves. It’s called individuation! (You did it too by the way). When you are able to understand your child is going to question your decisions and sometimes not like the choices you are making and stand firm anyway, that is when you will help your child self-regulate their emotions and reactions. Acknowledge and validate their feelings, but don’t cave. And, by all means, don’t come from a place of power. You’ve got to invest in the relationship with your teen so they know you have their best interest in mind when drawing the line, even if they don’t like it or agree with you.
Third, be honest and open with your kids. Follow through when putting a boundary in place, confront them openly if the line is crossed. This means you’ve got to be able to stand on your own parenting island and not hang back because it’s easier than facing your teen or having an open discussion about a topic that is touchy but important to you.
Fourth, persistence! Teenagers will work at wearing you down, it’s part of their nature and the process of adolescence. Your job Mom and Dad is to set and hold the boundaries you put in place. Teens need head-butting in order to negotiate with reality.
And fifth, and maybe most important…have someone in your close circle who has been down the road of parenting a teenager before. Someone you trust to confide in who won’t freak out or tell the world what’s going on behind your beautifully decorated front door. That friend, family member or mentor who will keep you grounded during this stage of parenting. This is key to successfully navigating the teen years.
Boundaries help our kids build trust and respect with us, they provide a level of comfort and security and a clear playing field (though you will likely never hear your teenager say this out loud), it also helps them define right and wrong.
As we head back to school remember…too many boundaries will cause power struggles and friction. Put a few important non-negotiables in place on things like sleep, screens, and free time then give them lots of choices everywhere else in their life so they begin to see they are in control of their future.
May the 2019-2020 school year be the smoothest one yet. Cheers!