Setting Boundaries with Teenagers
Teenagers are these odd combinations of very adult behaviors and often appearances and childlike mentalities that crop up to remind us that they are not quite yet adults. They can present themselves like adults, and often look, smell, conduct their business, and relate to their parents on a very adult level. We have asked them to. For the most part they comply.
When you have a mature child it can be difficult in their latter teens to realize that they are not quite yet adults and giving them too much freedom may not encourage them to grow, but cause regressive behaviors as they experience too much of the downfall of freedom.
Freedom and responsibility should go hand in hand and there should not be a substitute for either one. You want your child to be independent and allowing them their space to grow does encourage this. However a teenager without boundaries is out there playing by the roll of the dice, and how unfortunate it would be if one wrong decision crippled all there was that is good in their world.
A few basic boundaries can go a long way. Simple boundaries that require discipline and respect and a basic understanding of prioritizing can add a lot of value to their last few years as teenagers. Yes, they are growing up but they will still be growing up when they are twenty two. Growing up takes a long time.
Your child has probably had chores since he was young and just because he is in his final year at home or has shown immense maturity lately doesn’t mean the simple chores should disappear. The last time I looked, my chores don’t go away no matter how good I am in the world, and cutting them too much slack can actually encourage them to cut themselves too much slack out in the world.
Your teenager may be the most responsible kid in the world. Curfews are still a good idea. Curfews can help your child set his own limits while he is out there without your guidance. A child faced with temptation who respects his curfew is more likely to make the right decision while a good kid without a curfew may decide to deviate from his normally responsible behavior.
Some kids who have shown an overall good sense throughout their lives may suddenly decide their last couple of years at home that they are going to live it up. This is somewhat normal but still requires a parent’s guidance and limitations to keep him from running completely wild out there in the world. They still need to be held accountable for their actions, even once they’ve reached the ripe age of eighteen and only have a few months of school left before they are off to college and all that awaits them.
Boundaries are a signal to kids that you care about their wellbeing. A kid without boundaries is likely to draw the conclusion that since mom and dad don’t care, why should he. Boundaries are proof positive that you are concerned with their well being and the type of individual they become.
Boundaries are also good guidelines for you. Parents can be easily distracted, especially when their teenager is not exactly the squeakiest wheel in your life. Boundaries set ground rules for both of you determining what is expected and what the consequences are if the expectations are not met. For you they can be a gauge of how your teenager is doing. A teenager that is struggling against growing up may very well start breaking the boundaries both as a test to your depth of care and as a way to have stricter limitations placed on him to avoid some of the difficulties he is having with the prospect of becoming a full fledged adult. It can be scary to think about growing up and being responsible. Sometimes kids are just begging for you to take some of their impending responsibility away from them.