Real Boundaries for Teens

By Tiffany Stuart
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
digitalskillet/iStock/Thinkstock
How do you set effective boundaries that build character and establish a proper relationship with your teen?

Teens spell boundaries: R-U-L-E-S. They’d prefer to jump over them into adulthood. But that’s not reality.

During these times, our teens need us to be there for them, through their best and worst times. Regardless of what they do, our sons and daughters need to know we love them — unconditionally. And loving them means establishing boundaries. Here are some thoughts on boundaries with teens.

Doors

We cannot just lock our teens in the house. Boundaries include saying yes and no, just as doors are made to be opened and closed. Teens need the life lessons of success and failure to mature. When we open the door to appropriate levels of freedom, we give our teens a chance to make their own decisions, and to learn from them. When your daughter messes up by getting a speeding ticket, support her. Why? Because you can comfort and guide her through her mistake.

If you feel like trust was broken, it’s OK to remove a privilege. You can return the privilege when trust is restored.

Change

Some reality and game shows change the rules every episode. Each week contestants don’t know what their challenge will be. These shows remind us of our movable boundaries. Surprise teens with a big give. As they demonstrate responsibility, allow more freedom. Reward them for giving to others.

Be willing to change with them. What your 13-year-old does today will be different from what she does when she’s 18.

Fight

Today’s teens are extra busy. Sometimes trying to survive activities during the school year turns into a point of contention. Parents and teens are like boxers slugging it out. Rather than fighting over schedules to exhaustion, decide what is expected before activities start. Set a boundary in advance. A spring and fall sport? Year round? No more than two activities during a semester? Knowing this limitation eliminates verbal boxing matches.

Dating

Want a hot, but touchy topic? Mention dating to teens. Teens that date often experience rejection. Be sensitive to their pain. Listen. TV shows about dating tend to  promote lies, betrayal and pain — not the life-long commitment of marriage. Help teens establish personal boundaries by encouraging them to respect their values and their bodies. Discuss sexual temptation and ways to avoid it. Offer safer options like double dating in public.

Parents Need Them

The goal is to help teens reach a destination — adulthood. Boundaries help our teens during their race toward maturity. Boundaries help parents too. That’s why we need to know ours and model them to our teenagers. If we lack personal boundaries, what can we expect of our sons and daughters?

What matters most to you? Do you live those things out with consistency? If not, how can adding boundaries help you?

Married parents, as often as possible, be united. Talk in private about acceptable limits. Be prepared to answer teens when your boundary is nonnegotiable. Know what Scripture says on the topic. My husband and I agreed — no teen tattoos. Another mom’s son asked for long hair and a piercing. She answered, “Choose one, not both.” If your values aren’t compromised — compromise.

With separated or divorced parents, know your boundaries and keep them, even when they differ from your ex’s. One mom keeps a “no rated R movie” standard even if the rated R movie is borrowed from dad’s.

Spiritual

Some teens argue about attending church. Dr. John Townsend wrote in his book, Boundaries with Teens, “Good parenting means letting your teen move away from you spiritually while at the same time keeping her pointed toward a connection with her Heavenly Father.”

My friend allowed her teen the freedom to volunteer as a cameraman for the church service instead of attending youth group, which he didn’t enjoy.

Show your teens you value faith through your lifestyle. Pray with them. I tell my son Justin to pray during his algebra tests. He looks at me like I’m silly, but I believe God hears our prayers and He cares about every detail — including high school math.

The Finale

Reality shows often pick one winner after months of preparation. Each week one or more contestants are sent home.

Of course, we don’t eliminate our sons or daughters. We stand beside them when they forget their lines. We remember their dreams, cheering their wins and comforting their losses. One day our teens will receive their reward by becoming the responsible adults that God has made them to be. And we can celebrate, knowing our boundaries and commitment played a part in their lifelong dream of independence. Until then, let’s challenge them to take risks, work hard and dream big.

How do you spell the greatest boundary of all?

L-O-V-E.

Copyright 2008, Tiffany Stuart. Used by permission.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Tiffany Stuart

Tiffany Stuart is married with two children and lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For more info, visit www.tiffany-stuart.com.

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.