How to Set Boundaries Your Teen Will Follow

There are a lot of fears that come with parenting a teen, and many of those are justifiable. For example, the teen years mean that your child might get behind the wheel.

Teen drivers are inexperienced and high-risk. They are also more likely to be distracted drivers, which can often be dangerous or deadly. For example, according to a recent study, when a teen driver has only teen passengers in the car, the fatality rate for all people involved in a crash increases by 51%.

Along with driving, teens face risks due to peer pressure, risky sexual behaviors, and substance use.

The teen years also happen to be a time when young people are testing boundaries and exploring their world. They want to have a sense of control over their lives, which is natural but unfortunately, that can mean that they might make unwise decisions.

So how can you set boundaries for your teen that they’ll actually follow?


If you try to make everything a hard boundary, it’s likely going to lead to your teen rebelling. When you’re creating boundaries, if you want them to be effective, you have to consider only the most important things.

For example, driving rules may be a hard boundary, but you can be less rigid on things that aren’t as important.

You’ll have to really sit down and think about the most important boundaries to you and your family and what’s negotiable versus what isn’t.

Don’t send mixed messages on these boundaries.

Consider asking for input from your teen as well because this will help your child feel like they have more autonomy in the situation.

It’s okay to negotiate on some boundaries that aren’t as important in terms of safety, as long as the non-negotiables are clear.

Start Before There’s a Problem

Sometimes parents wait to set boundaries with their teens until it’s too late and something has already happened. Rather than waiting, go ahead and proactively set boundaries. This engrains them in your teen’s mind.

If you wait too long to set limits and try to start suddenly, it’s going to be tough.

You also don’t want to start a conversation about boundaries when tensions are high, or your teen’s in trouble. You don’t necessarily want boundaries to seem like a punishment. Instead, they’re a way of life.

When you let your teen know what the boundaries are proactively, it helps them feel like they still have choices in their life as long as it’s within those parameters.

Gradually Loosen Boundaries

Boundaries don’t have to be finite and indefinite. You can set boundaries and start with harsher ones initially, and then as your teen proves their maturity or earns it, you can loosen them.

Let the boundaries you set for your teen evolve with them as they mature. Of course, boundaries can also be shifted in the opposite direction if your teen makes a poor choice or shows themselves to be untrustworthy.

Be Clear on the Consequences

A big part of effective boundaries is ensuring that your teen is clear on the consequences for not following said boundaries.

Go ahead and outline the consequences early on as well. Make sure that you follow through with the consequences you agree on with your teen.

Be firm with consequences and consistent.

Be Empathetic

As tough as it can be when parenting a teen, it’s important to maintain a sense of empathy. It may seem like ages ago, but try and remember back to how you felt during that time in your life.

There are a lot of challenges that can come with life as a teen, and as a parent, try and keep that in mind as you set boundaries and parent.

Finally, setting boundaries doesn’t mean that you’re removing consequences. Teens have to learn about the cause and effect that occurs with their choices. Yes, you want them to learn consequences in a safe way, but sometimes tough lessons are the most important part of parenting.

Maybe your teen gets into a small car accident—have them then pay for the increase in insurance and any repair costs.

You can guide your teen and practice empathy without making it so that they never have to face the results of their actions.

It’s good for teens to realize that yes, things may go poorly in some situations but at the same time, they’re resilient enough to overcome these challenging situations.

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