Laying Down the Rules

One of the most challenging aspects of raising a teen is setting fair ground rules that your teen will respect and obey. Teenagers are inherently rebellious and could engage in unsettling behavior without a concise set of rules from their parents or guardians. It is imperative that you set specific rules and consequences while clearly communicating them to your teen. Conveying what the specific consequences will be can help you avoid arguments about any arbitrary punishments that you devised after the rule was already broken. Here are a few other tips you can follow when setting your rules:

  • Be Consistent – It is essential that you always enforce the rules. Choosing to ignore a broken rule will cause accountability issues with your child and lead them to believe they can pick and choose which rules to follow.
  • Set Rules on Communication – Smart parents set guidelines on when a teen needs to contact them. For instance, if they have permission to be at a friend’s house, they must call for permission to go to another hang-out spot. Also, it could be beneficial to require them to always pick up calls or return text messages from you on their cellular phone.
  • Get Them Involved – If possible, make your child feel part of the decision making process by negotiating different rules and consequences with them.

  • Make Yourself Available – Teens should never be afraid to call you for a ride or advice if they are in an unpleasant situation.

    Reward Good Behavior – Positive reinforcement can be a wonderful deterrent to your child breaking the rules.

  • Possession is the Same as Using – Implement a zero tolerance rule about a child having substances that are illegal or not allowed in your home. This will avoid the “it belongs to a friend” excuse and avoid the slippery slope of letting a child think its okay for them or their friends to possess a troublesome substance.

When your child does inevitably break a rule, it is crucial that you don’t take away the consequences of their mistakes. In order for your child to respect your clearly stated rules and consequences, you must hold them accountable when they choose to still break a rule. If possible, let your teen deal with the natural consequences that come from not doing the right thing. At times, this can be as or more effective than implementing your own punishment. For example, if they break something around the house, make them earn the money to pay for the damage by doing jobs around the house, or jobs for neighbors or other family members. Instead of simply grounding them or taking away a privilege, they will learn that all actions have natural consequences and all people must be held accountable for their behavior.

Setting clear and concise rules and consequences is very beneficial for parents and teenagers. All teenagers are eventually going to break one of your rules. But if you stay consistent, enforce your policies and allow natural consequences to occur, your teen will find that people must be responsible for their actions.