Teenagers crave boundaries. They do. Boundaries are family values in another form and can really help when trying to make a decision.
Teenagers will push against boundaries and they will blame the adults outwardly. Teenagers may say things are unfair or there are too many limits on their lives. However, internally, they are grateful for the clear line. This line, the boundary you have set, will help your teen make responsible decisions. "My mom won't give me the car" may make you look like the bad guy but inside, your teenager may feel genuine relief. Not having access to the car on this night releases them from having to make hard decisions later in the evening. Where to take the car, who to go with, and all the social capital those decisions take.
When there are clear boundaries what is also seen are clear values. Clear values make any decision easier. "No, you may not take the car tonight because the weather looks bad and we haven't practiced enough bad-weather driving. Our family values safety first." A boundary is a family value in different clothes. A value is a thread that lives through a family -- the core beliefs of a family -- and when they are set into action; boundaries are created. If our family believes in honesty, then there will be consequences for lying. If our family believes in honesty, then parents, we will listen to all the details of the story your teen is telling you.
Three Tips for Boundaries:
BE FIRM AND CONSISTENT
Oh!! This can be hard -- teens are incredible lawyers, arguing the case with fluency and feeling -- and yet, there is a line and it is your job to hold the line.
This is a process that works for me:
I take a deep breath -- I am ready to secure the boundary
I identify the value that I am trying to put into action -- I find the word... is it honesty? Safety? Kindness? Responsiblity for self? Respect for others?
I say the value. Outloud. Clearly. "We believe in ..." Instead of explaining why we believe in that value or opening the disucssion up, I say it with conviction. Full stop.
Sit in the silence.
When there is resistence: hold firm. I say to my students and my own children: The value we hold is _______, and I am holding you to it. The decision is made. If you would like to talk about how you feel, please do, but the decision will not change."
I feel so lucky that I established this early but it can start anytime! It is the DUCK DECISION: I use the simile: It's like water off a duck's back. Any and all input is like water off a duck's back (it has no bearing on the decision), so thank you for the feedback but the discussion is closed. This has worked for me because of one thing: I have never gone back on a Duck Decision. Ever. I have to really believe to announce a Duck Decision.
KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND
Stay out of the weeds with your teenager when it comes to boundaries. They will push with details, with the small things, and they know... oh they know what buttons to push. Stay above the fray.
Luckily, you may have a strong sense of why you have set this boundary. If so, use the language of the value again. Say it out loud and clearly. "Safety comes first."
You do not need to explain, describe, or otherwise engage in a conversation about what is safe. Stay above the details. You may find yourself repeating the value, "Safety comes first." If you can stay calm and consistent with this message, the big picture is hard to argue against. The devil is in the details... we don't need that influence in our decisions, do we?
MAINTAIN TEENAGER'S PRIVACY
Seemingly unrelated, protecting the privacy of your teenager is a key to establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. One reason is the obvious one, the relationship and decisions are between the adult and the teen. No one else. In fact, the cheap seats are just that... too far away from the action to actually see what is happening. And those in the cheap seats are bringing their own set of values, rather than knowing and upholding your family's.
Your teen needs to know that you are trustworthy -- with their best interest in mind. Period. Your teenager is in control how their life is shared. Seek permission from your teen if you want outside counsel. . "I am really struggling to figure out how to manage tech use . Do you mind if I share my thoughts with my book club? They may have figured something out." If you teen says no, then don't share personal details. You can always go back to the last tip - stay above the weeds: stay in the big picture... keep the details out of the conversation, keeping your teen's privacy secure.
Holding boundaries can fell daunting, hard, and mean. You are none of those things. You are holding a boundary. The more of this your teen sees, the more they will practice.