The Importance Of Boundary Setting

Posted on October 23rd, 2015


The teen years can be challenging to navigate for parents and teens alike. Parents are tasked with providing balanced parenting as teens learn how to adjust to numerous biological, psychological, and social changes.

Biological changes such as puberty can lead to numerous differences in teen behavior. During adolescence, children are experiencing growth in multiple parts of their brain, specifically, in the prefrontal cortex, corpus callosum, and cerebellum. Moreover, psychological changes can be seen as they further develop beliefs, values, and a sense of identity. Teens will seek emotional and social independence as they start to use new levels of logical and rational thinking. Social maturation is seen in varying areas within a teen’s life, including peer relationships, school, work, community, and family relationships. All of these affect social development.

As teens age and learn to grow with these changes, it is reasonable for parenting to shift and change as well. In this age, teens are moving toward more independence, exploring their role and identity in the world. They spend a great deal of time preparing themselves for the next phase of life: adulthood.

Boundaries are an important fundamental component to parenting, especially through the tumultuous teen years. Boundaries define the separation between parent and child. They help parents understand the scope of their role. Furthermore, boundaries create stability for teens when they decide to stick within the boundaries and when they decide to cross them.

Clear boundaries are well-defined and regularly adhered to by parents. Clear boundaries can also minimize confusion by providing anticipated consistency in a teen’s life. Correspondingly, inconsistent boundaries can cause uncertainty, frustration, anxiety, anger, or embarrassment. Below are some ideas on how to provide healthy and appropriate boundaries.

1. Invite your teen to be part of creating the boundaries. Teens will appreciate parents listening to their input. With their participation, they can have space to advocate for themselves, be heard, and voice what they feel is reasonable. If teens help decide on the boundaries, they are more inclined to adhere to them. In being part of the process, they are held accountable for sticking to the rules.

2. Clearly define the boundaries and consequences if the boundaries are crossed. Both parent and child will understand expectations and how to navigate through them. Teens will inevitably push and test the boundaries, sometimes crossing them. Agreed upon boundaries from both parties, stops parents from being the “bad guy.”

3. Have reasonable boundaries and consequences for the developmental age of your child. Boundaries will be different for a 13-year-old than that of a 16-year-old. Be aware of the maturity and capacity of your teen when you consider the responsibility and trust that is involved with boundaries.

4. Be consistent with the defined boundaries. Do not give your child excuses and passes. Allow your child to experience the impact of crossed boundaries and keep up your end of the agreement. When the parent sticks to their boundaries, children will learn respect for the boundaries, themselves, parents, and others.

5. Have compassion. Understand that your teen will at some point cross the boundaries and that in your role as parent, it may not feel the best. Being human means that perfection doesn’t exist. Try your best to remember that teens are thoughtful, observant, intelligent, and considerate. Successfully getting through these years helps mold your teens into competent, resilient adults.

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Would you like additional guidance in this area? Los Gatos Teen Therapy provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.