The teenage years are wild. Mood swings, anger issues, academics, self-identity, and a growing understanding of the world can take a toll on most teenagers’ mental health. And with the ubiquitous social media of the modern age, teenagers are now more stressed than ever.
All of this can make handling your teenager quite a task for you. Because teenagers are naive (and curious), it’s important to set certain boundaries and rules with them. This will keep them disciplined and safe while allowing them reasonable space to explore life, and discover their interests and true identities.
However, there are certain pitfalls that you need to avoid while setting boundaries for teenagers because they can lead to more harm than good and turn a popular parenting technique into a counterproductive, toxic strategy. Let’s discuss them now!
1. Failing to strike the right balance of empathy.
Psychologists — like those at New Vision Psychology who offer behavioral therapy for children and adolescents — often talk about empathy and why it’s important to practice instead of sympathy.
Empathy is your ability to relate to another person’s state of mind and feelings, and then respond appropriately. Many parents completely ignore empathy and fail to relate with their teenagers when setting boundaries.
This often leads to rules that are unrealistically harsh and may make your teenagers dislike you for being unfair. Therefore, it’s important to remember your own teenage years — which in turn will help you relate better with your kids — while setting boundaries for teenagers.
Let your kids know that you understand what they are going through because you’ve experienced the same thing in the past, and guide them through their problems with empathy.
On the other hand, some parents take empathy to the next level and relate too much with their teenagers, so much so that their kids’ problems become their own. This leads to an overprotective environment, where your teenagers might feel suffocated and deprived of privacy and freedom to explore life independently.
What follows are harsh, rigid boundaries that can hinder your teenagers’ development. So make sure to strike the right balance of empathy when it comes to setting boundaries for teenagers!
2. Not utilizing broken boundaries to teach valuable lessons.
Part of setting boundaries for teenagers involves determining what happens when they cross it.
Some parents melt the instant their teenagers get into trouble because of a broken rule. They make their teenager’s problem their own and do everything they can to ensure their kid remains unscathed.
While this might seem like a natural, motherly response, it’s not the best way to deal with a broken boundary. Instead, consider allowing your children to bear the consequences of their actions.
When your child damages the car because of overspeeding, don’t make the repairs and insurance (and whatnot) your responsibility. Instead, prepare your kid for the real world by having them deal with the mess their actions created.
Of course, you don’t have to completely abandon your child and you should be there to guide them as they maneuver through the mistake they’ve made. This has two advantages — one, your child will learn valuable real-life skills and two, they’ll learn the importance of the boundaries you set for them and what could go wrong if they cross it again.
At other times, parents react with thunder and fire when their child crosses a boundary and hand out severe punishments like long-term grounding. Harsh punishments never work, and there are many positive alternatives to long-term grounding that you can look up on the internet.
3. Compensating for their spouse.
Compensating for a spouse that’s either too strict or too lenient is a classic parenting scenario. Many parents feel they have to be either too tough or too lax when it comes to setting boundaries for teenagers because their spouses are being unreasonable. And this is never a good idea for a couple of reasons.
First, it leads to a power struggle between you and your spouse. Both of you want control over your kids and this creates a toxic environment and adversely affects your relationship.
It can also lead to feelings of anxiety and distress in your teenagers as they watch their parents fight because of them, leading them to think they’re the problem with consequent feelings of guilt.
Then, compensating for your spouse puts you in a bad position — that is between your child and your spouse. Your child then fails to learn how to go about his relationship with both his parents because one of them is always doing their work for them.
Finally, it takes away the objectiveness in your parenting method because now you’re doing things just to oppose your spouse instead of what’s best for your child, which leads to bad parenting decisions
The best way to go about this is to have a conversation with your spouse and set parenting terms and conditions that are acceptable to both of you.
But no one changes dramatically overnight, and until you and your spouse can figure out a good parenting strategy together to manage your teenager’s volatile years. Just make sure you continue to be a firm, consistent, and most importantly reasonable parent when setting boundaries for teenagers!