Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries may help your child to:

  • Avoid feeling pressure from friends.
  • Avoid situations they can’t handle or may regret later.
  • Feel safer.
  • Feel loved.

While they might not like having rules, clear and fair rules let your child know where they stand and that you care.

START EARLY

To avoid unnecessary conflict, it’s important that you make sure that your child knows what is allowed and what isn’t allowed before any problems occur. For example, you could tell your child:

  • They are not allowed to go out without your permission.
  • When they go out, they will have to be home before a certain time.
  • They are not allowed to go to a bar until they are a certain age.
  • That they have to introduce you to all of his or her friends.

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BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR FAMILY’S RULES

At some point, your teenager may compare your family’s rules to the rules of another family. Remind them that every family is different and has its own values. So don’t base your decision on what someone else is doing, remember that what’s right for one family may not be right for yours.

DISCUSS YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Let your child know that you want them to grow and become independent, but if they want to have more freedom and independence, they will need to prove that they are responsible enough to make good decisions even when you are not around.

EXPLAIN WHY YOU NEED RULES

Explain to your child that you care about their well-being and that you have rules about alcohol and drug use to protect them. It might help them to understand your perspective if you explain the risks of alcohol or drug use. Remember that it’s also important to listen to your child’s opinions about drugs and alcohol.

INVOLVE YOUR CHILD IN THE RULEMAKING PROCESS

Your child may be more likely to follow rules if they are part of the process of making them. So it’s important to explain to your child why you have certain rules and listen to their opinions and objections before you make your final decisions. You may want to consider negotiating a little, such as letting them stay out a bit later.

SET CONSEQUENCES IF THEY BREAK THE RULES

Try to make the consequences fair. For example:

Did they arrive home late?
They will have to go home earlier until they regain your trust.
Did they ignore your phone call when they were out?
They will have to stay at home for a time.
Did they buy alcohol?
They will not receive money for a time.

ENFORCE THE CONSEQUENCES IF THEY BREAK THE RULES

Rules without consequences aren’t effective. Consequences don’t need to be
severe – they just need to happen! Don’t give in or make exceptions. If
you don’t follow through, it may be much harder to enforce your rules in the future.

ACKNOWLEDGE GOOD BEHAVIOR

Acknowledge when your child sticks to the rules or helps keep their friends safe. You could reward their good behavior with more freedom. “Yes, okay, you can stay out a little later. You followed the rules last time, so I know I can trust you.”

Medical disclaimer:

Mountain Springs Recovery strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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