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Healthy Boundaries with my Troubled Teenager

Dealing with a troubled teenager can be a daunting experience for any parent. When a teenager is struggling with behavioral or emotional issues, it can be challenging to guide their behavior so they can learn to advocate for themselves instead of resort to the poor behavior. One of the most effective ways to do this is by establishing clear boundaries and consequences.

Establishing boundaries and consequences is an essential part of parenting, but it is especially crucial when dealing with a troubled teenager. Boundaries provide structure and guidance for your teenager, while consequences help them understand the impact of their behavior and teach them accountability. Here are some tips to help establish effective boundaries and consequences:


1. Be clear with expectations vs rules

When setting boundaries and consequences, it is essential to be clear and consistent. Expectations are meant as the guide you feel "HOW" they can have the best outcome. Rules are the clear-cut items that result in the consequence of a poor decision. We always try to remember the expectations may be many but the rules should be few. Rules usually encompass safety issues to people, self, or property. Make sure your teenager understands the rules and your expectations by asking them to respond with what they heard. Be clear about how/what the consequences will be if they break the rules, and make sure you follow through with consequences when necessary. Often struggling teens will do only what is required (abiding by the rules) and not meet your expectation which leads to our next item, "Be Reasonable".


2. Be reasonable

It is important to be reasonable when setting boundaries and consequences. Avoid overly harsh or punitive consequences. Your relationship with your teenager relies on your ability to decipher when the conversation is about a Rule and not an expectation. To be reasonable dealing with an expectation not met is where your relationship can go. Try to validate the action/decision the did make and, if opportunity provides it, be curious. Questions of curiosity can open up positive dialogue with your struggling teenager. Here are some examples of questions you could ask: "That is an interesting decision, What caused you to make that choice.?" "Why did you feel like you had to do it that way?" "Did you get the result you were looking for?"


3. Follow through

Consistency is key when it comes to setting boundaries and consequences. If your teenager breaks a rule, make sure to follow through with the agreed-upon consequence. This approach will help teach your teenager accountability and demonstrate that you take their behavior seriously. Breaking a rule is already charged with emotion and it is good to remember that, as a parent, allowing our struggling teen to vent their frustration is an important part of the process.


4. Use Validation

While consequences are important, it is also essential to recognize and validate positive behavior. Acknowledge your teenager's efforts to make positive choices and validate any genuine effort they put into following rules. This approach can help encourage your teenager to continue making positive choices and build a sense of self-confidence. Also, properly using validation will build a relationship of trust between you and your teenager


5. Be open to negotiation

While it is important to set clear boundaries and consequences, it is also crucial to be open to your teenager's feedback and be open to compromise. Encourage your teenager to express their thoughts and feelings with "I feel" statements, and work together to find solutions that work for everyone involved. This approach can help your teenager feel heard and respected, and can lead to a more positive and collaborative relationship.


In conclusion, establishing clear boundaries and consequences is an essential part of parenting a troubled teenager. By setting clear expectations, consistently enforcing rules, and providing positive reinforcement, parents can help guide their teenager's behavior and teach them accountability. Remember to be reasonable, follow through with consequences, and be open to negotiation and compromise. With patience, persistence, and a focus on positive reinforcement, parents can help their troubled teenager navigate their challenges and learn to make positive choices.


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