20 Important rules for teenagers and how to set and enforce them

Aug 16 / Michelle Arseneault
I know maintaining a harmonious household can sometimes feel like a juggling act, especially when it comes to setting boundaries and expectations for your teenagers. But fear not!

In this article, we'll talk about communicating family rules in a way that balances authority with understanding. In simple English, let's talk about how to do it without WW3 breaking out.
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Why clear communication matters

Before we jump into the "how," let's chat about the "why." Clear communication isn't just about laying down the law; it's about creating a safe and supportive environment where your teenagers can thrive. Also, it's not fair to try to discipline your teenagers for breaking a rule that you never told them about in the first place.

When expectations are crystal clear, it reduces misunderstandings and gives your teens a sense of structure.
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Find common ground: Involve your teenagers

Start the conversation by involving your teenagers in the rule-setting process. This collaborative approach helps them feel heard and respected, fostering a sense of ownership over the rules.

For instance, if you're discussing curfew, ask them what they think is a reasonable time to be home on weekends. This involvement promotes open dialogue and mutual understanding.
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Be firm yet flexible

Let's talk about balance, shall we? When it comes to dealing with your teenagers, rules are important, but they shouldn't squash their growth. You want to provide structure without stifling them, right?

Now, here's the thing. There are some things that you need to be firm on, no negotiations allowed. Safety and responsibilities, for example, are non-negotiables. You need to lay down the law on those. But hey, when it comes to other stuff, like screen time limits or bedtime during school nights, it's okay to have a discussion.

Think about it this way - bedtime during school nights, that's pretty important, right? Your teens need their beauty sleep to function properly. So, that's a non-negotiable. But on the weekends, when they've got a bit more freedom, you can loosen the reins a bit. Talk to them about screen time limits, let them have some say in it. It's all about finding that balance.

Be strict when it matters most
, but keep an open mind for those discussions. It's how you create a healthy dynamic where your teens feel heard and respected while still learning about boundaries and responsibilities. Trust me, finding that sweet spot between structure and flexibility is the key to raising awesome, independent young adults.
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Parents taking teen's phone

Set consequences: The teachable moment

While consequences might not be the most pleasant topic, they're a crucial part of the equation. Consequences should be logical, related to the rule broken, and aimed at teaching a lesson rather than punishing.

For example, let's say your teenager consistently neglects chores. Well, then the consequence might involve temporarily losing certain privileges until they've caught up. Trust me. Taking away privileges works way better than yelling, but only if you stick to your guns.
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Handle resistance and negotiation

It's natural for teenagers to test the boundaries you set. When faced with resistance, remain calm (count to ten!) and open to negotiation. If your teenager is pushing back against a rule, ask them to explain their perspective. This creates an opportunity for talking rather than foot stomping and slamming of doors.

For instance, if they're asking for a later curfew, discuss their reasons and try to find a compromise that works for both of you. If giving them a later curfew for a while starts to interfere with their mood or schoolwork, for example, you can always change it back and you'll be able to justify why.
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Tips and techniques for difficult conversations:

  • Choose the right time: Find a moment when both you and your teenager are relaxed and can dedicate enough time for the conversation.
  • Active listening: Listen to your teenager's viewpoint without interrupting. This will help them trust you and encourages them to share openly.
  • Use "I" statements: When expressing your concerns, use "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, "I'm worried about your safety" rather than "You're being reckless."
  • Stay open-minded: Be open to considering your teenager's perspective. Remember, it's a two-way conversation. You want them to develop their independence, after all, don't you?
  • Stay calm: Difficult conversations can be emotional, but staying calm sets the tone for a constructive discussion.
Setting boundaries and expectations doesn't have to be terrifying. By fostering open communication, involving your teenagers, and finding that delicate balance between authority and understanding, you're creating a positive and supportive environment for your family to thrive.

It's all about setting the stage for growth and responsible decision-making as your teens journey toward adulthood.
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Rules every family with teenagers should think about

Here's a list of potential rules that families with teenagers might consider implementing. Remember, these rules can vary based on your family's values, priorities, and individual circumstances. Feel free to adapt and customize them to suit your family's needs:

Curfew

Set specific curfew times for weekdays and weekends to ensure your teenagers get enough rest and maintain a healthy routine.

Chores and responsibilities

Assign age-appropriate chores to teach responsibility and contribute to the household. This could include tasks like cleaning their rooms, doing laundry, or helping with meal preparation.

Screen time limits

Establish guidelines for screen time, including time spent on devices, social media, and video games. Encourage a balance between screen activities and other productive or outdoor pursuits.

Homework and study time

Allocate dedicated time for homework and studying, creating a conducive environment for academic success.

Communication check-ins

Require regular check-ins to stay informed about your teenager's whereabouts and plans. This helps ensure safety and open communication.

Mealtime and family time

Designate regular family mealtime as a chance to connect and share experiences. Consider setting aside certain evenings for family activities or outings.

Respect for privacy

Establish boundaries for respecting each other's privacy, including knocking on closed doors and asking permission before using personal belongings.

Social events and parties

Discuss guidelines for attending social events and parties, including how to handle peer pressure, alcohol, and other potential challenges.

For example, make a promise to always come and get them if they call for a ride, no questions asked. You don't want them deciding they'd rather take their chances with a drunk driver than get into trouble for drinking.

Financial responsibilities

Teach financial responsibility by setting rules about allowances, budgeting, saving, and contributing to personal expenses.

Physical activity and health

Encourage regular physical activity and establish rules around engaging in sports, exercise, and maintaining overall health.

Use of vehicles

If applicable, set rules for using family vehicles, including responsibilities for maintenance, gas, and adhering to driving laws.

Respectful communication

Emphasize respectful and constructive communication within the family, including rules against yelling, name-calling, and derogatory language.

Academic and extracurricular commitments

Define expectations regarding school attendance, participation in extracurricular activities, and maintaining a balance between academics and hobbies.

Sleep

Establish healthy sleep routines, including turning off screens before bedtime and getting adequate sleep for optimal well-being.

Household rules during absences

If your teenager will be away from home, set guidelines for informing you about their plans, checking in periodically, and following safety precautions.

Guests and visitors

Outline rules for having friends over, including notifying parents, respecting house rules, and being considerate hosts. This is especially important for boyfriends and girlfriends.

Conflict resolution

Teach effective conflict resolution strategies, emphasizing the importance of open communication, empathy, and finding compromise.

Safety guidelines

Cover safety rules for various situations, such as online safety, using public transportation, handling emergencies, and practicing fire drills.

Personal hygiene and cleanliness

Encourage habits like personal hygiene, tidiness, and cleaning up after oneself to promote a clean and comfortable living environment. Some kids will need structure and rules around personal grooming.

Respect for family values

Discuss and reinforce family values, such as kindness, honesty, empathy, and responsibility, as guiding principles for behavior.
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Remember, these rules should be discussed openly with your teenagers, allowing them to contribute their input and opinions. This collaborative approach promotes a sense of ownership and understanding, making it more likely for the rules to be followed. As your teenagers mature, some rules may evolve or be adjusted to reflect their growing independence and responsibilities.

Think about periodic rewards for following the rules too!
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Learn to communicate as a family

Sign up for our Communicate with Respect and Understanding course.

This course is intended for families with teenagers or young adults who need help with communicating with each other about living together now and their plans for the future.