Rules and Limits
Along with discipline - rules
are important - especially for the teen who is testing the boundaries
of their independence. Here are some tips on how to have a healthy
rule system in place that teens will respect not resent.
Set Better Limits
Limits and rules
are necessary to create order and productivity, the lack of which
creates chaos and confusion. Rules provide the basis for understanding
what is expected. If you want there to be harmony between you
and your teen, then there must be a proper set of family rules,
understandings or expectations that are based on your family values.
If your teen is usually compliant
and responsible, you will probably only need a few rules. However,
if you are dealing with a difficult or defiant
teen, you may already recognize the need for more discipline
and clearly defined structure.
When Setting Rules:
1) First establish the basic core rules which
must be abided, then support these core rules by establishing
several preventative rules. A core rule could be that your teen
is not allowed to do drugs. Therefore, preventative rules could
include that they must tell you where they are going and who they
are with. If a rule is that they child do their best in school,
then the preventative rules could be that they have good attendance,
and do their homework.
2) Once you have established your set of rules,
compliance with the rules will depend on four things:
1. The rules must be clearly defined
2. The rules must be monitored.
3. The rules must be enforced.
4. Consequences are effective deterrents.
If any of these four things are
not in place, it will drastically affect success. In the next
sections, we will address each of these in detail.
3) Clarify the rules. If your rules are not
clearly understood, it leaves a lot of room for misunderstandings,
conflicts and even manipulations. Many times parents assume that
their teen understands the rules the same way they are intended.
For example, if you tell your teen to clean their room, their
idea of a "clean room" and yours may be miles apart.
If you tell them to go to bed when a TV program is over, they
may think that means anytime after the program versus immediately
after. For these reasons, rules need to be very specific. To avoid
misunderstanding, it is a good policy to have your teen write
down or repeat back their understanding of any rule or expectation.
4) Keep monitoring the progress of rule following.
Monitoring is essential in the administration of any rules. As
parents, we must provide a safety net for our children by monitoring
their behavior and successful completion of chores. How much we
have to monitor depends on the amount necessary for success. Some
teens require little and some require extensive monitoring. Let
your teen know that you will be monitoring their behavior. This
will keep them from being offended when they notice it and give
them added incentive to follow the rules.
5) Be consistence. The hardest, yet most important
thing parents can do is to be consistent. A rule, or understanding,
that is not enforced can be the same as having no rule at all
and can undermine the well being of a family. In order for our
teens to feel safe, they need to know they can count on us to
be consistent and dependable. If a violation occurs, we need to
consistently enforce the PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED consequence. A
difficult teen will test the boundaries at every chance to see
what their true limits will be. That makes consistency so essential.
Letting small things slide until they become large things will
create chaos, confusion and resentment. While most of us do this
from time to time, it is very ineffective parenting. Consistency
is the key. Follow through on what you said you would do.
6) Consequences and deterrence are important.
Consequences should vary depending on the violation as well as
the teen's response to the consequence. Some teens may respond
to the loss of a privilege to go out, while others may not be
bothered at all. The key is: (1) to use consequences
with significant meaning to your child. (2) the
severity of the consequences should match the severity of the
violation. Research has shown that immediate consequences are
the most effective. However, some behaviors are so severe that
an immediate consequence would not be strong enough by itself.
That is why a combination of immediate consequences with some
follow-up consequences is often needed. Immediate consequences
might include such things as writing essays, time-out, room restriction,
or a work project. "Immediate consequences" are defined
as those administered on the spot and instituted before the teen
resumes any normal activity. "Follow-up consequences"
are those applied over a period of time such as loss of driving
privileges, book reports, a major (long term) work project, being
grounded, additional household chores, or loss of a planned upcoming
activity. Again, a follow-up consequence is sometimes needed to
provide an additional deterrent. Consequences used must be strong
enough to be an effective deterrent. Otherwise, not only will
consequences be ineffective, they will most likely be ignored.
Disciplining Your Teen
Sex & Relationships
Sex & Knowledge
Talking About Birth
Talking About HIV &
Talking About Self-Image
Talking About Puberty
Drugs & Pre-teens