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Set Limits with Your Teen

How to Set Limits with Your Teen

Do you need to set limits with your teen?

Do shivers run down your spine every time you think about it? Do you quietly wish and pray that you never have to set limits; that somehow your teen will suddenly start following the rules?

Most parents agree,  it’s a real challenge to set limits with your teenager day in and day out, but when you use your Secret Powers and you are loving, kind and accepting in your approach, you are rewarded with delightful results. Your teen not only begins to take responsibility for all kinds of things, like doing their homework, helping around the house and being nice to their siblings. It’s like a miracle!

Are you and your teen embroiled in daily power struggles, mostly over LITTLE stuff?
Does this make you more concerned about the BIG stuff?
Do you think it’s too late?

Every parent feels this way at one time or another. I assure you; it’s NEVER too late, but you must be patient and persistent. You must remain calm and listen more than you talk and when you listen; listen to understand. Teenagers are like toddlers; but with big bodies, big brains and big appetites. Your teen needs your help and support to learn how to set limits for themselves and to maintain personal boundaries.

As a parent have an advantage that is so powerful that limits can be mutually agreed upon, easily and effortlessly. “NO! That can’t be true!” you say. Yes it’s true! You may not believe it, but that power you have is your ability to listen.

Secret Power #1: LISTENING!?! Yes, listening! And the better you get at it, the easier life is for you AND your teen. When you listen and negotiate, there is seldom a need to enforce limits because your teen has a personal stake in maintaining the limits they’ve agreed to. This means that you set limits which support the developmental needs of your teen and the functioning of your family. “All that by listening?” Yes, but you must listen to understand. Your desire to understand vs. solve the problem gives you all that and more. Keep reading.

Secret Power #2: Listening to understand requires you to stop what you are doing, face your teen, look them in the eye and close your mouth. This will stun your teen at first, but persist in these actions until they realized you are serious about listening. Remember: Stop, Look and Listen.

Secret Power #3: Accept what you hear from your teen as being true for them. Let go of any judgment about what they are saying and how they are saying it. Be the grown-up and remember how difficult it was for you to express yourself when you were a teen. Let yourself feel empathy towards their story. This doesn’t mean you are giving in to them, it means you are empathizing with your teen.

Secret Power #4: Validate their experience as being genuine for them and express your desire to understand what that feels like. Don’t generate any solutions to any problem your teen brings up. This is their job and it supports their ability to think critically and create solutions that work for them.

 Secret Power #5: Let Go. Your teen is living their life for themselves. They are not living life for you. Letting go means that you stay on your side of the road. Better yet, get off the road all together and position yourself along those dangerous curves, like a guard rail that keeps a car from careening off the edge of the cliff. If your teen knows you are there for them, no matter what; they will seek your advice when exploring dangerous territory. If your teen feels understood by you, then you will bond for life.

Mom Listening

By actively listening to understand, your teen’s opinion about you changes. You are no longer the enforcer, the fun police or the clueless. You become a trusted ally and  a source of support. Listening to understand changes minds and changes lives. Don’t hesitate, do it today. Practice using your Secret Powers and negotiate limits that work with your teenager, then sit back and watch your them blossom.

For more information, check out the videos aimed at helping parents set limits by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. These educational videos will help you to get your feet back on the ground when you need to set limits with your teen. You can watch them here: https://www.drugabuse.gov/family-checkup/question-4-setting-limits

 Come back soon for 20 Questions that help you to listen to understand.

Change Your Mind and Change Your Life

About Ray

I was raised in a small town in Michigan. I was the middle child of 3 boys in a moderately dysfunctional family. I was fortunate to fall into the Hero role hat afforded me the very best that my family could provide. As a hero child, I was the first to go to college. College opened my eyes and my mind. College also turned out to be the bane of my family. To make along story short, at 38 years old and a new social worker, I learned of the dark secrets my family held. The more I reached out to help the family, the more the pushed me away until, I could not longer have contact with any family members. It's been nearly 30 years now. It's just better that way. As a result, I've focused my career on helping families, especially families with teenagers. I've always worked with teens, since I was 19 years-old I've worked with teens as a teacher, counselor, social worker and psychotherapist. I am still passionate about working with teens and their families, but am focused on working with large groups with multiple families in attendance. Part of my desire to accomplish on this website is to create a place for discussion of families, adolescents, their ever present angst. I want to share with parents of teens some of what the wisdom I've gained from 30 years of working with teenagers and their families. Please visit for awhile. Read some articles, make some comments or share a post with your friends or colleagues. I'm at your service.

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