Honoring Your Teen’s Boundaries


Have you noticed that your teen does not want to share everything about her personal life with you lately?

This week, the topic is how to maintain a respectful relationship with your teen by being of aware of your teen’s new found sensitivities to boundaries.

Your teen is officially in the stage of  life where they are experimenting with how to be less dependent and reliant on you. This is a good thing developmentally but it can be a very tough transition to make for parents and teens alike.

It’s common to feel angry, insulted, or hurt by their lack of interest in your involvement. It is also common for parents, in the heat of an argument, to step over a teen’s boundaries. This can lead to a strained relationship.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to respecting boundaries with teens. Your approach will depend on you and your family values. However, it is important to be explicit with your teen about which boundaries of theirs you will not cross and in which areas of their life you will remain involved.

Mothers experience power struggles and erosion of respect with their daughters when there has not been a discussion of mutual expectations of boundaries with their teen.

To avoid these issues, try these tips:


1. Be clear about the boundaries in your home.

Boundaries vary from family to family; However, in general, it’s important to give your teen a few areas where they know they are in control and have privacy. It’s also important that you have agreed upon what the boundaries are before delivering a punishment for her crossing them. Explain which behaviors or actions will cause your teen to lose the privilege of having the boundary honored in the household.

If she crosses a boundary that you had not realized was a boundary then talk about it first and give her a reason for the boundary, before giving a consequence.

Some areas for boundaries to consider  and discuss with your teen are

cell phones use

bedroom (decorations, door open and closed?)

computer use



iPod music

video library


Do you know what boundaries you are comfortable with in these areas? If yes, go tell your teen. Assure them that you recognize these particular boundaries and if there is ever a reason that the boundary needs to change, you will talk to them about it first. And then don’t cross that agreed upon boundary just because you’re angry or scared.

Instead, talk about your concerns and attempt to renegotiate with your teen first.


 A note on technology: I highly encourage you to maintain access to your teen’s (particularly 13- to 16-year-olds) email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Not to spy on them, but rather to be an active participant in teaching them appropriate technology social skills.

Social Media and your Teen- here. My colleague Uriah Guilford will be presenting an in-depth discussion on Jan 27th at 10am. This will be a tele-seminar and will be recorded in case you miss it. To learn more about teens and technology, check out his seminar click here.

2. Assuming your teen wants your help is crossing a boundary.

The art of parenting a teen is knowing when to hold back and when to step in.

You don’t need to tell them what to wear, what to write their paper on, or how to organize their homework.

If you exsert rules in these areas, your teen will feel you are not allowing them to be their own person.

Unless these areas are in major crisis or your teen asks for your opinion, it’s always best to ask first,

“Would you like my help or opinion?” If they say “No,” walk away.

Save your intensity for an issue that really matters, like your daughter dating a guy who is mean to her, or stating your intolerance for her experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Now, go talk to your teen!

Assure them that you will honor their boundaries unless there is a reason that the boundary needs to be reconsidered, in which case you will talk about it together.