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5 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries

People don’t usually see the need for personal boundaries until they’re violated. It’s the same for parents and teens. Boundaries are not just another set of rules and consequences; they are about respect. Boundaries are your expectations, as moms and dads, for how your teen will treat you. If you are feeling disrespected by your teen, it’s time to set up healthy boundaries!

#1 – Acknowledge the Need for Healthier Boundaries

Are your teens walking all over you? Do you feel emotionally violated by your teen? Does your life revolve what he wants? If so, you need boundaries! When teens treat parents with disrespect, you can bet there’s a lack of boundaries. Teens are notorious for pressing in and trying to take advantage of weak areas, but you can set healthy boundaries with your teens.

#2 – Understand What Boundaries Are

It’s all too common for well-meaning parents to become so busy doing everything for their kids, that their own needs are cast aside, and they feel disrespected. If you don’t want your teen to rummage through your desk, use your phone, or watch certain TV shows in your home, it’s okay to define what is off limits. Having well-defined boundaries allows you to establish your priorities and communicate these to your teen. There’s a terrific book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, called Boundaries, that says: “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”

#3 – Celebrate New Boundaries

Your boundaries at home will change as your children grow. It’s the natural course of maturity, and these changes should be celebrated. Young children demand a lot! As they mature, there will be new expectations and new boundaries. I suggest choosing an age, such as thirteen, when you can create a special time to recognize your child’s transition to more responsibility. Have a dinner and set aside time to talk your teen about what it means to grow up and reach this milestone in maturity. It’s a mark of achievement, not a new set of rules. Let them know they’re no longer children and with new freedom, comes new responsibilities. If you don’t make the shift proactively, you will more than likely be forced to make the shift reactively at a point of conflict.  

#4 – Be Prepared for a Teen’s Response

If you’ve allowed your children to do whatever they want, you can expect a struggle when you first put boundaries on your kids. After all, they’re used to roaming free, and will put up a fight when “fenced in.” The fight might be long and hard. But the sooner you begin the process, the better. Just because your teen struggles against newly imposed boundaries, doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you should be prepared.

#5 – It’s All About Respect

I see families all the time who have been run ragged by their kids. Your teen needs to learn how to respect others and how to move away from a sense of selfishness. As your teen learns your boundaries, they will also learn to develop healthy boundaries for themselves. And that’s a good thing. You don’t want your teen to allow his friends or others to treat him poorly. Even though boundaries are about mutual respect, there will be times when parents need to step into their teen’s personal spaces to protect and train up that child.


Hey moms and dads and all you grandparents as well … boundaries aren’t house rules. They are your personal rules. Boundaries ensure that everyone knows what is yours and what is not yours. What you will allow and what you won’t. Boundaries define who you are and who you are not. They are established fences that let everyone know where you begin and where you end. They are as important, if not more important, than the rules you set up for your home. Boundaries are for you––how you will and won’t be treated, what you will allow and what you won’t, what you will do and what you won’t, what your time schedule will look like, how you’ll spend your money, what will be watched on your TV, and what won’t be watched. They define who you are and protect you from being walked on by others. Yes, even your kids. It’s not selfish to set boundaries. It’s necessary. If you don’t have boundaries, your teens never will.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.