Despite the eye-rolling and verbal protest, you must do it anyway. Establishing house rules for teenagers presents a challenge to both parents and teens, but it’s a necessary step toward teaching your son or daughter a vital life skill — which is taking accountability for one’s own actions. Plus, you’re also keeping your teen grounded in reality by establishing boundaries and communicating the message that every place and every situation has ground rules.
So, we bring you some ideas that’ll make the process less painful. Furthermore, if you involve your teen in setting up the rules and consequences, then most likely, you’ll get more buy-in.
The trick to setting up house rules for teenagers involves allowing them enough space to learn from mistakes and celebrate the triumphs, but giving them enough guidance to keep them safe and make the right choices. It’s a delicate situation at times, but here are five rules to start out with:
1. You will have a curfew
Setting up a reasonable curfew (preferably before midnight) not only keeps your teen safe and ideally out of trouble, but it also helps them to maintain healthy sleep patterns and self-discipline. After all, most trouble usually occurs after the “bewitching hour.” Plus, your kid will have a job someday — possibly on the weekends — that requires them to get plenty of rest.
2. You will limit your screen/social media time
Keeping the phone, game system, or tablet turned off is a definite must when you’re trying to teach your teen healthy habits. Thus, two hours per day is reasonable, and the logic behind this relates to the many physical and mental health issues that stem from prolonged screen time. Likewise, use this opportunity to encourage your teenager to seek out in-person contact with friends and family.
3. Everyone at home has chores
This statement is the absolute truth. You and your partner might share in the household duties, which sets a good example. However, incorporating chores into the house rules for teens shows them how to take care of their own living space and teaches them how to take responsibility and help out as a family member.
4. Abide by the Golden Rule
At this point, your teenager knows that respect for others is key to establishing and keeping healthy relationships. However, being that everyone is only human, you can use disagreements as teachable moments for modeling constructive conflict resolution and communication. Also, this presents an opportunity to teach them about consideration and respecting other people’s boundaries.
5. Remember not to take trust for granted
While the concept of trust might not seem to fall into the category of house rules, it still relates to responsibility, honesty, and natural consequences. For instance, if your teen lies about where they’re going on Saturday, and you find out, you might have a hard time believing them — at least for quite a while. Also, if you trust your child to use social media safely and prudently, but they post something inappropriate, then trust is hard to come by.
You can teach your child that their word or promise means a lot to a family member or to a friend. Trust shouldn’t be taken for granted. At the same time, you can also differentiate between trust and unconditional love, which of course, your teen will never lose. They might make a mistake, but you’ll always love that person.
Younger teens, like 14-year-olds, might require slightly different rules than older teens of 17 or 18. They can’t legally drive yet, but they need a social life — and a ride on occasion. So, the rules mentioned above definitely apply. However, you might need to make a few adjustments. For instance, the curfew for going out might be earlier, or you can encourage your teenager to invite friends over for a game or movie night. Either way, remember that you’re playing chauffeur for a bit longer, so patience is key.
At age 14, you might start establishing more open communication with your child about the tough subjects, such as relationships, drugs, and alcohol. Knowing that relationships are bound to happen, this is still a learning process. You can help your teen learn the signs of a healthy relationship or a toxic one, especially how to avoid the latter. As for controlled substances, you might discuss the health issues that come about from ingesting these chemicals, not to mention the legal penalty for a juvenile who makes that foolish choice.
Ultimately, the key idea to remember about the early teen years is to give just enough freedom for learning, but not so much that your child has no idea of the expectations or consequences.
As children get older, they hope to gain more freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility, like helping out at home and maintaining school performance. Luckily, there is one way to handle this situation without complicating the matter too much for either party, and that is to set aside some time with your teen to establish a house rules contract. Placing all rules and responsibilities in writing makes them more concrete and memorable, which means your teenager will be held accountable and not be able to say, “I didn’t know,” or “I didn’t understand” if an issue comes up.
Moreover, this contract that lists out roles and responsibilities should include parents and siblings. This keeps your youth from feeling set apart from the other siblings. Likewise, when your kid actively participates in this process, then, as mentioned in the beginning, you’ll get more cooperation, and best of all, communication. Of course, you’ll need to establish the non-negotiables like the curfew, chores (though your teen can give some preferences), and the cellphone at the dinner table.
Coming up with house rules for teens might be the simple part, whereas enforcing them could present a challenge. Regardless, when you clearly outline those expectations and set the limits, your teen will not only come to understand but also cooperate and even appreciate the boundaries and the life lessons.
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