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How to set house rules for Teenagers.

Updated on August 3, 2015
Teenage reaction to being asked to clean their room?
Teenage reaction to being asked to clean their room? | Source

Setting rules and boundaries teenagers can respect.

As the parent of teenagers, I know how frustrating it can be when you have a conversation with them about something you feel is important, and they either tune you out, storm out of the room, or nod and then take absolutely no notice of what you have just said.Teenagers do not like Mum and Dad's rules, but they need boundaries in order to learn what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour out in the world and to be reassured that you care enough about their welfare to set them rules in the first place.

As someone who works with teenagers for a living (I teach them!), I have learnt a few tricks from the teaching manual. I decided to try these out on my teens and so far, they have worked.

Firstly - decide what is important to YOU.

A teenager is trying to find their own place in the world and the person they are going to test the most whilst doing this, is you as their parent. If you have a clear idea of what you will and will not accept in terms of behaviour, and what your ground rules are, it will make it much easier to communicate these to your teens.

So, the first thing to do is ask yourself some hard questions. Draw your 'lines in the sand'.

What can you accept as annoying, but basically allowable, behaviour?

It might be that you will accept some door slamming and shouting (for example when your teenager is asked to do something they don't like doing - like tidying their room or doing their homework before going on Facebook), as long as what you have asked to be done, gets done.

It might be that you will allow your teen to be upto 10 minutes late past their curfew, as long as they have texted they are on their way home beforehand, so you don't worry.

It may be that you allow your teen to sleep in til noon every weekend, as long as they complete any/all homework and chores by 9pm Sunday night.

By building in some 'wiggle room', you allow your teenager to express themselves and to have a little responsibility, without seeming too harsh or unreasonable.

What are your unbreakable ground rules?

Which are the rules of the house that you would consider it very serious for your teen to ignore or break?

What would be the consequences if they did?


The unbreakable rules could be things such as: no opposite-sex sleepovers, no alcohol or smoking, no swearing in the house.

If something is particularly important to you and would greatly upset you if it didn't happen, then include that too. An example would be that if you are a committed Christian, you might want your son/daughter to attend church with you at least once a week.

The consequences of breaking these rules? We hope it doesn't happen, but if these serious rules get broken, there have to be clear consequences. Would you take your teenager's phone/tablet/X box etc away from them for a week 2 weeks? Would you ground them for a certain period? Would you stop giving them pocket money for a month/2 months? Would you stop paying for their driving lessons/school trips etc?

Decide yourself what the consequences to be.

If you want, put some rewards in the house rules too. You could promise to pay for them to have one night at the cinema with one of their friends every month, as long as they empty the dishwasher every time it needs doing, for example. Obviously it needs to be something you can afford to do, but it could be linked to something less expensive, such as promising to buy their favourite biscuits every week as long as they sort their own washing into piles of coloureds and whites.

Now you are ready to talk to your teenager.

Talking about the 'Rules of the House'.

If you have house rules, they need to be clearly communicated to your teenager.

But - don't just have house rules for them. Have some for yourself too! If you are coming to the table with house rules, then your teenager(s) could also contribute some house rules they would like you to follow too! Invite a general discussion about what the rules of the house should be for everyone. This needn't be a fraught discussion - it usually involves some fun as teenagers decide they would like house rules such as £100 pocket money every week, or a new car as soon as they turn 17 (which you will light-heartedly explain, is not going to happen!). However, if they come up with a good house rule, incorporate it.

Keep the discussion hypothetical so your kids don't think you actually expect them to go out drinking, swearing and taking drugs etc.Say things such as "If you came home one night drunk, what do you think I would do?". Most of the time, you will find your kids have a very realistic idea of what would happen to them! If they come up with exactly the consequence you have decided on, praise them and say 'Right, then that's what will happen if you ever do that.' If they don't, say something like. "Well, actually I would ....." and explain the consequences you would put in place for that action and why you feel they would be appropriate.

Include your ideas for rewards too, so it is not seen as a 'punishment' discussion.

Keep your discussion away from the personal. Instead of starting sentences with "You never...", or "It's annoying when you...", try "I would like it if ...." or "I would really appreciate it if...".

And finally, once you have discussed the house rules and the consequences of breaking them - stick to your guns! If you have told your teenager that the consequence of being an hour late past curfew is that they would lose their phone for a week, then make sure you do this if it ever happens.If you don't, then your teenager will understandably feel you weren't serious and all house rules can now be broken with impunity. It might be hard, and there might be tears, wheedling, cajoling and shouting, but you have to stick to what was agreed and tell them that this is because you have explained the house rules, and they broke one. In the end, you will have a better, quieter life, even if you have to endure 3 days of sulking.

Good luck!!!



Result: Happy teens!!
Result: Happy teens!! | Source

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