Ever wondered why teens just can’t seem to follow rules within the family? I find that parents bring their teens into therapy feeling very frustrated and confused as to why their son or daughter seems to not be able to follow simple rules.

Some parents come in saying, “No matter how many times you tell them to do something they just can’t seem to do it.” Other parents make statements like, “How do you know if the boundaries you’ve set are reasonable?”

While each family differs as to what values or priorities are important to set rules around, there seems to be one common factor that can either prosper or hinder how these limits are heard, understood, and acted on.

I believe this factor is the communication process.

We forget that setting limits or giving instruction is not an event but a process. Training takes time and energy while instruction has many forms and methods. Parents may think they are communicating clearly only to have their teen react in anger or frustration. This response can make parents feel as if they are not being respected. It is important to take a step back and analyze how you are communicating your expectations. Is it done in a way that is clear or one that leads to confusion, disrespect, and anger?

Here are some helpful suggestions:

Be specific. Instead of “I don’t want you out late during the week.” say, “You are to be home no later than eight o’clock on school nights.”

Be concise. Setting a limit shouldn’t take more than a few sentences. Ask questions to make sure what you said and your teen hears are the same.

Listen to your teens. Always listen respectfully to your child’s point of view. Doing so may provide helpful information as to what is working or what could use some clarification. By giving teen a chance to vent frustration or anger you give them an opportunity to learn how to express feelings and work through conflict.

Put all important rules in writing and place them somewhere they can be seen by all members of the family. By doing this you limit the chances of frustration or confusion as to what is expected. Also, it can be a place to come back to if the rule needs clarification.

Rules can and do change. Standards of discipline must suit not only a youngster’s age, but her behavior, emotional maturity, capabilities and developmental understanding. As stated before, training and instruction vary from each individual.

A parent’s expectations must be reasonable and achievable. If you have a child or teen that has a hard time staying organized, they are not going to instantly change just because you said so. Start to measure improvement in small areas and work up to greater responsibilities.

Reasonable Consequences are necessary. Effective punishment is neither too lenient nor too harsh. To scold a teenager after he is caught using drugs sends the message that you don’t truly take the event seriously. To forbid a teen from attending an important social event for missing a homework assignment will stir up frustration toward parents more than it will impart a lesson about the importance of handing in work on time.

Atlanta is no exception to these issues. Visit our website at: atlanta-counseling.com or call us at 404-682-1923

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