Establishing House Rules for Teenagers

Balancing the Need for Independence with Guidance

Teenage girl on sofa using cell phone
Set limits on electronics for teenagers. Cornelia Schauermann/Cultura/Getty Images

Once kids hit the teenage years, parenting becomes more difficult than ever. Normal teenage behavior includes rebellion by nature and there is the potential for more serious behavior problems. Despite their desire to be independent, teenagers require house rules to help them prepare for the real world.

Parenting teenagers requires a delicate balance of giving them enough guidance to ensure they are making healthy choices while also giving them enough freedom to make mistakes.

Establish house rules that respect’s your teenager’s desire to be independent while also ensuring they are behaving responsibly. Clearly outline what negative consequences will be in store when a rule gets broken.

Teenagers still need the same five types of rules as younger kids. When establishing house rules for your teenager, establish stricter rules in the areas where your teenager still needs the most guidance. When teens struggle to follow the rules, it is a sign that they aren’t ready for that much responsibility yet and may need more guidance. As your teenager proves he can follow the rules, allow for increased independence.

Rules that Promote Safety

Teenagers tend to think they are immortal and invincible. They also tend to be impulsive which is why it is very important to set rules that promote safety.

  • Driving - Car accidents are the number one killer of teenagers. Teenagers need clear rules about driving privileges and safety. Give them rules to reduce distractions by setting limits on cell phone use in the car and by making clear rules about passengers. Also, set rules about speeding and what will happen if any safety violations occur.
  • Drugs and Alcohol - Teenagers need to be informed about the realities of drug and alcohol use. Talk often about how to make good choices and set clear consequences about what will happen if they are caught experimenting with substances. Also discuss how they can get out of a situation if they are at a party or if they need a ride home.
  • Curfew - When it comes to teenagers, it’s unlikely that anything good is going to happen during the late evening and overnight hours. Set a clear curfew time and if your teen shows responsibility in honoring an early curfew, consider making the curfew later.

Rules that Teach Morality

The teenage years offer you an opportunity to really instill values. However, it’s important to model the behavior that you want to see so that you don’t come across as a hypocrite. Pick the most important values that you want to instill in your teenager and set some rules that address those morals. Although these rules will be specific to your family, there are a few areas that many families can agree on.

  • Honesty - Set rules with your teenager that encourages honesty. Agree that consequences for misbehavior will be more severe if your teenager attempts to lie to cover up his tracks. Also consider rules that discourage cheating on homework.
  • Treating Others Respectfully - Teenagers often need rules that encourage treating others respectfully. Rules about gossiping, bullying and not talking back can be important lessons.

    Rules that Encourage Healthy Habits

    Most teenagers aren’t known for their overwhelming motivation. They usually need help from an adult to develop healthy habits with how they spend their time and care for themselves.

    • Work - Homework, chores and part-time jobs often aren’t on the top of a teenager’s to-do list. Therefore, they may need rules that ensure they get their work done. Establishing a time to do homework or linking privileges to chores and encouraging your teen to earn spending money with a part-time job can encourage good habits.
    • Spare Time - Teenagers often need rules to help them spend their spare time productively. Set limits on electronics usage so your teen’s spare waking hours aren’t devoted to the computer, cell phone or video games. Also be clear about where your teenager is allowed to hang out.
    • Self-Care - Although most teenagers no longer require reminders to brush their teeth, they do still tend to need help with self-care. Consider rules to promote healthy eating, good sleeping habits, exercise and good hygiene.

    Rules that Prepare Teenagers for the Real World

    The teenage years provide a short window of time for your child to practice for the real world. Take a look at your teenager’s behavior and consider what else your teen needs to learn before he’s ready to live on his own. Provide discipline that teaches the six life skills necessary for the real world.

    • Money - Teach your child how to manage money so he is prepared for budgeting in the real world. Set rules about how much he needs to save and help him make good choices with his spending habits. Show him how to budget and determine what types of things he will need to buy with his own money.
    • Self-Discipline - Teenagers need self-discipline so they can live independently. Establish rules that grant some freedom and allows for natural consequences when appropriate.

    Rules that Enhance Social Skills

    Teenagers often need some fine tuning in the social skills department. Establish rules that help your teenager learn and practice healthy ways to deal with his emotions and interact with other people.

    • Friends - The type of friends your child chooses is likely to have a big impact on his behavior. If your teenager chooses friends who spell trouble, set limits on how much time they can spend together outside of school. Teens also often need parental guidance about how to deal with issues such as bullying and disagreements with friends.
    • Dating - Establish rules about dating that give your teenager some independence but also ensure that your teen is being safe. Set clear rules about the types of activities that are allowed and how much contact is acceptable.
    • Emotion Regulation Skills -Teenagers tend to be emotional by nature. Rules that promote anger management are especially important if you’ve got a teenager who breaks things or makes threats when he’s angry. Teach problem-solving skills to teach safe and effective ways to solve problems independently.

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