In this third of a three – part series of micro episodes, Roy offers strategies and insights that will help you to discuss the importance of setting and respecting boundaries with teens.


What can adults do to help teens set and respect boundaries? 

Model healthy boundaries. In which relationships are your boundaries in need of work? Teens are highly imitative, so even when we are not aware of it, they’re watching and learning from us, what to do and what not to do and how to do both. 


Talk about boundaries, what they are and why they’re important. Do this in frequent micro conversations. Highlight examples from your own life when you’ve had to set boundaries. Talk to your teen about times in your life when you wish you had set better boundaries, recognized others boundaries and showed more respect for others boundaries. 


Capture when they set boundaries or when others set boundaries with them. For parents, this will most often happen at home, within the family. Families are constantly setting, adjusting and respecting one another’s boundaries. “Capturing” is making it a point to name and affirm what someone is doing in the moment they are doing it. “You may not realize it, but you just set a healthy boundary with your sister by asking her to ask you before she borrows something from your closet. Good job.” 


Show them and teach them in the moment when you’re setting a boundary with them. “This is a boundary issue. You are not allowed to come in after 11pm, that is your curfew. And your consequence for not respecting this boundary is____.”  Another example “This is a boundary issue. I will not accept you speaking to me in that tone of voice, and I request that your respect that boundary. If you don’t feel like I respect this boundary in the same way for you, let’s discuss that at another time.”  


Point out the Boundaries of Other People. As teens’ non-verbal interpretation skills are waning, due to increased technological use, it’s more important that we “capture” when others are setting boundaries so that our teens know what it looks like when someone sets a boundary. An example might be, “Do you see how that person is backing up slightly and the person they’re talking to continues to advance. The one backing up, is trying to set a physical boundary that the other person is not noticing or not respecting. When people begin moving away when you are talking to them, it’s because they don’t want to be that close to you, or they are signaling they are ready to end the conversation. Do you notice that when you’re talking to other people?”  


Teach them the language of setting boundaries. Some possible ways of doing this are “When you ____ I feel ____.”, “I need your help with something. I care about you, I really do, but I also care about school. I’m having trouble balancing both, can we talk about that. (or) can we limit our Facetiming to 30 at night so I can get some homework done?” “I don’t like it when you _______.” “Im asking you to stop________.” “I cannot accept it when you ________.” We can also help them understand how to use escalating language when requested boundaries are not respected.  You may start with “When you _____ I feel.” but if that’s not respected, you can go to, “I know I’ve asked you this already, and maybe I wasn’t clear, but I’d really need you to ______.” “Is there something about my not wanting you to ______ that’s not clear. What can I do to make it clear to you that ________.” “If you don’t stop ______, I’m not sure we can continue our relationship.”