As a parent, you’ve probably wondered to yourself, “How can I set rules without being too strict on my teens?”
Finding the right balance can be tricky.
Teenagers need the space and freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes.
But, at the same time, you’ll still need to set rules to guide your teens and cultivate good values.
Teenagers require discipline and guidance when they veer off course. But this should be done in a way that encourages positive behavior without stifling them.
In this article, I’ll share some advice on how you can set effective house rules for your teens in various areas.
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Why are rules necessary for teens?
Research shows that the human brain fully matures around the age of 25.
Before then, your teens’ judgment and decision-making skills are still developing. Plus, teenagers tend to make many decisions based on how they feel.
This can make them more likely to engage in risky behaviors and make poor decisions.
Rules encourage your teens to make healthy choices and logical decisions. These boundaries maintain the safety and well-being of your teens and those around them.
By setting house rules for your teens, you’re also teaching them essential life skills and values to help them succeed as adults.
In addition, having proper rules in place can prevent unnecessary conflicts that stem from misaligned expectations.
How to implement house rules for your teens
Here are some tips for setting effective rules that also respect your teens’ need for independence:
- Bring your teens into the conversation. Communicate with your teenagers about the rules you plan on creating, and listen attentively to their opinion.
- Be specific and concise when creating new rules. “You’re not allowed to be on your phone” is vague. Instead, you could say something like, “Let’s put our phones away when we’re at the dinner table and an hour before bed.”
- Avoid being overly restrictive. Be open to negotiating with your teens and understand their perspective on what counts as being too restrictive.
- Stick to the rules yourself as far as possible. Set “family rules” instead of “rules that the kids have to follow.” This way, your teens won’t accuse you of hypocrisy.
- Set consequences for breaking the rules. Always follow through with these consequences, and ensure that the consequences are logical and reasonable.
- Use positive reinforcement. Verbal affirmation and granting privileges based on demonstrated responsibility are ways to reinforce good behavior.
List of house rules for teens
Go through this list of house rules and pick those that align with your family’s values and principles.
It’s a good idea to have a discussion with your teenagers about the rules before writing down the finalized version of the rules.
1. Stick to your curfew
Having a curfew builds accountability and time management skills in teenagers.
It also ensures that they get enough sleep and protects them from dangerous situations that are more likely to occur late at night.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when setting a curfew for your teens:
- Discuss the curfew timing with your teens. They may have a different curfew for weekdays and weekends.
- Be flexible when it comes to special occasions, e.g., prom, birthday parties.
- Set the curfew in advance, and don’t allow for spontaneous changes.
2. Finish your assigned chores
Try to avoid assigning chores randomly. Instead of asking your teens to do a chore right there and then, assign them tasks ahead of time.
Give them a window of time to complete a routine chore and then leave it up to them to choose when they’d like to do it.
For example, they may be assigned to laundry duty every Thursday, but whether they wish to do it in the morning or evening is their choice.
3. Finish your homework first
Before they boot up a video game or head out to play basketball, make it a rule that they need to complete their homework for the day first.
The best way to get your teens to do their homework is by establishing a routine they can commit to.
You can talk to them about setting up a weekly schedule that specifies when they’ll do their homework each day in general.
Encourage them to write down and prioritize their assignments based on complexity and urgency.
4. Manage your screen time
Studies have found that teens spend up to 9 hours a day on average on electronic devices.
Research shows that excessive screen time can lead to health issues, lower self-esteem, and poorer mental health.
Here’s how you can set rules to manage your teens’ screen time:
- Have a general schedule for screen time. This will likely be different on weekdays compared to weekends.
- Set restrictions on device use. For example, your teens shouldn’t be on their phones during dinner time.
- Have a cut-off time at night. Experts generally advise putting away electronic devices an hour or two before bed.
As far as possible, you should follow these rules too to set a good example for your teens.
5. No bullying or disrespect
The emotional part of teenagers’ brains tends to be more dominant than that of adults.
So teens may do or say disrespectful things in a moment of frustration or anger.
Here’s how you can teach your teens to manage their emotions and behavior better:
- Discuss with your teens what behaviors are considered disrespectful and unacceptable (e.g., name-calling, using foul language, yelling).
- Encourage your teens to be empathetic. For instance, you can try to involve them in volunteer work.
- Point out disrespectful behaviors when you spot them, but do so calmly.
- Discuss how your teens can handle conflicts with other people.
What’s also important is being a good role model. For instance, listen to your teens without interrupting them and extend basic courtesies to them.
6. Communicate honestly and openly
It’s reasonable to ask your teens to keep you in the loop about various things when they go out, including:
- Where they’ll be
- Who they’ll be with
- When they’ll be back
- How they’ll get to their destination
- If there will be any adults at the event
They should inform you about changes in their plans or if they’ll be home later than usual.
Of course, you should refrain from being overly protective.
Calling them frequently or tracking their location without a good reason can backfire, as this shows a lack of trust in them.
7. Use social media responsibly
90% of teens between the ages of 13 and 18 have used social media.
If your teens are active on social media, here are some ground rules to consider implementing:
- Never reveal your location or personal details to strangers online.
- Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want everyone else to see.
- Don’t bully or talk bad about other people online.
- Don’t post your every move on social media.
- Avoid posting offensive content.
Remind your teens that anything on social media can be publicly shared. They should also be vigilant about who they’re talking to online.
8. Be financially responsible
You can prepare your teens for adulthood by teaching them to make wise and responsible money-related decisions.
The following are some ways to implement rules related to finances:
- Encourage your teens to set a savings goal, and have them deposit a certain amount of money into their savings account each month.
- Give your teens a fixed monthly allowance.
- Encourage your teens to keep to a monthly budget. This budget can be divided into needs, wants, savings, and charitable giving.
You can also teach your teens to track their spending in a journal or app.
9. Prioritize your physical health
Some research shows that around 80% of teens aren’t getting enough exercise.
Aside from staying active, teens should build healthy eating and sleep habits.
Here are some ways to encourage your teens to adopt a healthy lifestyle:
- Discuss having a regular bedtime. Teens can have different bedtimes for the weekends, weekdays, and holidays. But the difference in bedtime shouldn’t be too significant.
- Have fixed family meal times. Try to involve your teens in meal preparation and use the opportunity to teach them about cooking and nutrition.
- Discuss having an exercise schedule. Encourage your teens to engage in physical activities they enjoy, like dancing or basketball.
10. Be present during family activities
Building a strong bond between family members takes time and effort. But sometimes your teens don’t want to be with the family.
Here are some examples of rules that can encourage your teens to make time for family activities:
- Make it a point to be home for dinner at least three times a week.
- Reserve at least a day or two each month to hang out as a family.
- Put away your devices during family mealtimes.
You can also involve your teenagers in helping to plan get-togethers and trips for the family.
11. Be a responsible student
You can give your teens ground rules to help them stay on track academically. This could involve implementing a general schedule for studying or doing their homework.
Encourage them to break down their assignments and study tasks into smaller, more manageable goals.
If they’re constantly distracted at home, talk to them about creating a family rule that addresses that. For example, they might only be allowed to use their devices once they’ve finished their school tasks for the day.
Make sure that you keep to this rule too as much as you can, if not your teens will find it unfair!
12. Stay safe and vigilant
Research shows that risky behavior increases around puberty and peaks in the later part of adolescence.
So it’s important to lay out rules to protect your teens from harm.
These boundaries may include the following:
- Pay attention to your surroundings and don’t use your phone when you’re walking outside.
- Don’t let strangers into the home without first checking with either parent.
- Don’t text while driving. Respect road safety regulations at all times.
- Don’t ride with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Don’t go to deserted places alone, and don’t go out alone late at night.
13. Manage your time well
Time management is an important life skill that every teen should develop.
Teach your teens how to create a rough daily schedule and how to keep track of deadlines.
Set rules that help them establish priorities. For example, they can only go to a friend’s house after finishing their homework and chores.
14. Respect others’ belongings
Certain boundaries can be drawn to teach your teenagers to respect the belongings of others.
Here are some examples:
- If you break something that isn’t yours, own up to it and take responsibility for your actions, e.g., replacing or repairing it.
- Ask for permission before taking something that isn’t yours.
- Take good care of the items you borrow.
- Return the items by the date you promised.
15. Respect personal space
Every family member needs their own privacy and space.
One example of a rule you could set is to knock before entering a family member’s room. In addition, your teens shouldn’t look through someone else’s phone or personal belongings without permission.
This form of respect should go both ways. Refraining from crossing these boundaries is best unless your teens’ health or safety is at stake.
You don’t have to implement all these rules in one go. Pick a few that address your teens’ problematic behaviors best or that make the most sense for your family.
Then, sit down, discuss them, and finalize them with your teens.
Of course, you can adapt and modify the rules along the way.
Using this approach, your teens will build positive character traits and learn valuable life skills!
(Don’t forget to download your free e-book below.)