• Brandon Joffe, LCSW

What a boundary is and is not


Often parents will put all their parenting energy into trying to set boundaries, create punishments, implement scare tactics, and prodding with rewards. For parents with difficult teens, these interventions don't work no matter how often and how many times a parent attempts them. As difficult as it may be to accept a boundary is not a tool for controlling your teen. A boundary is a way to protect yourself and your relationship with your teen. Use boundaries to protect your home, possessions, finances, and most importantly your own mental well-being. So often parents believe that they are making boundaries when they make vague statements like "you will show respect" and "you must get good grades." Healthy boundaries are not vague, they are not complicated, and they are not flexible roundabout guidelines. Boundaries are concrete and simple. For example, setting the boundary "I am not willing to do any favors for you on any day that you yell at me, put me down, or cuss at me" is concrete and simple as opposed to insisting and yelling over and over again that your child must show respect. Boundaries are not a way to back up your endless nagging and lectures. A healthy boundary can be relied on instead of the yelling, insane conversations, and endless debates. It is a way to stay more silent and an excuse to refrain from participating in the arguments that damage the relationships further.

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