4 Ways to Approach Boundaries and Expectations with Youth

by Lindsay Fernandez Richardson, MS, LMHC

Studies show that setting boundaries and expectations, or clear limits and rules, is important to help young people thrive. Youth tend to grow into healthier, happier adults when adults use authoritative parenting, a style of parenting that combines boundary setting with compassion and warmth. Here are some ways adults can try setting limits with young people.

  1. Talk about rules and consequences both beforehand and when issues come up.
  • Share the reasoning behind your expectations and take an interest in your child or teen’s feelings. Hearing them out doesn’t have to mean changing limits, and listening to youth can help them accept boundaries.
  • Try a kind and honest approach over harsh criticism or shaming. Think of limits and consequences as tools for teaching and keeping youth safe.
  1. Strive for a balance between supporting youths’ emerging independence and monitoring their whereabouts.
  • Stay in contact to be aware of their location, what they’re doing, and who is with them.
  • Set guidelines for where youth can or cannot go, how they communicate, and what time they should return. Respond with fair consequences if they break the rules.
  1. Be a positive role model and support youth in connecting with positive influences.
  • Demonstrate thoughtful decision making and talk with youth about ways you and others benefit from healthy choices.
  1. Encourage youth to try their best to make choices that reflect their family’s values.
  • Try saying, “Remember how we talked about looking out for others? Looks like your uncle has a lot of boxes to bring inside. What do you think about offering some help,” or, “I see that you’ve taken more responsibility for your school work lately, and I’m proud of you.”


Source: 40 Developmental Assets® www.searchinstitute.org

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