How can I set boundaries with my teenager?

Published on September 18, 2019

Setting boundaries with a teenager can be difficult if they are rebellious.  For the most part, teenagers are trying to gain independence from their parents to form their own identity.  This can be a painful process for everyone involved.  Parents have rules to keep their children safe, but teenagers want to push these rules and boundaries.  There can be conflict around religion, culture, family traditions, and curfews.  It is unhelpful to control a teenager through fear and punishment; it is better to guide them through empathy and understanding.  Here are some ideas to help you with this process

Understand needs

Your teenager is changing rapidly, socially, emotionally and physically. They want to feel like they fit in at school, home and with their peers.  Have a conversation with your teen about what you need to feel safe, and what they can do to keep themselves safe.  Ask them what it is that they need or would like from you as the parents.  Discuss what you need from them.

Model the kind of behaviour you want from your teen

If you want your teen to stop yelling, make sure you stop yelling. If you want your teen to respect your feelings, respect their feelings.  Teenagers are beginning to become more aware of their relationships and how they are treated within those relationships.  Be a role model for the kind of person that you would like your teen to become.

Practice empathy

Your teenager is under a lot of pressure academically and socially. They are trying to figure out what to study, and what they would like to become as an adult.  Try not to invalidate your teenagers experience by telling them that what they are stressed about is nothing compared to your stress.  Sit with your teen as they explain what they are feeling or what they are going through.  Listen with empathy and compassion.

Accept their differences

Your teen might be questioning their identity, culture, and religion. This can be upsetting.  This is part of your teen becoming their own person with their own values.

Don’t overprotect them

Overprotecting them at this stage is more harmful than helpful.  Teenagers need to experience rejection and failure to learn how to manage emotions and setbacks.  Protecting your teenager from suffering does not enable them to become resilient adults.  Teach your teenager about safety in an honest way.  Scare tactics do not work.  Over interfering with your teen’s life does not teach them how to take care of themselves or how to problem solve on their own.

Make consequences clear

Set up boundaries and rules for your teenager that are age-appropriate. Have a long discussion with your teenager about what is expected of them and what will happen if they break the rules or push boundaries.  Be very specific with what the rules and consequences are.  Physical punishment is always a bad idea.

You will have good days and bad days with your teenager.  Your teenager will make mistakes, just like you will make mistakes.  Placing blame or shame on yourself or your teenager will damage your relationship with your teen as well as lower self-esteem.


Talk to your teenager in a calm manner so they could open up to you or visit an expert with your teen to help you with the process. To setup an appointment with Dr Monica Borschel, please contact +852 2521 4668 or email

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Category(s):Emotional Intelligence, Family Problems, Oppositional & Defiant Behavior in Children & Teens, Parenting, Teenage Issues

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Dr Borschel specialises in Attachment and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, or loss of a loved one.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based psychodynamic therapy along with EMDR, enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help adults, teens, and children to overcome grief, anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology. Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Counseling Association (ACA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA) and EMDRIA certified therapist.

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