House Rules for Teenagers to Live By

Living with a teen can be challenging for many parents. Setting limits, establishing house rules and exacting consequences can be exhausting and overwhelming. With teens' increasing independence and approaching adulthood, house rules can be an excellent way to teach lessons. The goal is to instill lifelong skills of discipline, respect and self-control.

General House Rules

The rules of your home are a reflection of your values. These are the rules that you use to govern yourself and your actions. A few examples of house rules include speaking respectfully, respecting others’ property, speaking honestly and zero tolerance for drug and alcohol abuse. Set the example for your entire home by living by these rules and raising your family to follow these rules 1.

Teenager Rules

In addition to standard house rules, you'll likely have additional teenager rules that you expect them to follow. For example, you will probably institute basic accountability for teenagers, expecting them to tell you where they will be and whom they will be with. Most parents also institute curfews for teenagers, requiring them to be home by a specific time on weeknights and weekend nights. Parents might also have rules for teenagers about grades and schoolwork, requiring that teens maintain minimum grades and complete schoolwork before engaging in other activities. Household chores might also fall under these rules as requirements that a teenager must follow.

Rule Discussion

Have an open and candid conversation between parents and the teenager to ensure that everyone understands the house rules and expectations. Write down the details of each rule and discuss each one with your teenager so there are no misunderstandings or misperceptions about your expectations. If your teenager counters any rules -- curfew, for example -- discuss your teenager’s concerns and hammer out an agreement. Write down the final house rules and give a copy to your teenager and keep a copy. You might even have everybody sign the rules to show understanding and agreement.


If your teenager doesn't comply with house rules, confront him as soon as possible to find out why. Institute consequences for breaking the house rules, making the consequence fit the action 1. For example, failure to perform household chores might mean that Mom or Dad don’t provide chauffeur services or failure to hand in a homework assignment might mean that the teenager has to miss time hanging out with friends.


When teens comply and conduct themselves accordingly, your task involves handing out copious amounts of praise and positive reinforcement. Catch your teen being good and he’s much more likely to continue performing because he wants to please you and he likes the positive feedback. Look for at least one action or behavior you can praise every day to keep up your teen’s positive momentum.