Rules and Consequences for Teens

Since your kids are teens now, you probably know all about rules and consequences, seeing as how you have a few years of parenting under your belt 2. Despite your parenting abilities, you may not realize just how important it is to not only have rules and consequences for your teen but to always enforce both 2. Your teen’s misbehavior can in some cases come with life-changing or dangerous natural consequences, such as injury, pregnancy or legal trouble. What you do now to set and enforce appropriate rules and consequences could very well be the catalyst that shapes your teen’s future 2.

Consequences Should Teach a Lesson

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families Department, when you set rules and consequences for your teenager, you should make sure they are connected and provide teaching opportunities 2. For example, if your rule is that your teen does not purposefully damage any sort of property, including his own or others', the consequence should include helping repair the damage he caused. Say he and his friends decide it would be hilarious to throw eggs at someone’s house. A good consequence for his action would be to make him go to this person’s home, apologize for his inappropriate behavior and clean up the mess he made and/or any damage he caused to the property.

Rules That Work

When it comes to making sure the rules work, you need to keep a few things in mind, advises Elizabeth Pantley, author of "Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting," writing for 2. The first thing you have to consider is whether the rules you set are reasonable. For example, if your teen has a part-time job and practice for two different teams five days a week, is a full-time student and has homework on a regular basis, setting a rule that your teen has to be in bed by 9 p.m. every night is not reasonable, considering she may not get home until 8:45. Furthermore, having too many rules makes it difficult for your teen to abide by all of them. For example, if the rule is that your teen has to have her room cleaned, homework finished, dishwasher unloaded, floors swept and bathrooms cleaned all before dinner each night, that may be too many rules for her to abide by.

Consequences That Work

While it’s up to you to create consequences that match your teen’s actions or behaviors, there are some that just don’t work, advises the Administration for Children and Families. For example, your teen is less likely to learn from long-term consequences than short-term consequences. If he breaks a rule, grounding him for a weekend is much more effective than grounding him for a month, because he is more likely to comply. When the punishment is long-term, he may feel that he has nothing left to lose, and breaking a few more rules won’t make his situation any worse than it already is. Additionally, threatening your teen with unenforceable consequences for breaking the rules is a bad idea 2. Yelling that you will take his driving privileges away for the rest of the year if he brings home another bad grade isn’t going to work if he’s the one who transports his siblings to and from school or he has an after-school job he needs to go to.

Setting the Rules and Consequences

According to the Mayo Clinic, your teen is more likely to abide by the rules and the consequences of breaking them if she has some say in creating them 2. When she views them as fair, she’s more likely to stick to them. Try sitting down with her and discussing the rules and compromising on things that will please you both. For example, if she thinks she deserves a later curfew, compromise with her by telling her she can stay out until 11:30 on weekends instead of 10:00, which is her weeknight curfew. By showing her that you trust her enough to let her help make the rules and set the consequences, you are proving to her that you respect her decision and she is more likely to obey the rules to keep that trust between you 2.