Rules for Teens: Setting Boundaries for Teenagers


It’s natural for teens to test your patience and push boundaries as they start craving independence and questioning authority. As child-rearing strategies shift during the teen years, sitting down as a family and developing a reasonable set of house rules is a healthy and positive step. Rules help teens learn responsibility and teach them that their actions have consequences. No different than maintaining good grades or keeping up with household chores, avoiding underage drinking is an essential expectation for your teenager. Here’s how to get started setting boundaries for teens — and why it matters. 

Why Rules are Important for Teens 

Creating a list of house rules is important for children of all ages because it can help them feel safe, respected, and grounded. Rules can also help your household run more smoothly because everyone will be on the same page. 

Your teenager may look like an adult, but it’s important to remember that their brain is still a work in progress. Rules can help protect them and help them avoid making potentially life-changing mistakes. The likelihood of making such mistakes increases exponentially when teens and alcohol mix. 

Wonder why your teen thought sneaking in an hour past curfew or borrowing the car without permission were good ideas? Brain development is partly to blame. Brain scans and research by neuroscientists reveal that the prefrontal cortex, which helps inhibit impulses and control behavior, does not complete its development until around age 25. It’s one of the reasons teens may act impulsively and take part in risky behaviors like underage drinking. Having boundaries can help teens stay safe while they earn trust and responsibility.  

House Rules for Teens and Tweens 

House rules can be anything that works for your family. It’s usually a mix of how parents and teens can work together to support each other, combined with specific to-do items. Some examples could include: 

  • Respecting each other 
  • Putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher 
  • Completing homework before video games/social media 
  • Respecting curfews 
  • Avoiding underage drinking 

Sitting down as a family to create house rules is also a good opportunity to talk about the dangers of underage drinking. You may think this will be an uncomfortable conversation, but our recent survey found that 93% of students believe that if their parents talked to them about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking, it may help prevent it.  

On our website, you can find more facts from reliable sources about underage drinking as well as tips and information to help you get the conversation flowing. 

Tips for Setting Rules for Teens 

Creating reasonable rules for teens that are fair and work for your family is possible. Here are a few tips to get started: 

  • Make your teen a partner in the process. Take time to discuss with your teen why rules are important and make sure they understand the reasons behind the rules. Listen to what they have to say and make sure their input is taken into account. If your teen has a hand in helping establish the rules, they may be more likely to abide by them.  
  • Let the punishment fit the crime. Once you’ve established a clear set of rules with your teen, it’s up to both of you to come up with an appropriate set of consequences. Some reasonable consequences include taking away privileges, adding chores, and limiting social activities. 
  • Stick to it. Inevitably, your teen is going to break one of the rules. Make sure to dole out the previously agreed-upon consequences and stick to the parameters you’ve created together. 
  • Choose your battles. If it’s not on the house rules list and doesn’t directly impact their health and safety, try to let some things go. It may drive you crazy that your teen’s bedroom is a disaster. But, if they work hard in school and act responsibly, it might be best to overlook this common teenage behavior. 
  • Be a good role model. Remember that “house rules” apply to everyone in the household, not just your teen. If you commonly break a house rule, it can send a negative message. Following the rules and demonstrating positive behavior can go a long way in helping your child develop healthy habits and boundaries. 
  • Applaud strengths. Taking time to recognize your child for positive behavior and making good decisions, such as avoiding underage drinking, is important because most teens really do want your respect and approval.   

Start the Conversation Today

As we’ve mentioned, when you sit down to create your family’s house rules, it’s also an ideal time to start the conversation about the dangers of underage drinking. Laying out your stance against teenage alcohol consumption is an important component of any set of house rules for teens.  

Underage drinking is a factor in the death of approximately 4,300 young adults each year. Not only can underage drinking kill, but it also opens the door for other dangerous behaviors, including crime, problems at school, misuse of other substances, and unprotected sex.  

Talking to your kids about alcohol does not have to be a big production. It’s important to set expectations about what your children should do if they are offered alcohol to help them gain the confidence and knowledge to withstand peer pressure.  

It’s never too early to get started setting boundaries and having tough conversations with your children. Establish your house rules and Start the Conversation about underage drinking today.