Making Changes with Your Teen

As a parent, you might feel as though all of your time, effort, and money are spent in order to provide your teen with what they need and want. It is not uncommon for parents to provide money, transportation, privileges, and activities for their children, in addition to the required food, clothing, and shelter. Going the extra mile for your teen takes a lot of effort and hard work on your part, and you may feel, like many other parents that your efforts go unnoticed. Despite everything that you have given, you may feel as though you are getting very little from your teen in return.

Parents expect that their teen will help around the house, follow basic rules and parental requests, be respectful, cooperative, and be appreciative of all that they have. Frustration occurs when parents notice that these things are not happening in their household, and, instead, their teen simply wants more and more. If this situation sounds familiar, it is time to make some changes with your teenage child.

How to Clearly Define Rules or Expectations

The boundaries that are currently in place between yourself and your teen started in the cradle. The rules of your relationship, and the expectations that you have of one another, can be traced back to your child’s infanthood and your initial responses to their cries. Over time, these responses grew and changed as your child grew and changed, but the routine has been in motion for many years. Your actions, or lack thereof, have clearly communicated the way that you will respond to your child’s demands, whether they were an infant crying to be picked up, or a teen nagging to stay out past curfew.

If you are fed up with the unbalanced relationship that you have with your teen and are frustrated with the lack of boundaries, it is time to reevaluate your relationship. You need to redefine rules and set clear expectations of behavior. It is time to start over and renegotiate.

How to Re-Negotiate

Parents often find themselves on the receiving end of a bad negotiation. They give and give to their child, and get little to nothing in return. Renegotiating is the key to reestablishing boundaries and setting new expectations of behavior with your teen. Like the other relationships in your life, the relationship that you have with your child requires actionable negotiation, rather than verbal negotiation. Communicating what you will accept, based on your actions, is the best way to renegotiation the terms of the relationship that you have with your teen.

The first step toward successful renegotiating is to clearly outline what you expect in terms of behavior, communication, and action. Let your child know that you expect them to fill the gas tank and check in throughout the evening in return for being allowed to borrow your car, for example. Or let your child know that being allowed to participate in sports is a privilege, and in return, they must keep up on their household chores. State your expectations in such a way that there are no questions as to what your teen needs to do in return for what you are giving to them.


Once you have taken the steps to renegotiate the terms of your child’s behavior and expectations, be consistent. Do not let frustration or laziness undo all of your hard work. Don’t let your child renegotiate the terms of the situation. Teens use certain methods, such as withholding affection, making your life miserable by whining or pestering you, or challenging you to react to their misbehavior when they do as they wish, regardless of what you say. Many parents fall for these tactics, because they want their child’s love and affection, or even because it’s easier and more peaceful to let their child have it their way. Do not be a parent who is manipulated by their child.

Commit to no longer being controlled by your child’s love, approval, or acceptance. Your child will be upset when you enforce consequences and follow through on your actions. Do not let them manipulate you.  Follow through on your rules and expectations, regardless of your child’s reactions. Do what is best for them even if they dislike you for it.  Following through can be inconvenient and miserable, but not following through tells your child that they do not need to believe what you say, because you will not uphold your end of the negotiation.

Stand up to your child. Be firm. Children will test your resolve throughout their lives. Demonstrate to them that you will not be manipulated by their behavior and that you will do whatever it takes to ensure that they respect you as a parent and follow the rules and directions in your home.


Like any parenting tactic, setting boundaries with your teenage child will be an on-going process. You will find yourself in various stages of negotiation regarding computer use, dating, cell phones, and extracurricular activities throughout your child’s teen years. As you work through each situation, take the time to assess the process of negotiation with your teen. Are both of your needs being met? Do you feel as though your teen is appreciative of his privileges and respectful of your position as the parent? Do changes need to be made? Take an honest look at your current relationship. If you find that things need to be altered or improved, take time to make the necessary changes. Constant monitoring will allow you to maintain a good relationship with your teen.

Effective Consequences

As with all negotiations with your teen, you need to provide effective consequences for their actions and decisions. As a parent, this takes advanced planning. First, decide which aspects of care that you will provide for your child, regardless of their behavior. These aspects must be the basics, and include food, clothing, shelter, and hygiene, as well as love and affection. Anything else that your teen desires, such as transportation, allowance, and privileges, must be earned through good behavior. While adhering to this policy can prove challenging, it lends itself easily to effective consequences.

By outlining the expectations that you have of your child in advance, as discussed above, it will be clear to both you and your child when your child is not upholding their end of the negotiation. When your child fails to behave as desired, they lose whatever it is that they negotiated for in the first place, such as extra money, the privilege to play on the school soccer team, buying new clothes, using the computer, or the ability to borrow the family car. Stick to these consequences just as you outlined them during the negotiation process. Only by sticking to your guns and following through will you demonstrate to your child that you are a strong negotiator who can establish effective boundaries. Over time, your child will learn that you mean what you say, and will be unlikely to enter parental negotiations that they cannot uphold. This will mean successful negotiations for the two of you, and the development of a relationship where both parties feel needed and appreciated.

For more help with parenting teens, check out these FREE parenting teens videos:

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