Most often, when we think of implementing structure into our children’s lives, it is because we have a newborn that needs a feeding schedule, a toddler that needs a nap schedule, or a child that needs an activity schedule. When children become teens, they are often left to implement their schedules. And yes, they are on the verge of asserting their independence, so it can be a challenge. However, not implementing structure for them can be counterintuitive and leave them “real world unready.” Therefore, parents must establish boundaries, rules, and structure. Guidelines help teens create life-long success habits.
Adolescence is a period of massive change in all areas of development. During this time, puberty triggers the neural systems, and the hypothalamus sends signals to the body to produce certain hormones. This, along with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, makes way for intense emotions and impulsive behaviors. Not to mention how wacky sleep patterns become, all contributing to testing limits and parental frustration. However, leaving teens to their own devices will most likely lead to more impulsive decisions and, ultimately, trouble. Parents must remember that teens don’t have the cognitive control to resist temptations, and it’s better to steer them towards healthy, positive risks than to allow them all the responsibility.
Believe it or not, teens need and want structure. Since they are already dealing with multiple changes in their bodies and minds, having boundaries in place gives them a sense of security. Clear limits and structure can keep riskier behaviors at bay. The key is to take the time to discuss these things ahead of time with teens. Although we may experience some pushback, the life lessons of time management, self-control, and responsibility will ultimately win out. To top it off, when everyone is on board, confusion and frustration are reduced, making relationships stronger while trust is cultivated. So as teens have rules imposed on them, they learn to set boundaries for themselves, thereby increasing their self-control.
To help parents feel confident putting structure and boundaries in place, our SKILLZ Child Development programs incorporate methods that are used in and out of the classroom. In-classroom tactics give boundaries while also allowing some freedom of having choices, and an easy to implement home curriculum provides parents with guidance to guide their practice. The strategies used to assist parents in being attuned to their teen’s ever-changing mood, connecting with them on a more mature level, prompting them to make better decisions, and consistently implementing structure and boundaries while remaining patient through the process.
As teens travel the pathway to becoming responsible young adults, parents can rest assured that routines and boundaries are powerful, positive influences. While teens may resist some, they will ultimately understand that their route to more freedom comes from the development of trust, responsibility, and accountability. When parents enforce structure on their teens, they eventually learn to manage a 24-hour day independently, which leads to lifelong habits of success.