Setting boundaries with a teenager can be difficult if they are rebellious.  For the most part, teenagers are trying to gain independence from their parents to form their own identity.  This can be a painful process for everyone involved.  Parents have rules to keep their children safe, but teenagers want to push these rules and boundaries.  There can be conflict around religion, culture, family traditions, and curfews.  It is unhelpful to control a teenager through fear and punishment; it is better to guide them through empathy and understanding.  Here are some ideas to help you with this process

Understand needs

Your teenager is changing rapidly, socially, emotionally and physically. They want to feel like they fit in at school, home and with their peers.  Have a conversation with your teen about what you need to feel safe and what they can do to keep themselves safe.  Ask them what it is that they need or would like from you as the parents.  Could you discuss what you need from them?

Model the kind of behaviour you want from your teen

If you want your teen to stop yelling, make sure you stop yelling. If you want your teen to respect your feelings, respect their feelings.  Teenagers are beginning to become more aware of their relationships and how they are treated within those relationships.  Be a role model for the kind of person that you would like your teen to become.

Practice empathy

Your teenager is under a lot of pressure academically and socially. They are trying to figure out what to study and what they would like to become adults.  Try not to invalidate your teenagers experience by telling them that what they are stressed about is nothing compared to your stress.  Sit with your teen as they explain what they are feeling or what they are going through.  Listen with empathy and compassion.

Accept their differences

Your teen might be questioning their identity, culture, and religion. This can be upsetting.  This is part of your teen becoming their own person with their own values.

Don’t overprotect them.

Overprotecting them at this stage is more harmful than helpful.  Teenagers need to experience rejection and failure to learn how to manage emotions and setbacks.  Protecting your teenager from suffering does not enable them to become resilient adults.  Teach your teenager about safety in an honest way.  Scare tactics do not work.  Over interfering with your teen’s life does not teach them how to take care of themselves or solve problems independently.

Make consequences clear

Set up boundaries and rules for your teenager that are age-appropriate. Have a long discussion with your teenager about what is expected of them and what will happen if they break the rules or push boundaries.  Be very specific with what the rules and consequences are.  Physical punishment is always a bad idea.

You will have good days and bad days with your teenager.  Your teenager will make mistakes, just like you will make mistakes.  Placing blame or shame on yourself or your teenager will damage your relationship with your teen as well as lower self-esteem.


To setup an appointment with me, please email

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.