Defining Healthy Family Rules For Teens

A Note From the LA Teen Therapist & Life Coach

Ideally, family rules should honor the relationship between parents and children. -Sandra

It is important to consciously identify your rules for dealing with your teen as well as their rules for dealing with you.


  • “I’ll give you anything you want if in return you will love and respect me.”
  • “I need to raise my kids the exact opposite of how my parents raised me.”
  • “Since I am your mom, I know what is best for you.”


  • “Whatever trouble I get into, my dad will get me out of it.”
  • “It’s my parent’s job to do everything for me.”
  • “Everything should go my way. If not, I get to throw a tantrum and disturb everyone around me.”

We usually make up rules based on experiences we have had in life. Their purpose is to help direct the interactions we have with others. These rules, although neither right or wrong, and may be helpful–or not.

You should only keep using your current rules if you are getting positive results.

You ultimately need to try and bring hidden rules out into the open. If there are hidden agendas, the people involved may feel they are trapped, and unclear about what is expected of them. This can lead to rebellion and/ or power struggles.

Hidden rules can ultimately sabotage a relationship. By putting the rules on the table, they can be talked about, honestly dealt with, and if appropriate, changed.

An example of naming the rules would be “the reason I can buy you the things you want is because I worked overtime. The reason I can do this is because you help out at home with the chores I normally do. By your helping me, I can help you.”

Teenagers then understand that there is a cost for what they are getting. By communicating this, you help teens become more aware and grateful. Adolescents then know that they must take part in the exchange, if only to say “thank you.”

It can be very helpful to use the approach of asking your teen “What is it that you want from me?” and then clarify exactly what that means to them. Then you can ask the big question…”And what are you willing to give to get that?”

As a parent, remember, you are the one in charge–not your child. Your power, used wisely, can eliminate power struggles, allowing you to focus attention on creating dynamics with your teen that work.

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