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Setting Goals and Boundaries When Your Teenager is Struggling

Parenting Points


If your teenager is becoming increasingly irresponsible, you will feel a lot of strong emotions. But, even in the worst of times, there are things you can do to be a positive influence on them. Here are four of the most important is working with them to establish goals and boundaries.

1. Set expectations for appropriate behavior. Start by not enabling wrong behavior, which is what you do if you cover up for them, fix their problems, or protect them from their bad decisions. It’s not worth it to argue about little things, but some things are worth drawing a line in the sand like obeying the law, being safe with a car, and no drugs under any circumstances.

2. Establish boundaries & enforce consequences. Make it clear they are responsible for their choices and the consequences. When they cross a boundary, be calm and strong rather than reacting in anger. If bad decisions escalate, so should consequences. If they continue ignoring boundaries, allow their choices to eventually propel them into counseling or a treatment program.

3. Talk to them about positive goals. When you are discouraged, hold onto God’s grace as your lifeline to sanity. Draw on your faith to call out the best in your teenager, even when you think they aren’t hearing it. Keep reminding them they have a good future and encourage them to pick a goal or two to move toward.

4. Stay together as a couple. Teens, especially those with substance issues, are experts at using one parent against the other. Being divided makes it harder for them to get better, and it can tear your marriage apart. Talk to and support each other. Before you can offer good guidance to your son or daughter, you need to have your act together as a couple.

Becoming proactive is part of being the best parent you can be. Learn more at Get a free parenting assessment and information by contacting Steve Ward at

-Steve C. Ward Parenting Points Steps Ministry head shot Steve Ward 3

Executive Director, STEPS Ministries

Author of STEPS: A Daily Journey to a Better Life

STEPS Proactive Parenting provides training, coaching, and online content to equip parents to help their kids improve their lives, grow closer to God, and prevent addiction. We look forward to meeting you at the Celebrate the Family Expo on January 11!

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