Teenagers – independence vs boundaries

By Jodi Benveniste.


Photo by Petra via Flickr

Do you remember being a teenager? It’s an intense time! There’s a heady mix of excitement at being more independent and grown up but also so much uncertainty and insecurity because we’re not yet sure of who we are and our place in the world.

It’s a very challenging developmental stage. Our teenagers are no longer children, but they’re not yet adults.

They need more freedom to be independent and take responsibilities. But they don’t yet have all the experience, knowledge and skills they need to deal with their increased independence and responsibility so they still need our guidance and wise counsel.

As a parent, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between allowing our kids to grow up but also expecting them to be respectful and remain connected to the family – and to family rules.

So how can you allow your teenager to be more independent and take on more responsibility without being too draconian – or too permissive?

Family values

Your family culture sets the tone for what’s expected in your home. It helps to be clear about what family values are important to you, and which values you’d like your teenager to take on. Then you can talk about and reinforce those values so your teenager understands why you make certain decisions. You might have no screens in bedrooms after a certain hour because you value sleep, wellbeing and moderation. Your teenager might not completely like it, but they understand why.

Family rules

Family rules help to reinforce your family values. Rules are best created with your teenager rather than imposed upon them. Rules might relate to curfews during weeknights and on weekends, and what happens when your kids are home by themselves, such as who can come over, how many people, answering the door and answering the phone. They might relate to chores around the house, and other responsibilities.


It’s helpful to have a forum to discuss issues that arise. It might be a regular family meal or family meeting or an activity you do together where you get to chat, such as walks or bike rides. Regular communication helps to build a strong relationship with your teenager. You can then talk about times when they’ve abused their independence and shirked their responsibilities. But you can also talk about times when they’ve been respectful and responsible.


Technology doesn’t have to rule family life. Try to be sensible with smartphone, tablet and internet use by agreeing on non-device times, and looking at systems that limit and monitor the money and time your teenager spends on devices. You can even encourage them to use the home phone in communal areas instead of hiding away on a smartphone. We can do the same.

Out and about

Allowing more freedom and responsibility is also about giving your teenager more opportunities to get themselves to and from places without your help. When your teenager is out and about, agree on when and under what circumstances you expect them to check in with you before leaving somewhere to come home or when they’ve arrived home before you. Make sure you are contactable even when your mobile isn’t handy or isn’t charged. As VTech, the global leader in cordless phones and electronic learning products, recently found in a survey of mums, many of us aren’t contactable in an emergency. A home phone can be a back up and ensure peace of mind.


Allowing our kids to grow up can feel uncomfortable. We can worry about their safety and their ability to manage themselves. We can also feel like we are losing control. But our job as parents is to let go, allow our kids to grow up, and give them more responsibilities so they can become more capable. They still do need us though. That’s why focusing on your family values, setting some family rules together and having ways of staying connected, even when you are apart, makes the transition so much smoother.

About the author

Jodie-BenvesteJodie Benveniste is an expert in intuitive parenting. You can get your free gift ‘Unlocking the secrets of intuitive parenting’ at jodiebenveniste.com.



  1. Yes, it’s all about letting go gradually and giving over more and more control so that by the time they leave school they have a firm foundation to make their own decisions. Great pointers!
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