“My prefrontal cortex is famously huge!” joked The Man at dinner.  Why were we talking about the prefrontal cortex at dinner?  Because I read Boundaries with Teens:  When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. John Townsend.  (And we may have just watched Guardians of the Galaxy II …)

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What I Learned about Boundaries

*Boundaries with Teens helped me learn how to balance grace and truth in my parenting!

I used to make too many excuses for our daughters.  Then, I would reach my limit and become overly authoritative.  I’m sure our girls wondered who would come out, Dr. Jekyll or Mrs. Hyde?  It was no doubt confusing for our girls as they wondered how I would react.  But, Boundaries helped me to see how I empathize and enforce boundaries.

What I so appreciated about this book was the emphasis on remaining connected with your adolescent.  In the section, Understand the Teenage World, my empathy was stirred when I understood why it seemed that my darling daughter had a split personality!  She is experiencing so much physical and mental growth that it affects her behaviors and emotions.

Harnessing that empathy helped me remain calm and not take things so personally.  We even began to make jokes about how my job is to be her prefrontal cortex right now!  And, this is when The Man cracked his “famously huge” joke.

My job is to be her prefrontal cortex right now! Click To Tweet
How to create Boundaries for teens and tweens with empathy, truth, and consequences

Even with empathy, parents are encouraged to speak truth into the lives of our adolescents.  When we parent from a place of love and concern, we are led to draw boundaries for our teens/ preteens for their physical safety and emotional health.

The prefrontal cortex, home of decision-making skills, is not fully developed yet!  We are there to provide that external structure for our children.  Teens experience the freedom to choose within that structure, or boundary.

Many of us have teens who are bigger and stronger than us.  With their God-given free will, they may choose to cross our boundary lines.  This is where we stand firm in our consequences that we have discussed previously with them.

In our family, consequences are enforced.  Because our girls know the consequences ahead of time, they accept them even when there are tears.  I am grateful that Boundaries gave me the tools to be a better and stronger parent.

Please continue reading for a more in-depth review of the book, Boundaries for Teens, so that you can decide if the book is right for you.

Boundaries for Teens by Dr. John Townsend is divided into four parts:

1.  Be a Parent with Boundaries

Dr. Townsend describes how to create boundaries as a parent.  He explains boundaries as “how you define yourself, say who you are and who you are not, set limits, and establish consequences if people are attempting to control you.”

A strong, healthy parent enables an adolescent to develop responsibility and self-control.  And yet, the parent must also know when boundaries are not the solution.  Love, support, and patience are just as important.

“Why are connection and consistency such important characteristics for parents of teens?  Because adolescents must have someone who is strong enough to contain all their parts – good and bad – and still relate to them.  This experience enables teens to mature and become integrated,” shares Dr. Townsend.

Dr. Townsend also has chapters on the importance of connections to other healthy adults, parents with different parenting styles, and single parenting.  He includes a brief chapter on the role of the stepparent.

2.  Understand the Teenage World

Dr. Townsend depicts the changes in an adolescent’s brain, body, and social experiences.  Included is a list of characteristics of healthy teens.

Physically, the teen begins to grow and develop secondary sexual characteristics.  The teen may look mature, but his or her brain is still growing.

Mentally, the adolescent moves from concrete to abstract thinking.  The teen years are a burst of development in areas such as “judgment, impulse control, dealing with right and wrong, and rationality.  Teens are still developing their ability to control emotions and use higher thought processes.”  As these areas grow, teens often react emotionally without thinking.

Socially, teenagers begin to separate from their parents.  Peers take on more importance.  Teens develop their own values, ideas, and thoughts.  This step towards autonomy is important as they prepare to enter adulthood.  Townsend recommends, “Don’t fight separation, but stay connected.”

“Don’t fight separation, but stay connected.” - Dr. John Townsend Click To Tweet

3.  Set Boundaries with Your Teen

Set boundaries for your teen using Dr. Townsend’s four anchors.  Remain strong.   Determine appropriate consequences.

Dr. Townsend’s Four Anchors of Boundary Setting

  • Love:  I Am on Your Side
  • Truth:  I Have Some Rules and Requirements
  • Freedom:  You Can Choose to Respect or Reject the Rules
  • Reality:  Here’s What Will Happen

4.  Address Common Problems

In Part Four, Dr. Townsend addresses twenty-six problems parents face with their adolescents.  These problems include disrespect, defiance, deception, argumentativeness, and peers.

Some general guidelines Dr. Townsend used in his examples and recommendations:

Define the problem.

Part of defining the problem involves understanding the changes in the brains and hormones of adolescents.

Talk to the teen about the problem. 

Parents should bring the problem to the teen’s attention and make an effort to connect.

Provide the external structure as teens may not have developed internal structure.

The goal is for them to eventually internalize the structure.  In my words, “Be their frontal lobe!”

Establish and keep limits. 

Set boundaries and consequences. Stay strong and follow through.

Get professional help if further intervention is needed.

Boundaries with Teens is packed with information for reflective parents to bring peace to our homes.

In *Boundaries with Teens, I was challenged to:

  • Stand in my truth as I reflect on my parenting skills and ability to remain strong as I follow through with consequences.
  • Balance grace and truth in my interactions with our daughters.
  • Empathize with the changes our girls are experiencing and how that affects their emotions and behavior.

I appreciated the:

  • Emphasis on maintaining the relationship even when establishing boundaries.  It is tempting to withdraw from our teens who are withdrawing from us.
  • Strategies for challenging teen behaviors, including scripts for the parent to use.
  • Connection with Biblical principles.

Parents, what successful boundaries do you use with your adolescents?  Let’s encourage parents to stay strong and learn from each other in the comments below!


For further reading and fun, click below to purchase these items through my affiliate links.  Thank you for your support!

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