Soften the Sass and Model Healthy Boundaries

Ahhh adolescence.  A time when kids become less responsible (you’re not imagining it – research shows it’s true!) and start dishing out the attitude.  You’re desperate to guide them well, but the strategies you’ve come to rely on just don’t work as they used to.


One day your daughter tries to turn a tank top into a dress, and it’s time to set a boundary.

“You’re not leaving the house dressed like that!” You lay down the law.

“I can wear what I want.  It’s a free country!” Defiance from your sweet little girl.

“Not while you live in my house, young lady!”  Hello POWER STRUGGLE.


It doesn’t have to be like this.


Rules work well for very young children.  By adolescence, kids want to know the reasons behind the rules, whether those rules apply to everyone else, and where exactly the loophole might be hiding.  She’ll argue for an hour about feminism and what her friends are wearing and how you’re just trying to ruin her life before she stomps off to her room and slams the door.


There is another way.  A better way.


Instead of stating your rule, set a boundary by talking about your feelings. 

“Woah.  I’m really uncomfortable with you going out dressed like that.”

“I can wear what I want.  It’s a free country!”

“If you treat me like my feelings don’t matter, I’m going to be really hurt.”

“Aw, come on, Mom, you’re totally overreacting.”

“Maybe.  But I’m still totally uncomfortable.  This doesn’t feel good to me.”


Do you see the difference?  Respond with “I” statements, not “you” statements.  Instead of controlling her, share her impact on you.  If she continues to argue, keep talking about feelings.  A rule can be argued with, but your feelings can’t be.  Your child loves you and wants connection.  Keep talking about feelings and you’ll get through to her.


This is a really important skill to be modeling for your kids.   Your daughter needs to be able to tell her friends and her romantic partners when she’s uncomfortable, and she’ll need to stand her ground.  By watching you model this skill, she will learn how to do it, too.


Stop having power struggles and start modeling good boundaries.  Let go of rules and embrace emotions.  Allow your connection to guide the relationship.


Want more help with transforming a destructive power struggle into modeling healthy boundaries?  Reply to this email and tell me all about it, or grab a spot on my calendar to talk on the phone.  These destructive cycles really can be broken.  I’d love to help.


In support of you,




P.S.  For more help with parenting your adolescent, register for the FREE teleseminar on Feb 18th!  You’ll learn how to build connection with your child and teach them to respect themselves, their peers, and later their partners.  Check it out!

2 Comments. Leave new

I really like this, Anya – “Respond with “I” statements, not “you” statements. Instead of controlling her, share her impact on you. If she continues to argue, keep talking about feelings. A rule can be argued with, but your feelings can’t be. ” and appreciate how you connected it to teaching my child how to set good boundaries in her own life. I often say the same things to both clients and friends (as well as my own children) – talk about how you feel rather than judging what’s “true”. I’ll be sharing this.


Thank you, Kassandra!


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