Controlling and Firm Boundaries
In the Context of disciplining teenagers for drug use, what is the difference between firm boundaries and controlling?
Controlling in this instance is dictating and supervising their every move. On the other hand, a firm boundary is used to control their environment. They are still free to live and make choices.
Controlling is locking the door and the gate for an extended time. While firm boundaries mean giving them the keys to both, along with clear instructions on what is ok and what is not, and then following through with the consequences of any bad choices.
Drug use is never okay, and it is especially difficult to control teenagers by using oppressive means. Maybe the question needs to be;
How do you stay close and connected while discussing the boundaries, and then imposing a consequence when both can be an unenjoyable conversation?
Because the end goal, in this case, should be to figure out what distresses are causing the teen to want to try drugs, and/or what their plan is for when they are offered it.
Invite your teen to sit with you and have a discussion.
Use the L.O.V.E response:
Listen – Repeat what they say without judgment. “So, what you are saying is…”
Observe – Check yourself. Check your feelings and intentions:
How invested are you in the outcome?
Do you care more about them or the outcome?
If you care more about the outcome, you are heading down the controlling path.
Let go of the need to control them, and the outcome.
Then you can parent from a more helpful place.
Validate – Understand their position in the hope that they will continue to share with you how it is
for them. You cannot help them if you do not understand their problem. Furthermore, they will not open up to you if they think you do not understand them.
Empower – Leave your teen feeling empowered. An empowering question is “What is your plan?”
Maybe they need some tips and scripts on how to respond to peer pressure. For example;
“Na bro, I am not into that stuff, I’ve got Soccer tomorrow I wouldn’t do that to my team”
“You can keep that for yourself, I don’t need it – I was born chilled out Bro”
“No way! I’d be grounded for life; I’ve got way too much planned this term”
Let them know the limits and rules for your house and what the consequences will be, for not respecting those rules.
Be VERY clear.
Remind them you love them, believe in them, and make them understand that they are free to choose.