Do all of teens want someone in their lives to set down the law, set the limits?

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This question was part of the discusssion curriculum in a 9th grade class I taught.  The general consensus among the 85 students in the 3 classes each year was that they really needed limits set. Having no boundaries was too scarey, and limits helped them know what their parents wanted from them even if the students argued against the limits.   If parents ignored the student, students would try out ideas with other important adults and get their reactions for help in making decisions on limits.  One activity in this class was to write a letter to themselves about their own sexual boundaries.  Many had never thought about what their boundaries were even though many were involved in relationships and were sexually active. The letter was never turned in, but many students told me that this helped them decide where their limits were as parents didn't discuss this topic. The students did, however, request that parents be flexible in some areas if the reasons for being flexible were reasonable and true because rigidity was a negative.

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Psychologists argue that all teens, at least, do wnat someone in their lives to set some level of limits for them.  This does not imply that they want all of their actions to have limits, but it does mean that they want some limits imposed on them.

The idea is that teens are not always sure of what they should and should not do in their new lives.  They do not always feel confident that they know what is right and they can be overwhelmed the range of choices that they now have to make.  For this reason, they want to have someone help them lay out limits.  Once they have those limits, they can feel more free to explore within them.


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