It’s common to feel exasperated trying to set limits and respond when limits are breached (especially around drug use). Here are some ideas that may help you.

DEFINE A SET OF EXPECTATIONS AND LIMITS 

Every young person and family are different so be clear on what is acceptable and not acceptable for you and consider the young person’s personal needs, and the needs of other people living in the household.

CONSULT AND NEGOTIATE 

If a young person has to meet expectations it is ideal if they agree on them. So Negotiate expectations. Consider the young person’s age and circumstances when you do this.

AGREE UPON A SET OF CONSEQUENCES 

Wherever there is a limit there should be a consequence when limits are broken. A consequence is something that follows from a behaviour, it doesn’t need to be thought of as a punishment. In fact consequences should be graduated (so that learning can take place) which means starting off not too restricting but increasing with restriction if limits continue to be broken.

They also need to be realistic. So, the consequence of being kicked out of the house for using drugs for the first time is not productive or empowering, and is probably unrealistic. It is great if consequences can also be negotiated with the young person.  Asking the young person to nominate consequences can be a productive strategy.

We all make mistakes. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t! It is great if you can acknowledge mistakes

BE CLEAR AND CONSISTENT IN APPLYING THE LIMITS AND CONSEQUENCES 

Once limits and consequences have been agreed you really need to follow through with the consequences that have been set. This is another reason why consequences that gradually step up for successive breaches are useful- they can make following  through easier.

REVIEW AND RENEGOTIATE

Be prepared to continually review and renegotiate new limits as the young person matures. Allowing more freedom is a great way to show you noticed how a young person has respected previous limits. Allowing space for young people to take on new challenges and grow are vital as young people mature..

MISTAKES!

We all make mistakes. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t! You will probably make mistakes in the limits or consequences you set. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is great if you can acknowledge mistakes, this can be important modelling for young people. 

Want to know more about boundaries and consequences? YoDAA's video explains what you need to know. 

Was this helpful? We also recommend The "Strong Bonds" information for families. It has been developed by The Jesuit Social Services, a YoDAA partner and is rich in information. And don't forget, you can talk to YoDAA for more advice and support.