Want to Set Better Rules for Your Tween? Here’s How

family expectations

As your tween starts to grow and develop their sense of identity, it’s crucial to set family expectations. Your expectations should include rules about acceptable behavior, chores, and grades. It can be tough to figure out what to expect from your tween, but you can help them grow into responsible young adults by establishing clear boundaries.

Let’s discuss the best ways to set family expectations for tweens and how to implement them effectively.

The importance of family expectations for tweens

As a parent of a middle schooler, you might be wondering why it’s important to set family expectations. After all, doesn’t every family have different rules? And shouldn’t tweens be allowed to start making their own decisions?

Here’s the thing: Family expectations provide tweens with structure and guidance. They help tweens understand what is expected and give tweens a sense of belonging. When family expectations are clear, tweens feel safe and secure. They know boundaries are in place, and they know their family is there to support them.

In addition, family expectations help parents and tweens to communicate openly and honestly. When everyone is on the same page, it’s easier to discuss sensitive topics like peer pressure and internet safety. Family expectations also make it easier for parents to monitor their tween’s activities and ensure that they are staying on track.

So, if you’re thinking about setting family expectations for your tween, go for it! It’s an essential step in helping your tween grow into a responsible and respectful young adult.

family expectations

How to set rules and limits for your tween

Setting rules and limits for your tween can be a daunting task. After all, they’re at an age where they’re starting to become more independent and are testing the waters of what they can and cannot do. However, it’s essential to set clear expectations for your family to maintain a sense of structure and order.

Luckily, a few simple tips can help you navigate this process.

Ask yourself: What values do you want to instill in your tween? What types of behavior are you willing to tolerate? Having this discussion will help ensure everyone is on the same page.

Be sure to communicate the rules and limits you set. Write them down if necessary. And make sure that your tween understands the consequences of breaking those rules. For example, if they have a curfew, let them know what will happen if they break it.

Finally, be consistent. If you let your tween slide on one rule, they’ll quickly learn that they can push the envelope on other rules.

Examples of Family Rules:

  • Be respectful. Respect includes refraining from eye-rolling, using please and thank you, and listening when someone is talking to you.
  • Take care of your belongings. Responsibility means keeping your room clean, putting away your clothes, and putting things back where they belong.
  • Do your homework and chores without being asked. Self-motivation will help keep the household running smoothly and prevent nagging from parents or guardians. We keep track of daily tasks using a combination of a magnetic whiteboard and dry erase sticky notes for the refrigerator. When my children were in elementary school, we used these paper chore charts.
  • Show consideration for others. Consideration includes not interrupting when others are talking, being aware of personal space, and using indoor voices inside the home.
  • Help out around the house. Everyone in the family should pitch in with chores, whether taking out the trash or doing the dishes.
  • Be patient with younger siblings or cousins. They may not understand everything going on, and they will look up to you as a role model.
rules for middle schoolers

Examples of cell phone rules for tweens:

  • Set boundaries on when your tween can use their cell phone. Whether it’s during homework time, at the dinner table, or after a specific time at night, establish rules for when your child should put away their device.
  • Put limits on how much data they can use each month. Limits will teach them to be more mindful of their usage and help avoid overage fees. Once they hit their limit, they won’t be able to use data services until the next billing cycle.
  • Block certain content and websites that you deem inappropriate for your tween. You can also set up restrictions for app purchases to prevent them from racking up a hefty bill. 
  • Encourage healthy screen time habits by having them participate in other activities. Make sure they stay active, spend time outdoors, read books, and socialize with friends. 
  • Keep the lines of communication open so you can talk about any concerns or questions they have about cell phone usage. Be understanding but firm in your rules, so they know you’re doing it for their safety and wellbeing.

Verywell Family has a list of things you should include in your middle schooler’s cell phone contract here.

Let the punishment fit the crime?

When disciplining your tweens, you want to make sure that the punishment fits the crime. In other words, you don’t want to go overboard with punishment for minor infractions or be too lenient for more severe offenses. Instead, you want to find a happy medium that will teach your child a lesson without being too harsh.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to find the right balance:

First, consider the severity of the offense. A minor infraction like leaving dirty dishes in their room will not warrant the same punishment as something more severe like skipping school.

Second, think about what would deter your child from breaking the rule again. For example, taking away their phone for a day is likely more effective than grounding them for a week if they constantly break your phone rules.

And finally, make sure that the punishment is appropriate for your child’s age and development level. A 10-year-old will not respond well to the same punishment as a 16-year-old. You can ensure that you give your tween a punishment that fits the crime by considering these things.

how to enforce expectations, rules, and consequences

Enforcing rules and limits with your tween can be a challenge, but it’s important to set clear expectations for family life.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Be consistent. It’s important to be consistent when enforcing rules and limits. If you allow your tween to break the rules sometimes, they will think it’s okay to do so all the time.
  2. Be clear about the consequences. If your tween knows that there will be repercussions for breaking the rules, they are more likely to follow them.
  3. Don’t give in. It can be tempting to give in when your tween begs or pleads, but it’s essential to stick to your guns. Once you start making exceptions, it will be hard to go back.
  4. Be firm but fair. It’s important to be firm when enforcing rules and limits, but you also don’t want to be overly strict. Try to find a balance that works for your family.
  5. Involve your tween in the process. If you involve your tween in setting family rules and limits, they will be more likely to follow them. Giving them a seat at the table can help them feel empowered and responsible. Open conversations with our children generate intimacy and trust. For more, see It’s Ok to Let Your Children See You Cry.

For more tips, see The Best Tips for Middle School Parents Ever.

Celebrate successes along the way!

As any parent of a tween knows, this can be a challenging time. Your child is growing up and trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. At the same time, they’re also dealing with family expectations and the pressure to succeed. As a result, it’s important to celebrate your tween’s successes, big and small. Positive reinforcement can help them feel appreciated and valued, and it can motivate them to keep trying new things.

So how can you celebrate your tween’s successes? Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a big deal out of their accomplishments, whether it’s getting an A on a test or winning a game.
  • Take them out for a special treat, like ice cream or a trip to the movies.
  • Give them some extra attention and spend some quality time together. You could go for a walk, play a game, or sit and chat.
  • Write them a heartfelt letter or card expressing your pride in their achievements.

Whatever you do, make sure your tween knows that you’re proud of them and support their efforts!

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in sum…

Setting rules and limits is important early on if you have a tween. Tweens need boundaries to feel safe and secure. And, as with any rule, there will be times when enforcing them can be difficult. But it’s worth it! When your tween knows what is expected of them and feels loved and supported by their family, they will become confident young adults. Thanks for following along! Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, so you don’t miss future posts about parenting tweens.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Katie

    Great tips. I really love the dry erase post it notes you have linked too! That’s such a neat item and a great way to track things for the tweens!