Talk with Zach Logo
October 9, 2022

Boundaries with Parents

By Jaye G.
, 12th grade
, from Birmingham, MI

From the time I was young, my parents always taught me the importance of boundaries. They explained that boundaries let people stay true to themselves and help people feel safe in relationships.

For example, if a friend wanted to borrow a toy but lost it and didn’t give it back, my boundary might be that I’d let them play with my toys at my house but not let them take it home. It meant that if someone wanted to hug me but I didn’t want to be hugged, I could nicely say I didn’t want a hug at that moment.

As I became a teenager, boundaries became even more important in friendships and relationships. If I didn’t want people getting wasted at my house or in my car, I could say I wasn’t comfortable with that. If a date wanted to do something I wasn’t for, I could say so. If a friend kept using me for my homework, I could tell her I couldn’t help her anymore because it made me feel resentful. If people cared about me, they’d respect my boundaries. If they didn’t respect my boundaries, I could choose what kind of relationship I wanted to have with them.

But what my parents didn’t expect was that I would start setting boundaries with them too. When I got to high school, I noticed that they kept checking my grades in our school’s portal, and I felt like I was under a microscope. If I didn’t do as well as I wanted, not only did I have to deal with how I felt about it, but I knew that at dinner that night, my parents would bring it up.

 “What happened on that history test?” they’d ask, nicely but also trying to hide their worry. Suddenly, our transcripts mattered for college, and they were just trying to help, but their concern just made me even more worried than I already was.

So one night, I set a boundary: “I don’t want you looking at my grades in the portal anymore,” I said. “You’ll see my grade report at the end of each grading period.”

I thought my parents would respond well because they were the ones who had always taught me about the importance of boundaries. But they didn’t seem to realize the irony. They said things like, “We just want to keep you on track” and “This way we know if you need help” and even “But all the other parents check the portal,” which was funny because they taught me that “everyone else is doing it” isn’t a good reason for crossing someone’s boundary.

Eventually, they agreed not to look in the portal, and then I started setting more boundaries with them, like: 

I’ll be home by curfew, but I don’t want to answer questions about my night until the next day. 

I won’t stay on the soccer team even though it looks good for college because I hate it. 

I’ll still wear that to school even though you don’t think it’s appropriate, because it doesn’t violate the dress code. 

The more boundaries I set, the better our relationship became, just like they taught me would happen. I was clear about who I was and what I needed, and they were also clear with me about boundaries around rules I had to respect for safety. They stopped nagging, I stopped feeling invaded, and there was much less stress and more fun in our house.

As I think about leaving for college next year, I’m glad I have practice setting boundaries not just with my peers, but also with adults. It’s important to know what you’re comfortable with, how to communicate it clearly, and to trust that your relationships will strengthen and get closer when everyone knows what to expect.

This site uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. By using this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy.