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Parenting 101: A list of punishments for teenagers that actually work

Good punishments for teens is a part of parenting you might need to have

A mother talking to her teenage son while sitting on the couch.
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If you survived the toddler years, you will survive the teenage years. Teenagers are like toddlers — they know how to push your buttons and love to test their boundaries. It’s in the teen handbook and comes with the territory of growing up and becoming independent. As we all do sometimes, teens make mistakes along the way. As a parent, it’s important to make sure your teen is being smart, safe, and respectful while navigating their way through adolescence. If that isn’t the case, you might turn to a list of punishments for teenagers that fit the behavior.

Not all punishments are created equal, and some are more effective than others. You’ll want to think about how to turn a punishment into a learning experience for your teen. Here is a creative and impactful list of good punishments for teens to turn those mistakes into life lessons.

Mom comforting a teen.

Positive ways to discipline teens

Once your child reaches a certain age, some punishments no longer feel practical. Time-outs just don’t cut it with a teenager, and neither does grounding them for every offense. Here is how to discipline a teenager with more effective and age-appropriate strategies. Creative, good punishments for teenagers ensure that certain behaviors don’t become habits.

See if any of these work for your teen

  • Take away screens: Want to get your teenager’s attention? Take away their cell phone, laptop, and tablet along with access to video games. Nothing says business like the removal of all forms of electronics. While this punishment doesn’t get to the root of the issue, it does serve as a reminder to think twice about their behavior and actions. Take away screen privileges for a day or two, but set the time frame in advance. 
  • Remove social situations: If your child tends to get in trouble when they spend time with a specific friend or a group of acquaintances, you will want to keep stronger tabs on who they’re hanging out with and what they are doing together. If your child needs to be punished for something related to what they did with a peer, restrict their ability to see friends for a set amount of time.
  • Face the music: Sometimes, the best course of action is to not give a punishment at all. That is not to say you are letting your teenager off the hook. Rather, you are taking a step back and allowing the natural consequences of their actions to unfold. If you are the parent who typically saves the day when your child is in a lurch, this is a way to teach them to take ownership of their lives and accept the consequences of their actions.
  • Bulk up the chores: If your child tends to get into trouble because they are bored, consider adding more household chores and responsibilities to their daily and weekly to-do lists. This serves two purposes: It keeps them busy so they can’t stir up mischief and reminds them that they may want to do better next time. 
A parent and teen talking.
Martin Novak/Shutterstock

Involve your teen in the process

A lot of why teens push those boundaries and get into trouble is because they don’t feel seen. They are looking for attention, whether it’s good or bad, and getting into trouble does just that. Having your child involved with the way they will be disciplined for certain actions may help curb their desire to do them.

  • Talk through potential bad decisions. If you like to be the preventative parent, spend time talking through all the ways you could think of where things could go wrong. It will let your teen know you, as a parent, aren’t as clueless as they might think, while giving them the answers to the test.
  • Teach your child critical thinking skills. Teens are going through a lot. New hormones, new challenges, new experiences, and all of it — without any clue how to navigate it. Helping your child develop critical thinking skills would take some of the pressure off of them and give them the tools to make better decisions overall; when those tricky situations come up.
  • Let them create the time for the crime. If your teen doesn’t like your list of punishments, then let them have a try at coming up with ones. If your teenager does mess up, then they won’t be able to argue the punishment wasn’t fair, because they decided it.
A father comforting and talking to his daughter.

Ways to help teens make better choices

Meaningful punishments for teens are important, but it is also critical to think long-term to help set your teen on a better path. You want your teen to learn from their mistakes and not make it a pattern. Here are ways to help your teen successfully navigate the muddy waters on the way to adulthood.

What to do as a parent

  • Lead by example: Your teenager might not admit it, but they look to you for guidance and see you as an example and role model. So, practice what you preach. No, you don’t have to have a curfew, adopt a set bedtime, or give up other perks of adulthood. Instead, show kindness and respect to others. Stay true to the commitments you make to your family.
  • Be clear about the rules: Set specific rules for your teenager so they have clear guidelines to follow. The lines become gray if there is room for interpretation. Don’t make the rules vague because teens will find a loophole. You know you did when you were that age.
  • Keep communicating: There may be a deeper reason your teenager is acting out. If punishment is becoming the norm in your home, sit down and have a conversation with your child. Better yet, don’t wait until issues come up. Keep the lines of communication open at all times, including the little things. You want your teenager to come to you with problems before they manifest as behavioral faults. Teens need parents more than ever during adolescence.
  • Earn privileges: If you want to encourage good behavior, listening, and positive actions, consider a privilege system where your teen will gain more screen time, an extra half an hour on their curfew, or be able to download a new video game if they continue to show positive changes. It’s a more mature version of a young kid’s behavior chart — but it works!
  • Make sure the punishment fits the crime: It is also important to make sure the punishment is appropriate for the action. There are big offenses and small ones. Teenagers are still kids, and will make mistakes, just like adults do. Think of if you messed up at work, what you would consider an in-line reprimand to be.
  • Seek professional help: If behavioral issues or punishable offenses are severe enough to warrant major concern, talk to a professional to seek help. Your child’s school may have resources, like an on-site therapist. Professional help is available in person or online.

Teenagers are learning the ropes of how to enter adulthood while still being considered a child. Teens will try to see what they can and can’t get away with. Behavioral issues are on par for the parenting course, especially as your child approaches young adulthood. Hang in there, and show empathy, support, love, and, yes, sternness – when necessary.

It takes creativity and patience to parent a teenager. Life doesn’t always hand you the guidebook for each parenting stage. Disciplining your teenager isn’t the most pleasant part of being a parent, but with older children come larger hurdles to jump. Setting boundaries and a clear set of rules goes a long way in providing teens with a support system at home. When your child trips up, having good punishments for teens at the ready will help get things back on track.

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Lauren Barth
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Lauren Barth is a freelance writer and digital editor with over a decade of experience creating lifestyle, parenting, travel…
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