Teenagers are like toddlers — they know how to push your buttons. And they like to test their boundaries. It is their job, and it comes with the territory of growing up, becoming independent, and making mistakes along the way. Of course, while some adolescent errors are forgivable, others have more long-term repercussions. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure that they are being smart, safe, and respectful. And if they aren’t? Well, it’s also your duty to discipline your want-to-be-adult child and teach them a lesson about life (and tough love).
Not all punishments are created equal, though; some are more effective than others — so you’ll want to think long and hard about how you will make this a learning experience. Here are some creative (and impactful) ideas.
Once your child reaches a certain age, some punishments no longer feel practical. Sorry to say that time-outs and dessert deprivation just don’t cut it with a teenager. Here is how to discipline a teenager with some more effective and age-appropriate strategies:
- Take away screens: Want to get your teenager’s attention? Take away their cell phone. And their laptop. And their tablet. And their access to video games. Nothing spells business like the removal of all forms of electronics. Of course, 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. You can take away screen privileges for a day or two (set the time frame in advance). They will have to find other ways to keep themselves entertained during this time, and you’ll simultaneously want to see an improvement in their attitude.
- Remove social situations: If your child tends to get in trouble when they spend time with a certain friend or a group of acquaintances, you will want to keep stronger tabs on who they’re hanging with and what they are doing together. Moreover, if your child is punished, you can restrict their ability to see friends for a certain period of time.
- Face the music: Sometimes, the best course of action to take is no specific punishment at all. That is not to say you are letting your teenager off the hook. Rather, in this instance, 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.
- Bulk up the chores: If your child tends to get into trouble because they are bored, you might 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.
The punishment is important, but it is also critical to think more long-term and hopefully help set your teen on a better path. Here are some things to keep in consideration:
- Lead by example: Your teenager might not want to admit it, but they look to you for guidance and see you as an example and a role model — so practice what you preach. No, you don’t have to have a curfew or adopt a set bedtime (it is one of the perks of adulthood), but you can and should show kindness and respect to others and stay true to the commitments you make to your family.
- Be clear about the rules: Set specific rules for your teenager so that they have clear guidelines to follow. The lines can become gray if there is room for interpretation — so do not be vague.
- Keep communicating: There may be a reason your teenager is acting out or behaving badly. If punishment is becoming the norm in your home, it is probably due time to sit down and have a conversation with your child. Better yet, do not wait until issues arise — keep the lines of communication open at all times. You want your teenager to come to you with problems before they manifest as behavioral faults.
- Earn privileges: If you want to encourage good behavior, listening, and positive actions, consider a privilege system where your teen can gain more screen time, an extra half an hour on their curfew, or download a new video game if they continue to show positive changes. It’s basically a more mature version of a young kid’s behavior chart — but it can work!
- Make sure the punishment fits the crime: It is also important to make sure your punishment is appropriate. There are big offenses and small ones. Teenagers are still kids — and they will make mistakes. (Heck, adults will, too!)
- Seek professional help: If behavioral issues or punishable offenses are severe enough to warrant major concern, talk to a professional and seek help or therapy. Your child’s school may have resources to help.
Teenagers are learning the ropes and figuring out what they can and can’t do — and what they can and can’t get away with. Behavioral issues are par for the parenting course — especially as your child begins to approach young adulthood. Hang in there, and show some empathy, support, love, and, yes, sternness — as necessary. Disciplining your teenager isn’t the most pleasant part of your caregiving gig, but it will help you establish boundaries and set the rules. You’ve got this!
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