Discipline – Help for Parents of Teens

teen discipline

“You are so unfair!”

Before your teen ever has the chance to yell these words at you, plan out your disciplining strategies.

First consider your teen’s age and maturity. For example, discipline for a 14-year-old can be very different from discipline for a 18-year-old. Next, invite you teen to have a say in their own discipline. Having them help make the rules, as well as the consequences for breaking the rules, will give them an added sense of responsibility as well as further help them understand the discipline process. Not that they will like the punishment when it is handed out, but they should better understand the reason why.

A good resource for this mutual agreement on discipline is a parent/teen behavior contract. You can set up strict ground rules and specifically lay out the consequences. You can have a contract for things like dating and driving, alcohol and drug use, parties, etc. You can set up a general contract that lists many of your concerns, or a specific contract highlighting only a few problem areas.

Before setting up your discipline plan with your teen, you need to help them understand the difference between natural consequences and logical consequences. An example of natural consequences are if they do not get their homework done and fail the assignment. Or if they forget breakfast, they are hungry for a large part of the day. Logical consequences are more of what you could lay out in a contract or like agreement. These include consequences for reckless driving – losing car privileges, or staying out to late – an added hour to curfew for the next weekend.

Also, in setting up discipline, understand that repeated offenses will lead to greater punishment. Here are some added tips for disciplining your teen:

  • Before you punish, give your teen time to report the cause. Listen and find out the entire circumstance that led to the broken rule.
  • Make consequences fit the rule.
  • Understand the one set of rules that fit one teen might not fit another teen in the family. Let each teen have an individual say in his/her own rules and consequences.
  • Remember the consequences set. Again, this is a good reason to have a contract to refer to.
  • Be reasonable. Don’t just set consequences because you were brought up a certain way.
  • If needed, alter your discipline plan, especially as your teen grows and their needs change.

Finally, always remember to keep the safety of your teen and your family utmost in your mind. Your teen will likely be testing their boundaries sometimes, since that is one way they find their individuality. Help them know that they need to obey rules to be safe and that you only have their best interest at heart.

Disciplining Your Teen Sources

  1. Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service: Parenting and Child Health, “Discipline (teens)” [online].
  2. University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension, “Logical Consequences & Responsible Teens,” [pdf online].
  3. Parent / Teen Behavior Contracts, ParentContracts.com [online]