Your toddler or preschool-aged child can be put in time out for behaving badly, but that type of tactic isn't likely to work for your teen. Whether your teen broke her curfew, is constantly talking back to you or failed her algebra final because she refused to study, appropriate punishments for kids in middle and high school need to match up with the misbehavior. Punishments must also take an adolescent's more mature developmental state into mind.
1. Breaking Curfew
As your teen moves towards independence, chances are that he will want to stay out later in the evening with his friends instead of sitting at home with you on a Saturday. Before you hand over the car keys, you need to come up with a reasonable curfew. Discuss the curfew time, asking your teen what he feels is acceptable and why. Come to an agreement and clearly state the consequences for breaking the curfew. In the event that your teen breaks his curfew -- without a real explanation such as he got a flat tire -- avoid jumping in to yell at him or grounding him for weeks. According to the Healthy Children website, parents should roll-back a teen's curfew as a method of punishment for coming home late. For example, if your teen's weekend night curfew is 10:30, and he shows up at 11, tell him that he will have a 10 p.m. cutoff for the next two weeks.
2. Talking Back
Taking back -- or challenging parental authority -- is a normal part of the teen years, according to the pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website. Although it's common for teens to verbally defy their parents in the search for independence, this type of behavior isn't something that you should tolerate. One tactic to deal with back-talk, according to the AAP, is actively ignoring your teen when she speaks to you in a disrespectful manner. Instead of getting aggravated, walk away or ignore what your teen is saying. If this fails, or your teen is talking back to you more often than not, set specific consequences and start taking away privileges such as computer time or the use of the family car. If your teen is in constant back-talk mode, tell her that her unacceptable behavior will result in the loss of electronics time for the evening. This may mean that she can't text on her cell phone, Facebook message on her laptop or email on the family's tablet.
3. Schools Woes
Although struggling with academics isn't always cause for a punishment, when your teen purposefully neglects his schoolwork and studying, you need to put your foot down. Set clear rules for doing homework and let your teen know what you expect of him when it comes to his academic performance. Keep these goals consistent with his abilities and the difficulty level of the classes. Not all teens will get straight A's or have a 4.0 GPA. Wait to hand out the punishments until there is a real scholastic reason. For example, if your teen gets a D because he decides to go out with his friends, chat online or watch TV instead of studying for his Spanish final, put school at the forefront of his thoughts by taking away his "hang out" time. Limited his time spent on leisure activities, such as going to the mall with his friends on weekdays or give him an earlier school-night curfew.
4. Serious Issues
Unlike younger children, such as preschoolers or toddlers, teen misbehaviors may include serious or even life-changing problems such as underage drinking and drug use. If you suspect your teen is involved in these activities, step in and discuss the dangers of using substances. Give her the facts, such as drinking alcohol can lead to school problems, memory loss and legal issues such as getting arrested. Make your teen understand that using illegal substances is never acceptable. Given the serious nature of this misbehavior, create a punishment that fits the issue. For example, take away her car privileges for a few weeks or tell her that she can't go to her BFF's party. If you suspect that your teen's alcohol or drug use is a serious problem, skip the punishment and go straight to professional help.
- HealthyChildren.org: Staying Out Late and Curfews
- KidsHealth: Communication and Your 13- to 18-Year-Old
- KidsHealth: Disciplining Your Child
- HealthyChildren.org: Methods of Punishment for Teens
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fact Sheets- Underage Drinking
- HealthyChildren.org: When Teens Use Drugs: Taking Action
- Empowering Parents: Teenagers Talking Back: How to Manage This Annoying Behavior
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