Christian parents are charged to "train a child in the way that he should go." However, teens aren't exactly children -- at least by biblical standards. In the culture of Jesus' day, young people were considered adults when they turned 13. In our culture, we don't generally raise teens to deal with adult responsibilities. Rather, they are in a transitional phase between childhood and adulthood. They are still under our care and need our guidance. Even the best teenagers step out of line and need to be lovingly disciplined once in a while. When disciplining your teen, remember that you are dealing with someone who will soon be an adult and that the goal of discipline is to instill self-discipline. Try to keep your discipline related, reasonable and respectful.
Whenever possible, any discipline you enforce on your teen should be related to what he has done wrong. An example of related discipline is making your teen stay home over the weekend if he has repeatedly broken the curfew you've set. Another example is refusing to allow your teen to leave the house until all of his homework is done if his grades have been slipping. If your teen has damaged something, you could insist that he fix it or work to earn the money for a replacement.
The Apostle Paul taught parents that we should be careful not to exasperate or embitter our children while we are disciplining them. Unreasonably harsh or unrelated discipline can cause more problems than it solves. When discipline is overly harsh, it will often cause teens to come to the conclusion that they simply can't please their parents. When they come to that conclusion, they usually stop trying. When discipline is reasonable, teens are more likely to learn something from it.
Your teen is old enough to understand that you are disciplining him because you care about him. When you discipline your teen, make sure to communicate your love, respect and concern for him rather than just your anger or disappointment. Take the time to talk through -- and even negotiate -- discipline with your teen. Above all, make sure than any discipline you impose communicates respect for your teen as a person while still addressing the problem behavior. Discipline methods which are designed to publicly shame, embarrass or demean your teen are seldom effective and never appropriate. Christian discipline should always be restorative in nature.
Every teen is unique, but most respond well to discipline which involves incentives and/or disincentives. Discipline doesn't need to be harsh to be effective, but it does need to get your teen's attention. If the situation you're disciplining your teen about doesn't lend itself to giving a directly related consequence, you can temporarily revoke privileges that are important to your teen. An even more effective way to help instill discipline in your teen is to pro-actively offer incentives for positive behavior. For example, you could offer your teen more time with the car if he brings his grades up or consistently corrects some other problem behavior. Remember, however, that incentive-based discipline should still be reasonable, respectful and -- when possible -- related.
- Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk: Discipline and Motivation for Teens
- Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk: More Discipline Ideas for Teens
- Focus on the Family: Creative Discipline Ideas
- Crosswalk: Discipline and Your Teen
- Power for Living: 14 Discipline Ideas
- Family Education: Provide Related, Respectful, and Reasonable Consequences for Misbehavior
- Open Bible: 44 Verses about Discipline of Children
- Bible Gateway: Ephesians 6:4, NIV
- Bible Gateway: Colossians 3:21, NIV
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