Teaching teens self-discipline gives them the tools to succeed.

How to Develop Self-Discipline in Teenagers

by Shellie Braeuner

Teaching your teen self-discipline may set the stage for the rest of his life. A 2006 study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that teens who were able to exercise self-discipline were able to set and attain goals. These teens got better grades, regardless of their scores on standardized tests. As your teen matures, he must rely more on his own discipline, rather than yours. Teaching your teen to regulate his own behavior is the first step toward a successful, independent life.

Talk to your teen about one area of his life he would like to change. This shouldn’t be something that you want to change. For example, he may want to excel in batting while you want him to pick up after himself. Go with what he wants. It is important that your teen feels motivated from within to change.

Brainstorm ways that your teen can reach the goal. For example, if he wants to write a book, brainstorm ideas to help him reach her goal. He can check to see if there are writing clubs at his school or in the community. He can look for writing courses online. Ask him how much he actually sits down and writes every day. Put the onus on him.

Look at how the new behaviors will impact your teen’s life. For example, if your teen wants to start running every day, discuss how that will fit into his schedule. Support his decision to get regular exercise, but don’t let this new behavior become an excuse to let other responsibilities slide. If he wants to run right after school, you might say, “That’s great! Running is a wonderful way to work off all that energy you’ve been saving up sitting in class. But then you need to come back and get your homework done before dinner.”

Check back to see how the new habit is forming. Make sure that his new responsibility isn’t adversely affecting him in other ways. If he begins to show signs of stress or lets things slide, brainstorm again. Laying out his clothes the night before may free up time in the morning to take out the trash or do another chore before school, allowing him a bigger block of free time -- in which he can work on reaching his goal -- after school.


  • Don’t jump in and save him by completing or chores or making excuses for his faults. Part of learning self-discipline is learning to deal with the consequences of his choices.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

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