Discipline should be meaningful in order to stick.

Discipline Suggestions for Teens

by Kathryn Walsh

If your teen gives you constant headaches, you're probably doing something right. Rebelling and pushing boundaries are natural parts of the teenage years. During this time your teen works out what it means to make her own choices and prepares to enter the world of adulthood. Breaking curfew occasionally might be normal, but she still needs your discipline as a way to learn the difference between right and wrong.


Her tantrums didn't stop when she left her toddler years behind, so time-outs shouldn't, either. The objective of a time-out is to give your child the chance to calm down and cool off, a useful step for a teen with a temper. (One tip: avoid using the phrase "time-out" when dealing with a heated teen, or she'll get even more peeved.) When she's talking back, snapping at you or is simply too irritated to listen to you, say "You need to take a break to cool off before we finish talking." Ask her to take 15 or 20 minutes to herself, suggests HealthyChildren.org. After she's walked around the block or kicked a soccer ball around the backyard, come back together to continue your talk. Explain that, while feeling frustrated is fine, using hostile words or actions isn't.


Though she turns to her friends for fashion tips and magazines for dating advice, you still hold the reins of permission for your teen. When she breaks an established rule or behaves in a way you deem unacceptable, one discipline option is to rescind her permission to do things she enjoys. Grounding her for a weekend, taking away her driving privileges or access to television are all examples of this type of discipline. Be mindful of making the punishment match the crime. For instance, if she brings the car home 10 minutes late, taking away the car keys for a few days is appropriate, while grounding her for a month is probably overkill. And don't deprive her of activities that benefit her, suggests psychologist Dr. Carl Pickhardt at PsychologyToday.com. If playing in a band or taking an art class boosts her self-esteem, don't take these permissions away.

Natural Consequences

In a few years she'll learn real-world lessons with real-world consequences; showing up late to work will leave her unemployed and unable to pay the light bill. Let her suffer the consequences of her actions now and such lessons might be unnecessary later on. According to the Iowa State University Extension, using natural consequences teaches a teen self-discipline. When she doesn't want to work on a school project, let her go to school without it done and face a poor grade or detention from a teacher. When she ignores your requests to come downstairs at 6:30 to leave for a dinner out, take off without her and let her scrounge in the kitchen for cold cereal. But don't use natural consequences if doing so puts her in danger or threatens her future; for instance, don't let her oversleep for the SATs because she stayed up the night before.


To a teen who is one with the couch, the promise of additional work can be a powerful motivator. HealthyChildren.org suggests loading up your teen's workload as a consequence for failing to get work done the first time you asked. So if she ignored your first few requests to clean her room, add bathroom-cleaning duty to her chore list for the week. Assigning extra tasks like laundry, raking leaves and helping with grocery shopping may also give a disrespectful teen some perspective about how hard you work to keep the home neat and stocked. Not all work has to be physical, though. If your child is slacking on school work or needs an attitude adjustment, consider giving her an essay assignment. Ask her to write a few pages about how a teenager should behave and keep her at home until she completes the task to your satisfaction.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

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