Keep frustrations at bay when punishing your teen.

How to Punish Teens for Not Listening to Parents

by Debra Pachucki

Clear communication is key to setting rules and limitations with a teen. Sometimes, however, even the most effective talks are not enough to keep kids from disobeying a parent. When your teenager breaks your rules or ignores your directions, remember that it is natural for adolescents to test authority. Determine consequences at the same time as you establish rules with your teen, and stick to them, so that everyone understands the punishment both before and after the infraction.

Establishing the Punishment

Establish a consequence for disregarding a rule whenever a new rule is instituted. Include a rule for acknowledging your directions, and a consequence for not listening. You might, for example, establish a code word that means you mean business, and if your teen doesn't respond when you use it, the punishment is automatic and non-negotiable.

Establish appropriate punishments -- avoid overly strict punishments. Consequences should provide learning lessons for teenagers. You shouldn't ground a teen for an entire month, for example, for ignoring you when you ask her to clear the table after dinner. Taking away her cellphone for the rest of the night will be punishment enough and send the message that you will not tolerate being ignored.

Keep punishments short-term. Punishments that carry on for more than a few days can encourage a teenager to act out or get into more trouble. Revoking privileges for an evening is one way to dole out a short-term punishment.

Contemplate short-term grounding, which is useful when teenagers consistently do not listen to parents or fail to respond to code words and privilege loss. If your teen stayed out past curfew for the second time this week, even though you told him twice to be home by 9, for example, punish him with a week of an earlier curfew.

Consider restitution when establishing a punishment for destructive disobedience. Restitution punishments require teenagers to restore or make up for whatever they’ve damaged. If you've asked your teen not to use the bath towels to dye her hair, yet she continues to do so, for instance, require her to use her allowance to replace the stained towel.

Keep punishments relevant to the infraction in order to help your teen learn from his mistakes.

Delivering the Punishment

Sit down with your teen and be clear about how you believe he has violated your rules or expectations. Reiterate that you demand his attention when you are speaking to him or asking him to help out with the household chores. Remind your teenager of the established consequences for breaking rules or not listening.

Remain calm, but stern, when confronting your teenager. Do not speak with anger or use guilt to carry out the punishment.

Give your teenager the opportunity to discuss his side of the situation. Two-way communication between you and your teen is essential to clear understanding about rules, limitations and consequences. Perhaps he genuinely did not hear you, or maybe he misinterpreted your instructions.

Be consistent with punishments. Enforce rule violations the same way each time they occur, to prevent sending mixed signals to your teen about what is okay and what isn’t. Don't punish your teen for not listening to you one day, and then overlook it the next.

Avoid an argument by handling back-talk in a stern, but calm, way. If your teen begins to protest or argue, reiterate that the rules and consequences are not negotiable. If your teen uses poor language, sternly remind him that you do not want to be talked to that way.


  • Wait to give a punishment until you’re calm. If you punish when you’re angry, you might say or do something that you’ll come to regret later, or set a harsher punishment than is necessary.
  • Never punish a child by hitting him, since doing so will only teach your teenager that violence is acceptable.
  • Remember to reward teens who follow rules and meet parental expectations so that kids learn that good choices and actions have positive outcomes and consequences.

About the Author

Debra Pachucki has been writing in the journalistic, scholastic and educational sectors since 2003. Pachucki holds a Bachelor's degree in education and currently teaches in New Jersey. She has worked professionally with children of all ages and is pursuing a second Masters degree in education from Monmouth University.

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