We have been discussing the difficult task of disciplining our children. Discipline becomes even more challenging, I think, when our children become teenagers and begin to assert their independence. It is during these times that parents often back away and even give up. Yet, teen years are a significant time for personal development and relationships, and they need love and guidance from their parents more than ever, despite their acting as though they do not. They may even rebel if parents get too involved. So, it is a bit of a double-binding situation to be able to impact their lives while caring for their needs and loving them well. Is there a solution?
High Road Parenting Strategies for Helping Your Teen Get Back on Track
Sometimes it is just good to have a few guidelines to use as we think about discipline. M. J. Hardiman has offered these tips for disciplining your teenager. I think they represent good thinking for helping teenagers with rules, consequences and a healthy perspective toward their growth and development.
1. Establish a reasonable set of rules and expectations—including consequences, if expectations or rules are not met. Communicate what these are and why you have them. Be open to ideas from your teen on what’s reasonable as he or she gets older and more responsible. I know, I know: teens have some pretty wild ideas on what they should be allowed to do or what your role is as a parent. Nonetheless, listen carefully, and you’ll be surprised at what parents and teens can negotiate going forward.
2. Follow through with reasonable consequences. There’s nothing more confusing for a teen than if one (or both) parents fail to follow through with consequences for breaking the rules or failure to meet other expectations. If this sounds like your house, it shouldn’t be a surprise if your teen continues to break the rules or engage in unwanted behavior. I know how easy it can be to “get played” by your teen, but be strong. Consistency is one of the most effective, albeit difficult, parenting strategies around.
3. Enforce basic behavior. Teens will often say or do things that unnerve their parents, including talking back to them in a disrespectful way, cursing, and so forth. Parents need to keep their cool but establish boundaries and consequences for violations of basic behavior, like the need to respect their parents and show common courtesy. Good manners are difficult to inspire in your teens, but if you’re consistent and model these behaviors yourselves, you’ll be surprised at how your teens will follow suit.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If your teen is usually super neat and conscientious around the house, don’t come on like a ton of bricks the first time he or she throws the towel on the floor or leaves the room in disarray. Rather, it may be more important to remind teens to pick up their clothes and belongings.
5. Allow for grace periods in curfews. When it comes to curfew, you may need to be flexible. This is important, especially if your teen is relying on others for transportation. A curfew that’s mutually agreed upon, once violated, requires consequences that are fair and reasonable. But, disciplinary action may be unwarranted if circumstances are beyond the teen’s control. Instead, have a talk with the teen about what’s expected and how he or she might deal with friends who don’t communicate curfew times to their parents.
6. Figure out what teens care about and remove these items as a consequence. If your teen is attached to his or her cell phone at the hip, removing this item – even for one hour at a time – may be a just and sufficient consequence for unwanted behavior. If your teen is crazy about his or her iPod, maybe a day without it will send an important message about desired behavior and outcomes.
7. Don’t be overly punitive. Teens get it. No need to overdo the punishment. Grounding your teen for a few days might be sufficient to get your message across about the importance of obeying the rules or meeting expectations.
8. Express your love. Even in the midst of crisis, teens need to be reassured that it’s not them, rather it’s their behavior that’s at issue. While your teen may get defensive, keep the focus on the behavior and don’t allow your teen to take it too personally.
9. Don’t hold a grudge. The worst thing a parent can do is to constantly remind a teen of his or her unwanted behavior. Instead, allow things to return to normal after consequences have been meted out.
10. Be fair and always communicate. When rewarding your teen, be sure to keep the lines of communication open. At all times, your teen should understand what the rules are for and why the consequences are what they are. Be fair with your actions and model the kind of behavior, even in punishment, that you would expect of your teen when he or she becomes an adult.
Remember, too, that there are professionals and others who can give you help and guidance for how to handle specific situations. Please get the support you need, and do not be afraid to ask the questions. It is helpful to have the perspective and wisdom of others when doing one of the hardest jobs there is, parenting.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network