In a perfect world, we would all have great relationships with our teenage children. There would be no arguing, no disagreements, and no defiant behavior. However, the reality is that we don’t live in a perfect world. Although most unacceptable behavior exhibited by teens is age appropriate, that certainly does not mean that they should not face the consequences of what they have done. Let’s take a look at some of the best discipline practices for handling difficult teen behavior, so we can change that behavior for the better while maintaining the excellent parent/child relationship that we all want.
Mistakes Will Be Made
It is part of life that teenagers will make mistakes. They will use poor judgment from time to time. Let’s say that you told your child to be home from his or her friend’s house by 10 pm. He or she makes the deliberate decision to stay out until 11 pm, simply because “the other kids were allowed to”. Is this “age appropriate” behavior? Absolutely. Does it mean that you should not address it? Absolutely not. Without a consequence, it will get worse. Next time, your teen will stay out until midnight. Then, it will be at 1 am. Pretty soon, he or she won’t come home until the next day.
How Should it be Handled?
Parents constantly ask me why their teens continue to break the rules. I respond by asking them what the consequences are when they do. Some parents say that coming home an hour late warranted a punishment of not going out with friends for an entire month. Other parents say that they “let it go” because they did not feel like arguing. Either way, the behavior continued. Try disciplining your teen using a different approach. Consider the following techniques:
- Be authoritative without screaming or yelling. This harsh approach to discipline negatively affects the mental health of teens and often makes the problem worse over time.
- Don’t negotiate the punishment.
- Although the teen needs to experience consequences, make sure it is a fitting punishment based on what they have done wrong.
- Be open to communication while you remain the authority figure.
- Make sure they understand exactly why whatever they did was unacceptable. (Coming home late caused you to worry; not studying jeopardizes their future; lying causes them to lose people’s trust, etc.)
- Be as patient as possible.
- Don’t expect an immediate change.
Can Unacceptable Behavior be Fixed?
Unacceptable behavior can absolutely be fixed. Remember, it will take time. Everyone needs to have a firm set of rules to follow and to learn how to know right from wrong. By having the appropriate discipline techniques, and having your child experience acceptable consequences for their behavior, you will be teaching them how to be positive, productive, trustworthy adults. It is a learning experience for parents and teens. Often times, counseling can be beneficial for everyone.
Contact me if you’re looking for direction on how to implement consequences in your home.