Teenagers and Discipline-A Very Difficult Task

 Teenagers and Discipline-A Very Difficult Task

Disciplining our children is difficult and considered to be the most difficult part of parenting._We want our children to be happy, and also learn to be independently responsible. Learn more about tips that can support parents in this process.

Most parents dread disciplining their children, especially teenagers.  We want our children to be successful, happy and confident.  Seeing our children unhappy or disappointed is hard for most parents.   Being the source of a child’s disappointment, anger or sadness by enforcing consequences can be tough for anyone. Child specialists frequently observe that disciplining a child is more difficult on the parent than the child.

Disciplining teenagers adds a whole new dimension of complexity to the task of parenting.  Adolescents are transitioning into adulthood and exploring their own values, independent ideas, and social lives.  While we must encourage the development of their unique talents and individuality, we must also present guidelines to continue to safeguard their well-being. 

Reasonable, clear rules and expectations must be established by parents to encourage safety, healthy social engagements, and good decision-making

It is developmentally appropriate and entirely normal for teens to pursue independence and they desire separation from their parents.  The transition into adulthood involves pushing limits, challenging the rules and even thrill-seeking behavior.  Choices made by teens can lead to heated conflicts between parents and children; especially when a consequence must be enforced. 

Below are tips that can support parents when disciplining a teenager.

1)  Accept that discipline is part of your job description as a parent.
Discipline is your role and responsibility. It is not your spouses, the teachers or an older sibling’s duty.  Whether you are single or married, disciplining your child is frequently uncomfortable and even painful. 

2) Following through on a consequence generally results in removing a privilege..  Facing consequences is an essential part of learning about real life.  When social, legal, or family rules are broken, there are consequences for each of us.  Not enforcing consequences can lead to unrealistic life expectations and set your child up for social, academic or occupational failure as an adult.

3) Clarify Expectations:  Define Privileges, Rules and Consequences
Parents must clearly define and discuss their expectations early in a child's life. Parents are encouraged to sit down and write out a teenager's privileges, rules, and consequences on paper-place it on the refrigerator.  Teen surveys reveal that a major frustration is not knowing what the rules are or what their parents expect from them. 

Expectations and rules are best put in writing: review and sign the list with your teen as a proactive step in preventing arguments about discipline. 

Signing the list together also keeps both parents and children accountable: when rules are broken, the guideline can be used as a reference. Adding a consequence for argumentative or rude comments made about the consequences will encourage teens to accept consequences more gracefully.

4) Explain what a privilege is and the consequences that are related to each privilege. In a youth driven society, privileges can easily be seen as expectations. Privileges include using a cell phone, watching television, going to the movies, or making plans with friends.  Examples of rules and expectations might include speaking respectfully, participating in housework, and doing homework.  Consequences can include losing phone privileges or limiting social activities. Be clear about what consequence will occur if a rule is broken. 

5) Keep consequences short and simple.
Consequences that are too lengthy in time or excessively harsh sets up discipline for failure. Half or full day consequences tend to be more effective than a week or month.  Major offenses might include the weekend or more than one lost privilege. Emotional teens imagining a week or month sets everyone up for additional conflict and acting out. 

Consequences that are too lengthy in time leave teenagers with little motivation to cooperate or remain respectful during the punishment.  Short time intervals for consequences allows teenagers the opportunity to demonstrate positive and cooperative behavior. 

6) Have a sense of humor when disciplining.
Laugh a little and try humor when talking to your teen about consequences. Laughing at ourselves or circumstances can break tension or animosity. Humor can ease the difficulty in executing a consequence. Share a funny story of a consequence you had as a teen.

7) Wait to discipline until emotions and the situation is diffused.
Scolding or demeaning words when disciplining will be met with resentment.  While teens are good at acting aloof or respond nonchalantly, remember that they are at a vulnerable age and insecure state of development.  Remain calm and firm when disciplining.  The result will be less push-back and less regret as a parent about harsh words spoken.

Speak about the behavior, not your teenagers character. Your child still needs your reassurance that they are loved regardless of mistakes or being imperfect. Healthy disciplinary strategies can bring you closer to your child.

8) Keep your teenager’s business private.
Do not talk negatively about a teenager in front of the teen or to persons who will share what was discussed. No one likes being talked about, especially during challenging moments. Seek support selectively when you are certain your child is not around and that the information will be kept private.
Sharing with your child's siblings, family friends or talking within listening distance will push your teen further away.  Adolescence is a time when acceptance and the need to fit in is magnified.  Bringing more attention to your teen, especially when things go wrong can lead to deep barriers in communication.  

9) Be a parent, not a friend. 
It can feel devastating to lose a once close connection you had when your child reaches adolescence.  Parents can expect to feel shut out of a teen’s life for a short period of time. Do not allow this distance to impact good decisions about discipline.  Your child will outgrow the highly emotional stage of adolescence. Keeping your child safe is a primary responsibility as a parent throughout adolescence: this often involves uncomfortable moments during discipline. Thank yous for tough love will come later in life.  No one thanks their parents for trying to be their friend as a teenager.

10) Be a good role model.
The most ineffective parenting style is having high expectations of a child while the parent does not model the behavior they want from their children.  The life you live is the lesson you teach. A parent who swears at family members can expect their teenager to swear.  Parents that do not keep their word can expect their teen to do the same. 
Teen behaviors often reflect a behavior you don’t like about yourself. Make appropriate changes to your own behavior as necessary and admit to your own character defects. Acknowledging our imperfections and apologizing gracefully models humility and valuing self improvement.

Post Disciplinary Activity:

Expect that your teen may be angry, lash out or avoid you after receiving a consequence.
Following incidents of discipline, allow your teenager to have time for self- reflection and to talk it over when they are ready.  Encourage them to discuss what is comfortable and be a supportive listener. Practice listening and asking questions without judgement or stating your opinion. Teens need safe places to speak openly: create an environment that will keep the communication lines open. 

Stay hopeful and engaged in your relationship with your teenage in spite of how hard it can feel.  

Adolescence is a developmental stage in your child’s life. While the teen years can feel relentless and exhausting, remember, "this too shall pass”. Your teenager is developing their sense of self, confidence, and learning about independent decision making. 

Remain supportive and have empathy for your teen in the vulnerable years of adolescence. Children need consistent love and support no matter what age they are. Sometimes that love is called tough love in the form of discipline.



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