Discipline Methods for Teenagers

By Kristina de la Cal
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The teenage years can be tumultuous for both teens and their parents alike. Employing age-appropriate discipline methods can help you better guide your naturally rebellious teenager in the right direction. Disciplinary methods are most effective when they evolve right along with your child’s development.

Discipline vs. Punishment

Many people mistakenly perceive discipline and punishment as interchangeable when there are actually some significant differences between the two. In short, discipline teaches your teenager what he should be doing whereas punishment only teaches him what not to do. While discipline highlights and reinforces correct behavior, punishment shifts the spotlight to unwanted behavior, which can sometimes inadvertently reinforce it. Many behavior experts agree that discipline is more effective than punishment at guiding teenage behavior in the right direction.

Clear and Consistent Rules and Consequences

Your teenager is a lot more likely to follow the rules if he knows exactly what they are. Take the time to lay out the rules and their corresponding consequences in a manner that your teen understands so he knows which behaviors are acceptable, which are not, and what will happen if he chooses to violate a rule. Once you have ensured that your teen knows what the rules are and knows what to expect if he breaks those rules, it is up to you to enforce those rules consistently. Only set rules and consequences that are reasonable and that you are committed to enforcing. Every inconsistency in rule enforcement undermines your authority and increases the chances of defiance from your teenager.

Positive Reinforcement

Catch your teenager being good. While punishment focuses on looking for and calling attention to bad behavior, positive reinforcement is an effective discipline method that takes the opposite approach by shifting attention away from unwanted behavior and directly onto the type of behavior you’d like to see more of. Believe it or not, even negative attention can sometimes reinforce a behavior so if you shift your attention towards your teen’s good deeds, he’s more likely to repeat those behaviors.

Responsibilities and Restrictions

Even with consistency and positive reinforcement, your teenager is likely to push the envelope at some point by breaking one or more of your rules. The most effective consequences for teenage defiance are those that teach self-control by either adding more responsibilities or instating restrictions on special privileges. By giving him additional responsibilities that infringe upon his free time or by imposing restrictions on privileges that he particularly enjoys, you can teach your teenager that making better decisions in the future will help to minimize disruptions to his free time or favorite activities. Adding extra chores to his Saturday morning routine or restricting access to a cell phone or computer for a specified period of time are examples of how adding responsibility or imposing restrictions can encourage your teenager to think twice before breaking another rule.