Fair Punishments for a Teen With a Smart Mouth

It can drive a parent to distraction -- no matter what the topic, your teen wants to argue and sass. It's natural to respond in anger; after all, you're the parent. While it may prove your kid is no pushover, he needs to be respectful with you, so don't let him push your buttons. You can still be consistent, tough and fair while teaching him a valuable life lesson. Take a deep breath, calmly state the consequences of his actions -- and then follow through.

Deny Satisfaction

Let your teen know you are done talking until he speaks to you respectfully and then walk away. If your teen continues attempting to discuss the matter using an inappropriate behavior and tone, refuse to engage him and leave the room. While you do not need to give him the silent treatment, he is attempting to push your buttons, argue or nag you into giving in. Don't engage him. Instead, remain calm and treat him as you would a child whose behavior needs ignored to get the point across. If necessary, send him to his room for a time out until he can calm down and speak politely.

Remove Privileges

Warn your teen once that he will lose a privilege -- and name the privilege -- if he continues to speak in this manner. When he is rude, you can calmly say, "If you cannot speak politely, you will lose your cell phone for the rest of the day." Start with small privileges first, such as cell phones, texting, television, computer or video game use for short periods of time. Then follow through. If the smart-mouthed behavior continues, move up to longer periods of time for privilege loss, and then larger privileges. This can include time with friends, after school activities, use of the family car or going to a school dance 1.

Pile on Chores

Your teenager should already be contributing to the household by helping with chores. But piling on an extra one or two as punishment will certainly not hurt him. If he normally has to mow the lawn, make him do the trimming, pick up sticks, pull weeds or water the garden. He can wash and vacuum the family car, clean bathrooms, sweep out the garage or help stain the deck. While the chore is designed to restrict his freedom and give him time to think about improving his behavior, teaching your teen the value of a job well-done is a secondary benefit that will follow him through life.


Make your teen step out of his own self-centered existence 1. While he will initially see it as the punishment it is, it can also be eye-opening -- and life-changing. Warn him first that continued sassing will result in the permanent loss of something valued, such as clothing or sports equipment. Follow-through is important; have your teen not only box the items up, but hand them to the charity worker. Alternatively, enforce community service. He can help an elderly neighbor with yard work, donate time at a pet shelter or serve at a soup kitchen. In the process of giving, your teen can see not only his blessings, but he will learn that he should express more appreciation for them -- including parents that care enough to raise him right.