Innovative Punishments for Teens

Punishing headstrong teens is a particular source of heartache for many parents. Some parents, creative and sick of the same-old-same-old, have made headlines with their punishments, such as the North Carolina father who was featured on “The Today Show” after making his misbehaving daughter carry a sign that read, "I have a bad attitude 1. I disrespect people who try to help me.” While you might not want to earn a spot on the evening news, some benefits might be found by breaking away from the tired and expected.


Parents commonly punish their teens by taking away something they value. Instead of depriving your teen, which will really teach him only that he loves whatever item you have barred, require that he do something as a result of his misbehavior. Whenever possible, make this something relevant to what he did. For example, if you get a call that he was making fun of a mentally handicapped child at school, require that he join you to volunteer at a home for mentally disabled adults.

Refocus Writing

To change your teen’s behavior, institute a punishment that requires that he think about his error. The next time your teen breaks a rule, take a piece of notebook paper and write at the top “1. What did I do wrong?” Skip several lines, then write, “2. Why is Mom mad?” Skip several more lines and finish with, “3. What will I do differently next time?” Give your child this homemade worksheet and ask him to complete it. Provide him time and space as he does. Once he finishes, review it with him and discuss his responses. By actually exploring the misbehavior, you might actually change his ways.

Stealthy Punishment

Catching your teen off-guard with your punishment might make the sanction more meaningful. Try the stealthy discipline recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your child fails to complete a chore you assign to him, don’t immediately give him a dressing down. Instead, wait until he asks you for something, then make your permission contingent on the completion of the uncompleted chore. For example, if your teen comes to you on Friday night and asks to go to his buddy’s house, tell him, “Sure, just as soon as soon as you finish that chore you were assigned on Wednesday, cleaning the bathroom.” Say it with a smile and it will prove both frustrating to your teen and highly effective.

Grounding Out

Some older teens -- about to leave the nest and feeling far too grown for rules -- prove particularly hard to discipline. If you are saddled with an especially stubborn older teen, consider the “grounding out” option. This option is akin to traditional grounding, but in this modified version your teen isn’t forced to stay in the house, but instead is prohibited from entering it. This practice, recommended by psychologist Carl E. Pickhardt at, calls for parents to tell their young adults, “If you can’t live by my rules you can’t live here -- for 24 hours at least.” To implement this punishment, first explain it to your teen. When he again breaks your rules, let him taste the adulthood he feels he is ready for. Pickhardt writes that he hasn't seen grounding out used often, but that it worked in some extreme cases.