10 Tips for Disciplining Your Tween

I have three children and I love them dearly but I’d be lying if I said that they were perfect angels and never got into trouble. One of my least favorite parts of parenting is disciplining them. It has to be done though because I don’t want my kids (all boys) to take everything for granted and have no respect for anything.

The child I buttheads with the most is my 11 year old. He has entered his tween years with a bang. Gone are the days where he’d follow me around everywhere, watching me with his big brown eyes. He’s growing into a young man who has his own opinions and has very different ideas on what the rules should be in our house and at school.

I know he has a good heart but some of his decisions just make me go “AHHHH!” The tween years are a fine line between leaving childhood and entering the teen years. I can see my son teetering on that line by every decision, good or bad, that he makes. So during these precarious years, I’ve had to step up on the discipline and make it even more structured then when he was younger. If you’re struggling with your own tween, this article will offer up a few tips that worked for my family.

#1: Make your Rules Clear…Over and Over Again

My kids are like any other child. I talk, they get a blank look on their face as my words go into one ear and flow straight out of the other. When it comes to rules though, your kids need to hear what you are saying. Pull them aside, get at their face and go over your rules, one at a time. Do it weekly, post them on the fridge, tattoo those rules on your forehead if you have to. OK, you might want to skip the tattoo but you get the point. Don’t tell your children the rules of the house (or any other rules for that matter) only once. That’d be like you starting out at a new job with your boss barking out orders in rapid succession then stopping suddenly and saying “That’s the only time I’ll tell you the rules.” People need to be reminded more then once. True, you don’t want to drill them at your child every day because they do need to learn to listen to you but if you let them know the rules periodically they will eventually stick with your tween.

#2: Time Outs Aren’t Just for Toddlers Anymore

Time outs are generally thought of for younger kids but the truth of the matter is that they still work for tweens as well. My son finds it embarrassing to be told to go have a “time out” but when he needs to be disciplined for a minor offense, I’ll use the time out method. He’ll take a folding chair to the designated corner and be told to stay there for a certain amount of time. My son is a stomper, thumper and all over groaner so I have to tell him that he gets an extra minute for every unnecessary noise that he makes. He’ll quiet down pretty quick and is able to think about what he did that put him in that corner.

#3: Give Letter Writing a Try

Another way that you can discipline your tween is by having them write a letter about what they did, why they did it and what they can do differently next time. Now sometimes you’ll receive a letter that says “I am sorry for doing what I did and now I have to write this stupid letter so I better not get in trouble again or I’ll have to write another dumb letter.” Yeah, I saw a few of those kinds of letters when my son first started writing it all out. If you get a letter like that, don’t accept it. Tell your child it is unacceptable and to try again.

#4: Cold Turkey

When my son has made really bad decisions I make him go cold turkey. Cold turkey is when he gets no games, no TV time, no texting to friends, no toys, etc. Basically he goes cold turkey on everything that he considers fun. I usually reserve this for when he gets a referral at school (which used to be never but since he entered the tween years, has become a bit more frequent) or breaking a window at home due to carelessness. Over the years I think he’s accidentally broken five windows which you can probably imagine how…happy that has made me.

#5: Extra Chores

One of my favorite ways to discipline my tween (and his least favorite) is to give him extra chores. A few weeks ago, my son was grounded because he kept fooling around in class with his best friend. Well that resulted in three referrals in a three week period. They weren’t doing anything horrible like be mean to anyone, they simply bad decisions and didn’t get to class on time or fooled around in the classroom which made it hard for other kids to work on their assignments. By getting the referrals in such a short amount of time, I knew it warranted a stricter punishment. He was grounded over the period of several days and during that time, I had him do all the dishes, sweep the floors, scrub the bathtub, pull weeds, etc. Doing all that made him unhappy but he also realized that it wasn’t worth fooling around with a friend if he ended up punished for several days and working every one of them. I was pleased that he learned a lesson and a lot of work got done that I didn’t have to do.

#6: Early Bedtime

Going to bed early for a tween is like, so not cool man! Or at least that’s what my 11 year old told me when he got disciplined that way. My son is at the age where he wants to stay up past his bedtime, not go to bed early. When I alternate how I punish him, I will have him go to bed early. He doesn’t have to sleep but he can’t play, watch TV or even read a book. He has to lay there with only his thoughts to keep him company.

#7: Skip Something Fun

I’m a sucker, I’ll admit it. I hate taking something fun to do away from my kids as a punishment but alas… sometimes it must be done if what my tween has done something really naughty or his bad behavior has been going on for a while and has shown no signs of improvement. For example, if your child does something and has a sleepover planned with a friend, don’t let them go. Don’t be afraid to take something fun away from your child that they had planned. They’ll survive missing it and it might help them make better choices in the future.

#8: In Person Apology

Some people hate to apologize and kids seem to really moan and groan when they have to squeak out an “I’m sorry” when they’ve done something wrong. If my son has done something that affects another person, I make him apologize face to face. More often then not, it makes him want to skip what he did so that the can avoid the dreaded apology. If the person is unavailable for him to talk to in person, I’ll have him call them on the phone or write a letter. In person is usually the most effective.

#9: Check the Facts Ma’am

When your tween has done something they need to be disciplined for, check the facts. You should always dig around and find out what happened but it’s especially important to check the facts if other people have witnessed what your child did. When my son gets in trouble at school, I have no qualms to go straight to the teacher to verify exactly what happened. Children who get in trouble may not tell you the complete story either because they don’t want you to know what really happened or they remember it differently then what really occurred. By getting the facts, you can dole out the appropriate punishment.

#10: Be Consistent with your Discipline

Now and then I’ll slack when it comes to discipline. I know, I know, control the gasps please. It’s easy to get busy with other aspects of your life. I’m a good parent but I’m not a perfect parent (and honestly, who really is? Parents are only human after all). It’s when I slack that I notice my son making poorer choices and also more of them. Being consistent is key because your child will know what to expect from you. As their parent you are their advisor, protector and their punisher. Whenever they make bad decisions, they need to be disciplined to avoid making those mistakes again in the future.

Other articles by this contributor:

Keep Your Child’s Education on Track when They’re Home Sick

What to Do When Your Child Quits Speaking to You

Top Learning Toys for Autistic Children