Many parents take a haphazard approach to disciplining teenagers and the results are often discouraging. In their book, Teen Stages (Biame Network Inc, 2004) Ken and Elizabeth Mellor describe a simple set of steps that can help parents to discipline teenagers effectively. These steps can also help teenagers take on responsibility for their own actions.
Explain Expectations and Reasons to Teenagers
Expectations are the behavior standards that parents expect from their teens. These standards are not something that should be introduced overnight but are a lifestyle that the teens should be familiar with, and where appropriate, see modelled by their parents. However, when they reach adolescence it is good to sit down and explain the standards expected in dating, sex, driving, alcohol and drugs. Limitations should be explained and questions invited.
It is helpful to explain the reasons for the expectations and discussing them can help the teens feel their opinion is respected. Although they have probably heard horror stories about drugs and rape, an open discussion can allow them to vent their ideas, concerns and beliefs.
Set Consequences and Make Agreements with Teens
After expectations have been explained, set consequences for failure to conform to these standards. This can be done in written form to refer to later if needed. Consequences can range from mild to severe with the punishment designed to take away privileges that matter to the teenager. These can include:
- Restricted use of the family car
- Confiscation of cell phone
- Confiscation of computer
- Grounded for a period of time
Discussing consequences with teenagers and getting them to agree to them is an important part of discipline. Engaging them in the process makes them accountable for their actions and they will be more likely to think before doing something stupid.
Follow Through With Disciplinary Actions on Teens
It is essential to follow through on expectations and consequences and to do so on a consistent basis. If this is not done, teenagers will lose respect for their parents and will not have the security of firm boundaries. If discipline is meted out as discussed, the teenager will have a strong deterrent for future misbehavior and will respect parents for following through with the punishment. They may not find it pleasant at the time but will look back in years to come and be thankful for the discipline that helped mold their character.
Disciplining teenagers can be emotional and difficult but if the above five steps are followed they offer a stable standard. If teens understand parental expectations and the reason behind them and have agreed to consequences and punishments, they will generally be more accepting when the parents follow through with the discipline. It is a process over years until the teenagers mature to the place where they can make wise decisions of their own accord