To discipline a teenager

If your teenager’s broken the rules, or offended someone:

1. Get them to do something helpful to make up. 

I’m not talking punishments here-I’m suggesting doing something nice or helpful – perhaps a job- for your teenager to make amends. Teenagers do have a natural sense of justice, so making amends feels right. But wait until they’re calm before discussing how they can make up.

2. Help your teenager learn from mistakes.

So, stay calm, and give your teenager time to calm down so they can deal with the mistake. They do need to admit what happened and that it was a mistake. And work out a way to say sorry or do something nice for the other person to make amends.

Then you ask your child:

  • ‘What can you learn from this?
  • ‘What would you do differently next time?’
  • And then when they’ve said what they’ve learned, you let it drop and move on. And you don’t mention it again. It’s a clean slate.

3. Occasionally you have to allow natural consequences.

As parents, we’re often too quick to jump in and prevent our teenagers from facing the consequences of poor choices.

  • If your teenager leaves their homework at home -they get into trouble. If you do agree to take it to school, they pay for your petrol costs if you drive. And they do a job for you in the evening for the same length of time that it took you to drive to the school and home again. That way you’re helping them learn.
  • If they’ve spent all their money– they can’t pay for what they want. They can earn money by doing extra jobs- but you don’t pay them in advance. So, they learn to manage their money better.
  • If they refuse to do anything around the house to help – then they choose to do their own washing and cooking and getting themselves where they want to go. So, they learn that part of being in a family is that everyone helps out.

You may think this is harsh– but your job as a parent is to raise your teenager to be an adult, who’s responsible, able to care for themselves, and make good choices. However-You always stay calm and in control. You do this to help them learn. This isn’t a punishment– this is the result of their choices.

You tell them what choice you would like them to make. And you explain what will happen if they don’t. And you stay consistent – but also very calm and loving.

So with a teenager, the three most effective ways to discipline them are:

  1. Get them to do something helpful to make up.
  2. Talk through how they can learn from their mistakes,
  3. And allow natural consequences if they make poor choices.

If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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