Teen Discipline

What is teen discipline? This article helps define teen discipline and offers some tips on approaching the disciplining of a teenager. Keep reading to learn how to discipline a troubled teen with natural consequences and some problems with teen discipline.

What should you think about teen discipline? It’s an important subject and one on which a lot of people sound off. This article discusses some of the teen discipline advice to be found today.

Take With a Grain of Salt

There is no one answer to teen discipline, just as there is not one answer to “what’s for dinner?” Different families have different cultures and tastes and approaches, and individuals do as well. Especially with a first child, figuring out teen discipline can be a discovery process rather than the application of an established set of fool-proof principles. Given these premises, you should be skeptical of any program that claims to be a discipline panacea.

What Is Teen Discipline?

Teen discipline doesn’t have a standard definition. So let’s try one on for size:

Teen discipline is the set of characteristics that allow a teen to gradually become more and more self-disciplined and also includes cooperativeness, openness, fairness, honesty, and responsibility. A disciplined teen loads the dishwasher if she says she will, does not throw a tantrum if asked to help out when she had other plans, offers to help when she sees someone struggling to accomplish some task. A disciplined teen also does his homework on time and mans up when he’s done something wrong.

What Can Interfere With Teen Discipline?

There are a number of factors that can interfere with teen discipline, and they are of many different kinds:

  • A teen who can’t clearly hear or process the direction you’ve given can’t be expected to carry them out. This could occur with an undetected hearing or attention impairment.
  • A teen with a learning disability can’t be expected to perform to the level of one who doesn’t have such a disability.
  • A teen who is stressed or anxious about some element of life (for example, cyber bullying or gossip) cannot be expected to be excited about doing chores carefully.
  • A teen who feels put upon (whether justified or not - and some may be justified) is not likely to be cooperative and is likely to talk back.
  • A teen with a mood disorder, such as teen depression, may have difficulty completing any kind of task let alone living up to the increasing demands of discipline that come with the teen years.
  • A teen whose parents take strikingly different approaches to teen discipline may appear very undisciplined and refractory to one (or both) parents.
  • A teen who feels entitled (whether from having been treated as if s/he is or for other reasons) is unlikely to exhibit behavior that would be expected of a disciplined teen.
  • One involved with teen substance abuse is also likely to show a lack of teen discipline: instead, his or her life is apt to start focusing on the next dose.
  • A teen who has not had consistent feedback for situations in which s/he has shown teen discipline (completing homework, chores, and other obligations carefully and accurately, for example), may not give consistent effort.

If your teen is not as disciplined as you would hope, consider these possibilities. Then talk to your teen to see what’s going on. If the change in your teen’s behavior has been sudden or marked, you may want to speak to his or her pediatrician or school counselor.

Some Approaches to Teen Discipline

Some parents try to let natural consequences teach their children. But the natural consequences of not doing well in high school are (possibly) not getting into the college of your choice, and that may be much too harsh a lesson for a teen.

Some parents use punishments to discipline, but punishment for infractions without praise for accomplishments may not accomplish the desired goal (some behaviorists urge complete focus on positive reinforcement).

Some parents reward good behavior (e.g., money for grades), but this can give the idea that the grades themselves are not good enough: that one is entitled to something more than the virtue of the usual outcome of one’s actions coming to fruition.

End Result of Teen Discipline

Keep in mind that the key is not just to have a disciplined teen: it’s to have a self-disciplined teen. When your teen leaves your home to go to work, to college, to vocational school, to join the Peace Corps, you will not be there all the time overseeing his or her activities. The teen years are not just the time to keep a child in line and protect him or her from bad companions and bad choices: they’re the time to cede responsibility for him- or herself into the practiced hand of the teen.



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