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February 18, 2016

If you are struggling with the right way to discipline your teenager, you are not alone.

The teen years are particularly challenging for parents, especially if you have a strong-willed child. If you are too strict or harsh, you can count on rebellion. If you come down on the rebellion instead of listening to your child’s reasoning, you run the risk of challenging them to up their game of lying and sneaking behind your back. At the end of the day, the goal of effective discipline is to gain control over your children – without being too controlling.

Sulking. Lying. Arguing. There’s a real explanation for this type of behavior. As teenagers age, they become more independent, although they still lack the emotional maturity required to make thoughtful decisions. The section of the brain that controls decision-making and impulse control hasn’t quite fully developed. Hence, the combination of autonomy plus immaturity may lead to risky behaviors like drinking and smoking.

All it takes is a few adjustments to your discipline strategy.

Smarter Discipline Strategies

Parents commonly shout (and sometimes swear) at their teenagers, but this type of discipline tactic often increases the bad behavior instead of curbing it. In fact, harsh, verbal discipline has even been linked to symptoms of depression in teenager’s, ages 13 and 14.

If you’ve relied on punishment in the past to control your teenager, or if you find your discipline backfiring, it’s time to change your strategy. It’s time to make your teenager WANT to cooperate.

Commit to a respectful tone. Try to remember that this is a tumultuous time in life for your teenager. There’s an awful lot of stress and pressure to do well in school, excel at different activities, and just to “fit in” with their friends. Before coming down hard, or disrespectfully, try and understand what may be driving your teenager’s behavior.

Set clear expectations. Expectations will vary from family to family, but keep in mind the very basic needs: civility and honesty.

Foster accountability. Teaching your teenager accountability is not the same as imposing punishment. Accountability shows them that there are consequences for their actions and decisions. If he breaks something, he will need to pay for it. This can also serve as an empowering lesson that we all make mistakes and that we can always take action to make it better.

Be firm and be consistent. Teenagers are master negotiators. They spot parental weaknesses, and then they pounce. If you give in once, they’ll expect you to give in every time. Be firm and make sure that both parents are on the same page.

One final strategy: keep your sense of humor as you stick to your guns. Your teenager will test you to see just how serious you are, and while you need to be serious, you can find a way to enforce with a lighter touch.

When Discipline Doesn’t Work: Teen Wilderness Therapy Programs

If you’re having a deeper struggle with disciplining your teenager, or have concerns that their behavior is beyond your reach, contact Pacific Quest today and talk through your situation with one of our mental health professionals. Our teen wilderness therapy programs are designed to promote growth through encouragement and positive interactions with people and the earth, rather than stifle it through harsh discipline or reprimands.
Download the Young Adults Program Brochure

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