wikiHow to Discipline a Teenager

Three Methods:Communicating EffectivelyChoosing the Best Approach for DisciplineUnderstanding Your Teen

It can be frustrating when your child does not listen to you, or does things you don't agree with. Teenagers are dealing with a lot of emotions and are often going through many physical and emotional changes. It can be difficult to make sure that you and your teen are on the some page. Sometimes, you may feel that it is necessary to discipline your child. There are many steps you can take to make sure that the way you discipline is appropriate and effective.

Method 1
Communicating Effectively

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    Make your expectations clear. One of the keys to having a positive relationship with your teen is good communication. You need to be able to talk to one other and make your feelings and desires clear. If you are able to communicate effectively, you might find that you need to discipline your teen less frequently. An important component of good communication is a clear explanation of your expectations.[1]
    • Let your teen know exactly what you expect from him or her. For example, maybe you are focusing on helping them succeed in school. Let your teen know which grades you consider acceptable. Maybe you are aiming for them to get all A's and B's.
    • Tell your teen your expectations and explain that you will help him or her meet them. If you are focused on better grades, explain that you need your son or daughter to study at least X amount of hours per week. Or make a requirement that all homework is done before they hang out with their friends.
    • You can also set expectations for non-tangible outcomes. Maybe you feel your teen has developed an attitude problem. Set clear expectations that they are to speak respectfully to all members of the family.
    • Try putting your expectations in writing. This will help reinforce the words you are saying.
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    Ask questions. As a teen, your child is starting to spend more and more time away from home--and you. School days are longer, there are more activities to join, and more friends to hang out with. To develop a strong relationship with your teen, it is important that you know what is going on in their life. In order to do that, you need to ask questions.[2]
    • Ask questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer. You'll get more descriptive answers. Instead of "Did you do your homework?", try, "What have you been working on in English class?"
    • Set aside time each day to talk to your son or daughter about how things are going. It can be casual, but make sure to ask questions to see how they are doing. You could say, "How are you feeling about your big soccer game coming up on Saturday?"
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    Actively listen. Communicating effectively is a great way to strengthen your relationship with your teen. It's not enough to just ask questions, though. You need to actively listen to what they are saying. There are many things you can do to become a better listener.[3]
    • When your teen talks, try restating what they say. For example, you could say, "I'm hearing you say that you are frustrated that your friends all have later curfews than you." This will not only show that you are engaged in the conversation, but it helps to clarify any issues.
    • Offer feedback. When you are talking to your teen, it's a good idea to offer your initial feelings on a topic. For instance, you could say, "I'm not against giving you a bigger allowance. But we'll need to talk about an increase in responsibilities, too."
    • Give validation. Let your teen know that you acknowledge their feelings. Be specific, saying things like, "I understand that you are really sad that your dad moved out. That is totally normal."
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    Choose the right time. Good communication with your teen can be challenging, partially because they might not always be in the mood to talk. Try to choose a good time if you need to have an important discussion with them. Don't wait until right before bed or as he or she is headed out the door to school.[4]
    • Consider talking while you are doing an activity together. While you're cooking dinner together would be a good time to check in with them.
    • If your teen seems resistant to talking, consider choosing a different time for your conversation. You want it to be constructive for both of you.

Method 2
Choosing the Best Approach for Discipline

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    Promote accountability. Sometimes communication breaks down and you will find it necessary to discipline your teen. There are several methods to discipline your child, and you should think carefully about what will work best for your family. One effective form of discipline is to hold your child accountable for all of their actions.[5]
    • If you have clearly laid out your expectations, your teen knows which behaviors you expect from them. If he or she is explicitly disrespectful, let them know that now they must be held responsible.
    • You can try saying, "I explained to you that it is not OK to swear at your younger brother. You know that behavior like that results in the loss of a privilege."
    • By focusing on your child's actions and knowledge, you are making it clear that she is accountable for her actions.
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    Avoid punishment. There is a difference between punishing your teen and disciplining her. The term "punishment" is inherently negative, whereas discipline can be constructive. For example, discipline is a way of helping someone stick to the rules, whereas "punishment" is more of an act of retribution. Explain that by disciplining your teen, you are teaching her that there are benefits to adhering to guidelines and consequences to ignoring rules. You can add that this is the way the world works, so you are providing good training.[6]
    • You will at times have to place restrictions on your teen, but you can do so without giving the negative connotations that typically go along with punishments.
    • For example, avoid ultimatums. Many teens see ultimatums as a direct challenge and a path to punishment, so avoid saying things like, "Get better grades or else!"
    • Don't make threats about vague punishments. Instead, tell your teen that you are going to impose the restrictions that you both agreed upon.
    • Be flexible. Maybe you have told your son or daughter that they cannot see their friends for two weeks because of their low grades. If they come home with several "A" papers or quizzes, you might consider showing that you appreciate their actions by lifting the restrictions a few days early. Show that discipline is reasonable.
    • Be stern but respectful. Your teen is a young adult, so don't speak to them like a young child. Avoid mocking or being sarcastic.
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    Set boundaries. Let your teen know the actions that are and are not acceptable in your home. It is important to clearly define boundaries so that they know exactly what they are and aren't allowed to do. If you feel strongly that they need to avoid all alcohol, make that clear.[7]
    • You can set boundaries regarding your teen's social life. Explain that they are only allowed to stay out until a certain hour. If you need them check in with you throughout the evening, for example, make that clear.
    • Let them know that you will be monitoring their online activities. Teens should enjoy some degree of privacy, but it's ok to let your son or daughter know that you will be checking in on them periodically to make sure that they are safe.
    • If you allow your teen to date, make sure that you set boundaries for the relationship. For example, explain that your son or daughter and their boyfriend or girlfriend can't be in their bedroom with the door closed. Do not just straight up disagree with your teen's choice of a boyfriend or girlfriend because 'they look like a criminal' or are a bit quirky, for example. First impressions aren't everything, but if your teen's boyfriend or girlfriend is a bit over controlling or making inappropriate talk or gestures, then it might be a good idea to talk to your teen about your concerns.
    • Explain to your teen that boundaries are for their safety, and to help teach them responsibility.
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    Give your child agency. Sometimes it can seem like your teen is struggling against you. Remember that teens are at a point where they are trying to establish more independence and autonomy. Allow your teenager to be an active participant in setting boundaries and choosing appropriate discipline. Giving them agency will make them more invested in the process.[8]
    • Have your teen help you make a list of appropriate guidelines to live by. You could set things like curfew, car privileges, or expected grades.
    • Don't be afraid to negotiate. Respect their opinions on the issues, and they will be more likely to listen to yours.
    • Have your teen suggest a consequence. If they come home late one Saturday night, have them tell you what they feel is an appropriate disciplinary action.
    • Typically, when you give a teen more responsibility they begin to behave in a more mature way.

Method 3
Understanding Your Teen

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    Consider the situation. At times your teen may be difficult to handle, but it's important to remember that they are dealing with a lot. Their hormones and body are changing, which can cause mood swings. They are also trying to more fully develop their identity, and may be dealing with pressures from school or their friends. When disciplining your teen, it's key to consider the context.[9]
    • Have they been rude and moody lately? Try to figure out if something outside the house is bothering them. Have you noticed their best friend doesn't stop by as often? Consider that your teen might be going through a stressful time and try to cut them a little slack.
    • Are their grades slipping? Take a few days to watch their habits. Teens need a lot of sleep, so maybe you need to help them get more rest so they can better concentrate.
    • Before deciding on discipline, consider all of the components of the situation.
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    Use empathy. Being empathetic means that you are thinking about, or sensitive to, what someone else is feeling or thinking. When disciplining your teen, try to place yourself in their shoes. When choosing the right course of action, take their emotions into consideration.[10]
    • If your son or daughter reacts badly to not being allowed to go on a road trip with friends, try to think about what they are feeling. They are likely worried about being teased, or are maybe suffering from fear of missing out. You don't need to back down on the rules you've set, but you can offer compassion.
    • Try saying, "I imagine you're feeling pretty frustrated that you won't be going with your friends. Is there something else fun that you and I could do this weekend instead?"
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    Ask for advice. Dealing with a teen can be difficult. You might feel stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Maybe you have a trusted family member who can offer some advice on how to relate to your teen.[11]
    • Try talking to other parents. It's useful to know what your son or daughter's friends are allowed to do. You can try asking their parents about curfew, allowance, etc. to get an idea of the types of policies you want to set.
    • Your teen's doctor can be a great resource, too. He or her can help you make sure that your son or daughter stays physically and emotionally healthy. They can also offer outside resources.


  • Try different methods of reaching your child. Remember, each relationship is different.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for advice.
  • If you're feeling stressed, make sure to give yourself a break. Self care is important.

Article Info

Categories: Behavioral Issues | Raising Teens