Teenagers go through a stage where they separate from their parents in order to establish their own identities. Letting go and disciplining teenagers at the same time isn’t easy for anyone, but prioritizing what is and what isn’t a crisis helps smooth the way. A messy room might be easier to overlook than breaking a curfew for example.
Unfortunately teenagers are notorious for taking more risks because they tend to feel invincible. Although they look like adults, younger teens live in the present like children. Because of this, they will not be likely to see long-term consequences. This is another reason disciplining teenagers is necessary but challenging. Now is not the time to be the “cool’ parent or friend. If Jack or Jane are allowed to stay out all night, children might be mad that they can’t, but this isn’t a popularity contest.
Punishments focus on making teenagers pay for disobeying, but it doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. Shame, fear and force are negative aspects that are often involved in punishments. When teens are scared of an imagined punishment, they could simply learn how to avoid getting caught rather than how not to repeat the behavior. If a punishment is used, it’s important to try to connect it with the unwanted behavior.
Providing consequences with discipline allows teenagers to participate in solving their own problems. For example, if they wreck a neighbor’s garden, they should apologize and then volunteer to replant any smashed flowers. This teaches respect for others, allows the teen to learn from their mistake and feel good about the outcome. Finally and most importantly, make sure teenagers know that it’s their behavior that is not acceptable or loved and not them as a person.