How on earth can you discipline teens who may be both larger and louder than you are?

We all agree that it is easier to discipline little kids than it is to discipline teens, right? I think that I can hear a collective ‘yes’ in the background. With little kids we can always turn to our favourite default go-to discipline method which are time-outs, where we attempt to separate the child from the situation in the hope that they will calm down. I myself am not a tremendous fan of time-outs. I am aware that we all want our kids to use the time-outs for cooling down, chilling and reflecting but these days I am a bigger fan of time-ins where you offer your child time to talk to you calmly rather than tantruming. Try both of these methods and see which one works best for you and your children in different situations.

Now let’s get back to the matter at hand. How on earth can you discipline teens who may be both larger and louder than you are?

I have a number of ideas:

Set up a contract of behaviour and consequences with your teen prior to their engaging in negative and/or reckless behaviour

I have always found that when teens participate in putting together a contract then they are more likely to follow it. Remember that teens like to have some control in their lives.

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Try to make the punishment consistent with and related to the infraction

If your teen takes the car out and comes home half an hour late, then losing car privileges for one or two days is a perfectly reasonable consequence. On the other hand, losing the car for a month and not being able to see friends on the weekends for a month is way too severe a consequence and will only lead to an angry teen and multiple power struggles.

Your goal is to use your teens’ errors as teaching opportunities

Avoid shaming your teens

I am painfully aware that teen shaming is currently in vogue with parents who post videos in which they shame their teens for bad behaviour. In my opinion, this simply leads to humiliation and a damaged relationship between teens and parents. Avoid this trend at all costs.

I love the concept of having your teens do repair work

If, for example, your teen has broken a window then they have to pay to get the window repaired. Similarly, if they have behaved in a mean manner towards a sibling then perhaps they can make amends by doing something extra kind for this sibling for the rest of the week. Your goal is to use your teens’ errors as teaching opportunities.

Try not to have an excessive number of rules for your teen

Choose your battles. And always remember that your goals are to keep your child safe and happy, and to keep the quality of your relationship with your teen positive!

Remember also that your teens love to get compliments and praise from you for a job well done

Even if they shrug off your words of praise, I know through my clinical work with teens that they want more than anything else to please you and to avoid disappointing you. Bear this in mind, and the next time you punish your teen, remind them of other situations during which their behaviour was stellar.