Teenagers can be intimidating: in their quest for autonomy, their efforts to push you away can turn ugly. While some of this is natural, your child needs to be checked when they’ve gone too far. You’re still the authority figure, no matter what your teen thinks. For their sake, you must put your foot down when your child’s behavior becomes unacceptable.
In the heat of the moment, when your teenager has challenged your authority, screamed at you, slammed the door in your face or deliberately disobeyed you, you’re most likely feeling angry and hurt. Don’t dole out discipline at this time. Remember that the goal of disciplining your teen is to encourage the development of their own self-discipline so that they are able to manage their own lives in the future.
Wait until you’ve calmed down, think about the ways in which your child behaved poorly and then deliver a punishment that fits the crime. Remember that bad behavior can sometimes mean that something deeper is wrong in your teen’s life. Try to approach the punitive discussion with empathy. Your child needs to know that your concern for their well-being is the first thing on your mind.
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Set very clear rules and boundaries from the get-go. Make sure that your teenager knows what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. For instance, no name-calling means no name-calling whatsoever, no matter how frustrated they feel. If your child violates a household rule, there should be consequences every time. Teenagers pick up on inconsistency and are likely to try their luck if they think they might be able to get away with bad behavior now and then.
When you do discipline your teen, make sure that you can follow through with the punishment. If you ground your child for a month, for example, you might start to second-guess your decision a few weeks in when your teen is subdued and desperately missing their friends. When you don’t follow through on a punishment, you damage your credibility and actually reinforce bad behavior. Grounding your teen for two weeks and following through might be the better road to take in this case.
Be Open to Discussion
The days of “because I said so” are over. Assure your child that you understand that they’re at an age where they’re free to make their own choices, but remind them that their choices affect how you, as the parent, choose to respond. Rather than grasping for control, emphasize the fact that bad behavior will always have consequences. Expect your child to defend themselves: listen as they explain their side of the story. Your teen should know that when they’ve messed up, they will at least get the chance to explain what, why and how.
While it might be tough to be firm with your children, remember one thing: you’re doing this to help them in the long run. While there might be some anger and frustration now, implementing firm and fair rules is vital when raising a responsible and accountable teen.
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