Teens and even tweens are masters at pushing the envelope and testing their boundaries. It’s part of growing up. It is also partly brought on by the massive changes which teens are going through both emotionally and physically. Some of these changes mean that teens’ desires for independence and autonomy may not always be expressed in a balanced or rational way. When this happens it leads to conflicts at home and teens may sometimes make decisions which expose them to danger and negative consequences.
Disciplining a teenager is not a simple matter though. They straddle the line between childhood and adulthood. What would have worked when they were younger is now viewed as controlling and unreasonable, what would work if they were adults, might not be understood or appreciated by them. Yet, we need to set limits and continue to maintain a level of discipline in order to keep them from making the wrong decisions and to give them a framework in which to grow and become mature adults safely.
Set Clear Rules and Limits
Be very clear about the rules and limits which matter to you. Now is the time to think big picture and decide which family rules are really important and to let go of the ones which aren’t. Remember, if you have too many rules, you will first of all lose focus on the important ones, and you will secondly, end up spending a lot of time in minor skirmishes over the less important ones.
Involve Your Kids in Defining Limits
When you set rules and limits, you should understand why they are important and be able to explain them to your children. Involve your kids when you define your limits. Letting them understand why those limits are important and allowing them to play a role in negotiating and defining those limits will help them to internalise the rules and also accept some responsibility for them.
Write Them Down
Just so everyone knows they are serious, write them down. This way, neither you nor your teens can break the discipline contract without being called out on it.
Once you’ve decided on the big rules, be consistent. Make sure that you and your spouse both understand and interpret them in the same way and stick with the agreed rule and its consequences.
Model Good Behaviours
Be a role model for your kids. If you said “no swearing and no bad words” then it’s unacceptable for you to let slip a few choice phrases even when you stub your toe against the stair. The bottom line is that if even you can’t stick to your own rules, then you shouldn’t be imposing them on someone else.
Create a positive and supportive family environment. Let your teens know that you continue to love them and enjoy the time you spend together. Don’t make every interaction about their discipline issues. Try to create moments of pure enjoyment as a family.
Talk about Consequences
Use logical and natural consequences as your key disciplinary tools. These work because they are directly related to the bad actions and decisions which your kids might make. They are easy to explain and should remain fair and in proportion to the rules broken.