Discipline Strategies for Pre-teens and Teenagers

(103)iStock-816588028_Discipline strategies for pre-teens and teenagers 

Discipline: pre-teens and teenagers

Discipline isn’t about punishment. It’s about guiding children towards appropriate ways to behave. For pre-teens and teenagers, discipline is about agreeing on and setting appropriate limits and helping them behave within those limits.

When your child was younger, you probably used a range of discipline strategies to teach them the basics of good behaviour. Now your child is moving into the teenage years, you can use limits and boundaries to help them learn independence, take responsibility for their behaviour and its outcomes, and solve problems.

Your child needs these skills to become a young adult with their own standards for appropriate behaviour and respect for others. An important part of this is learning to stick to some clear rules, agreed on in advance, and with agreed consequences.

Teenagers don’t yet have all the skills they need to make all their own decisions, so your agreed limits for behaviour help your child make good choices about how to behave.

Teenage discipline is most effective when you:

  • communicate openly with your child – this allows you to talk about how the limits and rules are working, and guide your child towards good choices
  • build and maintain a warm and loving family environment – this helps your child feel safe to make mistakes as they learn to manage their own behaviour.

Agreeing on clear limits with pre-teens and teenagers

Clear limits and expectations can discourage problem behaviour from happening in the first place. Limits also help your child develop positive social behaviour, including showing concern for others.

Here are some tips for setting clear limits:

  • Involve your child in working out limits and rules. When your child feels that you listen to them and they can contribute, they’ll be more likely to see you as fair and stick to the agreed rules.
  • Be clear about the behaviour you expect. It can help to check that your child has understood your expectations. For example, you could say, ‘Please come home after the movie’. But it might be clearer to say, ‘Come straight home after the movie ends and don’t go anywhere else’.
  • Discuss responsibilities with your child. For example, ‘I’m responsible for providing for you. You have responsibilities too, like tidying your room’.
  • Agree in advance with your child on what the consequences will be if they don’t stick to the rules you’ve agreed on.
  • Use descriptive praise when your child follows through on agreed limits. For example, ‘Thanks for coming straight home from the movie’.
  • Be willing to discuss and adjust rules as your child shows responsibility or gets older – for example, by extending your child’s curfew.

Using consequenc​es as part of teenage discipline

Sometimes your child might behave in ways that test your limits or break the rules you’ve agreed on. One way to deal with this is by using consequences.

Here’s how.

Make the consequence fit

If you can make the consequence fit the misbehaviour, it gets your child to think about the issue. It can also feel fairer to your child. For example, if your child is home later than the agreed time, a fitting consequence might be having to come home early next time.

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