Yikes – your teen’s grades have dropped to sinkhole status. Your daughter ignored your reminder to call home when she got to her friend’s house. Your son used drugs at a concert. Before you panic, take a breath and plan your strategy for dealing with the problem.
Teens get out of line because they have many lessons to learn. So says Madelyn Swift, founder of Childright and author of Getting it Right with Teens: The Parent’s Manual for Surviving Your Teenage Children. What teens crave is the power to choose what they do and say. Since they haven’t lived long enough to evaluate situations in a mature way, they’re going to try to push the envelope. The struggle comes when you as a parent withhold a particular freedom because you don’t think your teen is ready for it.
The important thing is to teach your teens how to develop self-discipline and good evaluation skills so they can make good decisions by themselves when they’re in sticky situations.
Here are some useful tips for effective disciplining:
1. Create a hierarchy of infractions.
Save grounding for the worst violations such as staying out past curfew, hanging out in places you haven’t approved, harming others, or doing something illegal. Restrict privileges, such as using the car or computer, for less serious offenses like neglecting schoolwork or not filling the gas tank. The most minor errors, such as letting dirty laundry pile up, may simply mean your teen won’t have clean clothes to wear.
2. Teach rather than punish.
Make sure your teen understands what’s expected of her and what the consequences are if she doesn’t comply. When you do have to discipline, make the consequence fit the crime. For example, if her homework isn’t getting done because she’s always on the computer, restrict all online activity except research for her project until homework is completed. On the other hand, if she’s neglecting homework because she’s disorganized, teach her how to use an assignment book and organize her notes.