As your child crosses over into that strange and wonderful land called ‘adolescence’ you may find yourself thinking you have an alien living in your house. The combined stress of exploring her independence, the pressures of schoolwork and societal expectations and the hormonal changes your child experiences may create problems for everyone in your family.
If your child has become a discipline problem and if that problem is not something you would call ‘spreading his wings’, you may have to adjust your parenting style and discipline guidelines to accommodate the new son or daughter you are now raising.
You may find your teenager no longer respects your rules and that they will test you more than they did before they entered adolescence. This is normal. Here are some guidelines for teen discipline.
- Give your teenager a bit of room to make mistakes and spread his wings. Limit the RULES to those issues that are critical – homework, curfew, health and driving safety. Feel free to provide advice and support on other issues, but don’t cast everything in the light of a RULE or you will lose their attention.
- While a ‘time-out’ does not work for an older child, you can use consequences to establish good behavior. By all means, you must tell your child the consequences before enforcing the rule. If she already knows she is responsible for doing the laundry and she does not do it, be sure she understands that the consequence will be that she cannot go out or talk on the phone until the laundry is finished.
- Don’t change the rules all the time! Be consistent. And if there is a good reason for changing the rules, talk to your teen about it and be sure he understands why and when the new rule will go into effect.
- Be calm and let them know that bad behavior is unacceptable. Also let them know you still love them and you will always be there to support them. Remember, it is the BEHAVIOR you don’t like!
- Do not slam doors or yell. This may work the first time you try it, but after awhile your child will get used to it and stop listening. Instead, talk to them as you would an adult, and help them understand WHY you are doing what you are doing and why the issue is important. If you do it this way, you are teaching them valuable skills for conflict resolution.
- DO NOT spy on your child. Give them their privacy and respect.
- DO NOT threaten your child. Be consistent and firm. Don’t hit them; don’t threaten them, unless you want THEM to develop the same behavior.
- Let them make mistakes! Don’t DO everything for them. They need to learn while you are still there to support them. And, they won’t learn if you do everything for them.
- DO NOT try to control your child with guilt. Help them understand why it is in their best interests to do what you want them to do. Don’t cry or make them feel badly about their behavior.
- Establish an understanding of what you consider ‘critical’ versus what you would ‘prefer’. For example, keeping their grades up and doing their homework may be paramount to you, while keeping their room clean EVERY WEEK may simply be a preference.
- As your child ages, you’ll have to change the kind of activities you share and the time you spend together to be something that you can both enjoy. Don’t force your teenager to continue activities they’ve outgrown.
- Try to establish a schedule that will keep you in daily contact with your teen. Be sure your family eats dinner together or spends family time together and don’t use this time to complain or discipline. Make it a pleasant time, so that your teen will WANT to eat dinner with you the next night.
There are lots of other things you can do to keep your teen connected and to help them understand your goals and rules as they grow and test their independence. Take a step back and think about your own child. You know them best. Enjoy your teenager, while she is still living at home. Don’t waste these precious years on fighting!