By the time they are adolescents, your kids should have a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of parental goals and behavior limits. But even the well-trained youngster may be tempted to push boundaries or be led astray by friends to do something he shouldn't.
When that happens, a mother or father cannot afford to sit back and pretend that nothing has happened, hoping that it never occur again. Instead, you must be vigilant and take action to reinforce all that you have taught your children already from the time they were toddlers. Don't give in to their wheedling or your own time constraints. Take the necessary time now to train your adolescents properly, and that will mean issuing appropriate discipline.
The art of adolescent discipline falls into three categories:
The first is training or guidance. We discipline our children when we set household rules, place limits on their behavior (such as curfews), and monitor their social activities with friends. Moms and dads who fail to provide these boundaries and guidelines are not doing their duty by their kids. Children need to know what they can and cannot do, and most appreciate the security of parents who keep watch and respond accordingly. That is why you must know what your children do, when, and with whom. Until they turn eighteen, adolescents remain their parents' responsibility.
The second category involves incentives and rewards. Teens enjoy challenges and meeting goals; sometimes they see the opportunity to perform for a reward as a form of competition with themselves or with siblings or peers. When they do well in school, in sports, or in bypassing a temptation, moms and dads need to notice and congratulate them, as well as occasionally issue an affectionate acknowledgement of the adolescent's success. This may take the form of verbal praise, a home-made or purchased certificate of congratulations, or a tangible reward involving a gift or cash bonus. Research shows that anyone who receives rewards for doing well is more likely to continue doing so.
The third part of discipline centers on punishments or natural consequences. When adolescents fail to do their homework, they may not be able to pass a test, thus earning a natural negative consequence of the chosen action. Or if they stay up late, they may miss the school bus and end up with a tardy or absence on their record. But some behaviors are not so cut and dried in terms of consequences. For example, if an adolescent smokes a cigarette, he will not get lung cancer the next day. Or if he gets drunk with friends, he may not get caught.
When a mother or father finds out that a youngster has overstepped his boundaries, betrayed a parent's trust, or disregarded a household rule, it is the adult's responsibility to issue a consequence. Grounding works well for many adolescents. This can take the form of losing the privilege of going out with friends for a few days or a week or two. Or it can mean that the adolescent loses the right to use family appliances like the television, the telephone, the computer, or the VCR for a period of time. Moms and dads should impose a limit that as closely as possible fits the infraction, although this is not always possible.
Don't fail to follow up on your adolescent's good and bad behaviors. They depend on parents to be there and be aware. Without authoritative guidance, they will continue to make needless mistakes, some of which can be life-altering. So let them know you care by instituting fair-minded discipline to bring out their best qualities and help them develop character.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents