Discipline Suggestions for Older Kids & Teens
McKenzie Pediatrics 2015
Parents often struggle to find meaningful consequences to their child’s misbehavior, whether that behavior be rudeness, uncooperativeness, or aggression. What follows are a few suggestions for how best to handle the school-aged child’s undesirable behavior:
- First off, ignore what can be ignored. Sometimes the best response is no response…just walk away. Sometimes silence speaks volumes
- Don’t allow your child to bait you into losing your cool, for then they “win”. Take a deep breath and count to ten before responding to verbal misbehavior (talking back, saying “I hate you”, or threatening harm etc.). You are more likely to overreact if you instantly react, and when your child’s verbal barrage is matched by your own, his/her misbehavior is validated (“see, even adults yell and say mean things”)
- Loss of a privilege is generally the best consequence to enforce. But ENFORCE it. Don’t change your mind half an hour later when your child (hopefully) apologizes. Say “thank you” for the apology, then calmly state that the punishment is still in force, though perhaps you can offer them a path toward reducing the severity or length of the punishment
- Loss of video game privilege is often effective as a punishment for boys. But the loss has to be meaningful, for instance for a period of two days for first offenses, or up to a week for repeat offenses.
- Loss of internet access is also effective. Most wi-fi routers offer parent controls…USE THEM. Set a password that only you know. For the child who struggles with helping around the house, consider changing the wi-fi password daily…when the child’s chores are done, he can earn knowledge of the day’s password for a clearly-defined amount of internet access. Remember, pediatricians recommend no more than ONE hour of screen time daily on school nights, and TWO hours daily on weekends and school holidays.
- Reduce the feelings of powerlessness that often build up towards misbehavior by allowing your child to have input whenever possible. They need to feel a part of the family, of how the household runs. Solicit their opinions, seek their suggestions, and offer choices…but not open-ended ones. For instance, let them choose between two vegetable options for dinner, or between two movies to watch as a family, or between two weekend activities. They’re not IN control, but they need to feel as if they have SOME control, otherwise they’ll seek control in other, more disruptive ways.
- For teens, in addition to loss of video game privileges and loss of internet access, loss of cell phone privilege is a powerful tool parents wield. You pay the bills…if they’re not doing their chores or being respectful or doing their homework or keeping their grades up, take away their phone. It’s really that simple. And take it for a meaningful period of time, for instance 3 or 7 days. “Grounding” doesn’t really work anymore, for most teens prefer socializing via social media anyway.
- Don’t make threats that aren’t carried through. Otherwise kids and teens quickly learn your words are empty, your threats meaningless. Allow kids to make one mistake…we learn and grow from them. Remember, it’s only a mistake if you make it TWICE. Make clear after the first mistake what the consequence will be for repeating the mistake…and CARRY THROUGH ON IT if and when it happens.
- Always look for ways for kids and teens to earn privileges. Don’t just be the judge, jury, and executioner. Be the game-show host as well…offering “prizes” for family participation, consistent chore completion, and just overall good behavior. Establish paths toward earning “prizes” (best in the form of privileges), but also surprise them once in a while with a “prize” for good and helpful behavior you’ve observed over a period of time.