Be Consistent with Your Teen and Enjoy a Better Relationship

Tips on Consistency in Communication and Discipline

Teen Good Relationship Parents
Parents can have a good relationship with their teens - it starts by being consistent in communication and discipline. Getty Images / Ron Levine

One parenting mistake that will trip up even the best intentions of parents of teens is a lack of consistency. Not that any of us start out wanting to be inconsistent in our communication or discipline with our teenagers, but it happens when we aren't paying enough attention to what we are saying or doing. Unfortunately, the consequences of being inconsistent can mean arguments, broken rules and hurt feelings, lack of trust and a bruised relationship between you and your teen.

All of these things can be avoided if you employ some consistency in your communication and discipline with your teenager.

What if you are already having a difficult time with your teen and you think lack of parental consistency might be part of the problem? Will changing the way you act change the way your teen acts? Yes, it will. When you start to use consistency in talking with your teen, they will begin to listen to what you have to say. When you use consistency in discipline, they will understand what the rules are and trust that you will uphold them. It may not happen overnight, but by remaining consistent, it won't take long.

Consistency in Communication with Your Teen

Do you want your teen to listen to you? It isn't overly difficult to do! You simply need to be in the good parenting habit of meaning what you say and saying what you mean. Because when adults start to lecture, exaggerate or yell, it turns teens off and they stop listening.

When they stop listening, they don't hear what you want them to know. Without knowing what you want, they don't do what they should and get into trouble with you. You get frustrated, they get frustrated and your relationship suffers.

Here are the steps to take to be consistent when talking to your teen:

  1. Stop what you are doing. Take time to think through exactly what it is you want your teen to do.
  2. Take a deep breath before speaking. Verbalize what you would like your teen to do without raising your voice or using exaggeration.
  3. Ask your teen if they understand what you are asking them to do. If not clarify.
  4. Thank your teen.

It sounds so formal, doesn't it? But in practice, it really isn't. I've gotten so used to communicating this way with my teenagers that this is almost an automatic process. Here is a conversation that happens weekly with my teen daughter:

Daughter: "Can I go to my boyfriend's house after school today?"
Me: "Is his mother going to be home? Will you be staying for dinner?"
Daughter: "Yes, his mom will be home and we are going to walk to the sub shop for dinner."
Me: "Call me when you get to his house. Okay?"
Daughter: "Sure. I'll call you."
Me: "Thanks for letting me know. Have fun."

Note that I reminded her of the rules when I asked her if her boyfriend's mother was going to be home and I verbalized what I wanted her to do: call me when she got to his house.

I did this without raising my voice or using exaggeration, like if I would have said, "Call me or you'll be grounded for a month."

Consistency in Disciplining Your Teen

Contrary to the old adage, rules were not made to be broken. Family rules are made to ensure the safety and welfare of each family member and the family as a whole. When rules fit this form and are followed, the family gets along and the household runs smoothly. When rules are made haphazardly and changed often, or teens are unaware of the rules, family members do not get along and the household ends up in chaos.

Teens like when parents set realistic rules and make clear what the consequences are for not following them - as opposed to not knowing what you want from them or what will happen if they break the rule. Teens get very frustrated when they indiscriminately get into trouble. Consistency in discipline provides a firm foundation for your teen's actions. Knowing what is okay and what is not okay to do helps them to feel safe and secure when making decisions.

So how do you use consistency in disciplining teens? First, be consistent in communicating the rules and the consequences for not following the rule. Parenting contracts are good for this purpose. Then, follow through by checking that your teen is following the rules and use the predetermined consequence if not. Following through with what you have said tells your teen that you mean what you say, so it is very important. When you don't follow through with the consequences you have set they can't trust what you tell them in the future. This will breakdown your ability to discipline your teen and hurt your relationship.

Consistency Will Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Teen

When parents are striving to provide fair and firm discipline by keeping the lines of communication with their teen open and using consistent rules, like curfews, teens feel safe and trust that their parent means what they say and will follow through. This provides security to a child who is going through the pandemonium of adolescence. Consistency builds trust and will strengthen your parent-child relationship.

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