How to Use Discipline to Teach Your Teen Life Lessons

Balance Freedom with Guidance to Help Your Teen Grow Into a Responsible Adult

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Disciplining teens is about helping them make good choices while also allowing them enough freedom to learn from their own mistakes. Discipline should be about creating rules and giving clear consequences.

When deciding whether or not to step in or what type of consequence to use, think about the life lesson you want your child to learn. Remember that the long-term goal is for your teen to gain the skills he’ll need to become a responsible adult.

If your discipline is too strict, your teen may rebel while he’s living under roof. As soon as he moves out and gains some freedom, he may struggle even more to deal with his independence.

If you don’t give enough discipline however, your teen won’t learn all the skills he needs to be a successful adult. It’s all about finding just the right balance of freedom and guidance.

Your teen should be learning from his own mistakes while experiencing the security of knowing you’re there to help if he needs it.  Younger teens need more guidance but by the time your child turns 17, he should be making most of the decisions on his own but there should still be rules and consequences when necessary.

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Teach Life Lessons

There isn’t a single “best” way to discipline teens. Instead, your discipline strategies should be based on your personal values.

For example, if your teen wants to quit playing soccer about three weeks into the soccer season, the decision about whether or not to allow him to quit should depend on your values.

It should also depend on what life lesson you want your child to learn.

Some parents may allow their child to quit because they value freedom of choice and want their child to know he has the ability to try new things and then move on if he doesn’t like something. They may want to send a message that says, “Keep trying new things until you find something you like.”

Other parents may want their child to learn about responsibility and commitment. They may encourage their child to “finish what you started.” They may also want their child to understand that the team depends on each player and each person should be committed to complete the season.

Your rules and discipline should be based on the life lessons you want your teen to learn. Each time your child breaks a rule or requires more guidance from you, find ways to turn into an opportunity for to teach a valuable life lesson.

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Help Your Teen Understand the Reasons for Rules

The goal of your discipline techniques should be to help prepare your teen for life as adult. Your rules and consequences should focus on teaching, rather than punishing your child.

Teens need to understand the underlying reasons for your rules and consequences so that they can continue to make healthy choices once they move out of the house. The ultimate goal of your discipline should be to prepare your teen for the future.

For example, it’s important for your teen to understand how hanging out with the wrong crowd could influence him negatively. You don’t want him to just think he can’t hang out with his friends because his parents are mean or don’t understand.

Talk to your teen about your rules and the consequences. Work together to problem-solve issues and ask your teen for his input. This doesn’t mean you need to create only the rules your teen agrees to, but it can be helpful to have an open dialogue about how your teen feels.

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Teens who understand the underlying reasons for rules and consequences are much more likely to develop self-discipline. They will be better prepared to make good decisions when you’re not looking over their shoulder.

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