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Teen Discipline Tools

Parents who become panicked when it comes to disciplining their teens or tweens who want to advocate for themselves may turn to expert advice, only to find a lack of useful information. Some of the best articles are well intentioned, but only offer basic concepts and not specific techniques.

I am passionate about SOLUTIONS.

Here are my “Power Tools” for establishing effective discipline in your family.

15 Teen Discipline Tools for Families

1. Impose discipline without anger.

Your approach is key when disciplining your teen or tween. Impose discipline in a businesslike manner, without getting worked up. Your tweens/teens are children and will fail. Remember cleaning up their poop? You didn’t get mad at them – you just did your parenting job. Well, it’s the same at this age, except now their poop is different. As a parent, clean up the mess they make, businesslike, and move on.

2. Don’t yell.

Once you yell, you immediately lose.

3. The discipline has to hurt.

Consequences should hurt. Parents often mete out consequences that have too little effect on their kids. The best practice is to take away something that they will really miss: cellphones, boyfriend/girlfriend, going out, computer, video games. And don’t let them hoodwink you with, “I need my computer for school.” There are ways around that.

4. See the punishment through.

Don’t change the punishment once you have set it. Earn respect, be firm, and make sure they listen. You may realize you made a mistake and gave too harsh a punishment. I recommend that you still see the punishment through and apologize. You can both learn from this.

5. Be present.

Don’t give consequences from afar (across the house, yelling from another room, etc.). Go right up to your kids. If you’ve asked several times for them to turn the TV off, go stand in front of it. Be firm and right there. But, keep up your “teaching” attitude, not the punisher or mean attitude.

6. Don’t fight.

Discipline is not a negotiation. Fewer words work best when disciplining your teen. If it turns into a negotiation, they will win every time because this is their only focus, whereas you have various other adult life things on our mind.

7. Be a united front (with your partner, spouse, co-parent).

If you disagree with each other’s decisions, have this out behind closed doors, not in front of your tween/teen or on the fly.

8. Be timely.

Impose the consequence as close to the offense as possible, YET don’t rush into a decision. Take your time – a reasonable amount of time.

9. Choose carefully.

Choose your battles wisely. Decide those things upon which you are going to stand your ground. Some things are not worth stressing about.

10. End any discussion that is disrespectful.

Simply walk away. Remember—they want something from you. Ending the conversation takes the rug right out from under them.

11. Set household rules.

Set rules, but be reasonable. Your tween/teen needs to know what to expect or how to behave the way you want them to.

12, Be consistent.

Give the same consequences for the same actions. Only ramp up consequences, don’t ramp down.

13. Communicate.

Make sure you are clear and understood.

14. Be patient.

A teen may shrug it off and act as if the intended consequences don’t affect them. They are just trying to throw you off. Steady the course.

15. Lower your expectations.

You’re not going to see an epiphany each time. Kids are a work in progress and they will not perform like adults, so don’t expect that out of them.

It’s ultimately all about LEARNING. Be sure to pair up the discipline with a lesson on how to do things better. Tie the consequence into the specific action the tween/teen did.

Remember the previous point: their brain will not comprehend a consequence that tries to address the entirety of their behavior. And in disciplining your teen or tween, make sure you teach them how they could have done things differently.

Dr. John Mayer is a leading expert on teens. He is an author, practicing psychologist, consultant and professor. Based in Chicago, IL but parents can access his help and vast resources via his web site,, no matter where they live. 

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