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Adolescent Discipline

​​​Disciplining your adolescent is notoriously known to be a difficult task for most parents. During this time teenagers are more motivated on spending free time with friends and having fun above anything else. In order to effectively raise your teenager, the relationship becomes similar to an employee to employer relationship where negotiation is constant. You may be in charge of things they want such as gas, money or a new phone, while they are in charge of doing things you want like doing well in school and helping out around the house.


  • Parents should establish a behavioral plan with their adolescents as soon as possible with discipline plans that are pre-planned and prior to rule violations.
  • Predefined discipline programs can help promote effective decision-making and prevent future rule violations.
  • Major privileges like access to electronics and driving should be directly tied to meeting behavioral expectations such as passing grades in school or meeting curfew.
  • Consequences can be established prior to rule infractions. This helps limit the use of consequences that are emotionally driven and often overly harsh.


  • Short-term and task-based consequences can help with better decision-making. Frequent repetition of short-term consequences can also help promote learning relative to intense long-term consequences. For example talking back results in small consequences of an extra chore.
  • Consequences that are task-based promote taking responsibility for a rule violation and gets things accomplished. For example your punishment is over once you have completed some behavioral expectation such as chores or homework.
  • Consequences can also be tied to the infraction. For example, completing an hour of studying each night for poor grades or an hour earlier of curfew for being late.
  • Consequences that are time-based do not promote practicing more effective behaviors.

Tips for Parents

  • Allow your adolescent to earn back privileges as quickly as possible because taking away all privileges decreases motivation. Long-term consequences can lead to more behavior problems because there is nothing more to lose.
  • When giving out consequences, do so without emotion. Involving your emotions leads to your adolescent feeling that you gave out the consequence due to your emotional state instead of focusing on their decision-making that led to the initial consequence.
  • Allow your teenager to come up with their own consequence because it gives them more incentive to follow their own rules.
  • It is important to catch your teenager doing things right. Good behavior can earn adolescents more privileges and free time for fun.

When to Seek Professional Help

Many families come seek professional help to solve adolescent behavior problems and parents do not need to feel ashamed. It is a difficult time to be an adolescent and to be parents raising an adolescent, as well. If your teenager is involved in any negative activities such as drug use, self-harm or physical violence, seek professional help.

  • Adolescent Discipline

    We get a lot of parents and families who come in with adolescent behavior problems.  Difficulties disciplining your adolescent, that kind of developmental area is just a little more difficult.

    When should parents begin disciplining their child?

    So the best time would be preventively.  So I like to work a lot with my families, and set up kind what we call a behavioral contract so basically we have these expectations.  You know if you meet them we're fine, you get your privileges, if you don't we've already agreed upon a consequence.  

    What are some methods parents can use to discipline their child?

    The most common misused method that I see is time based stuff.   It's just kind what all of our parents used and what we're used to using.  You know you ground them for a week, ground them for a month.  I don't tend to like that you know, I tend to like more task-based.  So you know we have a task we would like to see you complete it.  Once you complete that then your discipline is over.  Now that task can take a little while, some tasks might take you a week but I prefer tasks that are tied more to the violation.  So a violation might be grades are dropping so we would want you know an hour of homework every night, so you have to spend an hour and when you do you can earn some access to privileges.

    What is the key to effective discipline?

    The best description I've ever heard is basically discipline should be done like a police officer, you know delivering a ticket.  You know emotions are out, you know it's not that we're not angry, if you are angry and then kids tend to think they're getting punished because you're angry so I tend to recommend that you delay a little bit of time so as you know rule has been broken you can let them know that there is a consequence for this and you don't have to administer it right away, especially if you are emotional about it.  I would rather the parents be nice and calm.  Let them know here's the consequences because you violating this rule.

     Just humans in general, we are very problem focused so we tend to define problems and then want to respond to them.  That means that we miss a lot of things that are going well and so especially with your teenager, it's good to catch them when they are doing it right.  So you know you have a teenager who keeps showing up right on curfew, notice that.  You know really appreciate it, acknowledge it because of that, maybe move their curfew back a little bit, more like a half hour and make it based upon the fact that they are following through.  We do that we prevent a lot of needing to be the bad guy.  You just get to be the good guy for a while, and that is kind of nice.​

Discipline;Family and Parenting Behavioral Health;Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics