Effective Methods for Disciplining Older Teens

Discipline Strategies for Teens Ages 16 and Over

Disciplining an older teen requires some different parenting interventions.
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As teens transform into young adults, their discipline needs change. They require less parental intervention as they begin making decisions on their own.

However, all teens make mistakes and often, they require a little help turning those mistakes into learning opportunities. So your role should shift from being the boss to being a guide so you can allow your teen to navigate many of life's issues on her own with your support. 

Of course, your teen will still need consequences when she breaks the rules or makes a bad choice. But now that she's outgrown time-outs and sticker charts, what type of discipline is appropriate? There are several strategies you can use to teach your teen valuable life lessons as she transitions into a young adult. 

Set Clear Rules and Expectations

Make your expectations clear. Say things like, "I expect you to call me if anyone is drinking at this party and I expect you to say no if anyone offers you a drink."

Simply stating your expectations out loud can go a long way to helping your teen make good decisions. 

It's also important to tell your teen what the consequences will be for breaking the rules. For example, explain that coming home after curfew will result in being grounded for one week. Or tell your teen she won't be allowed to use the car on the weekend if she didn't get her work done on time throughout the week.

Problem-Solve With Your Teen

When problems arise, sit down with your teen to problem-solve together. When a teen has input into solving the problem, he's much more likely to follow through with the solution. 

Asking teens for their ideas about how to solve a problem can lead to some creative solutions. Try saying something like, "You're failing math but you tell us you never have homework. What can we do to get your math grade up?" He might acknowledge he needs to stay after school to get more help in math.

Or, say, "You've been late for your curfew twice in the past month. What can we do to help you get home on time?" Perhaps setting an alarm on his cellphone that reminds him when he needs to start heading home would help. 

Remember, the point is for your teen to learn how to solve problems independently before he enters into the real world. Offer guidance without fixing the problem for him.

Allow for Natural Consequences

Don’t be afraid to let your teen face natural consequences. When he’s 17, if he wants to go outside without a jacket, let him go. If he’s cold, he’ll put on his jacket next time.

This can help teens develop better decision-making skills as they begin to make decisions based on potential real-life consequences rather than, “Mom says I can’t.”

Of course, you shouldn't let your teen make unsafe choices. Speeding, drinking alcohol, and hanging out with a bad crowd could lead to serious safety issues. 

Remove Privileges When Necessary

When teens don’t make healthy decisions, they are communicating that they need more guidance. When you need to intervene, removing privileges can be an effective discipline strategy.

Take away privileges that are important to your teen, such as the use of electronics or the right to leave the house unsupervised.

Communicate clearly how privileges can be reinstated. Instead of saying, “You can have your phone back when I can trust you again,” say, “You can have your phone back when you have told the truth for two full weeks.” Then, your teen will be more motivated to take the steps to get his privileges back.

Teach Life Lessons

When your teen messes up, consider it a sign that she lacks some important life skills. So consider what steps you can take to teach your teen to make better choices in the future.

Look for consequences that teach self-discipline, rather than ones that inflict suffering. Taking away all your teen's privileges indefinitely or using harsh punishments could backfire.

So make sure your teen's mistakes become valuable life lessons. Talk about how to learn from mistakes and how to do better next time.

Be a good role model. Accept responsibility when you make mistakes and show your teen how to make amends and how to learn from your actions.