Teen Discipline: 3 Ingredients for Success

Teen Discipline: 3 Ingredients for Success

“Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions not retribution”- L.R. Knost

Teenagers will push boundaries. I doubt that statement shocks you. Teenagers are experiencing brain growth, improved critical thinking skills, and the ability to reason and see the bigger picture. This all sounds great, right? Well, this is also coupled with peer influence and intense emotions, which can make it difficult for your teen to navigate appropriate choices. This is where effective teen discipline can help.

Disciplining your teen is less about punishment, and instead focused on providing guidance and appropriate boundaries.  There are three key ingredients to successful teen discipline: logical and natural consequences, clear expectations and consistency, and open communication and loving relationships.

Recipe for Effective Teen Discipline


Logical & Natural Consequences

As teens are navigating adolescence, they are forming their own identities, values, and opinions. This journey can look like rebellion or push-back when it comes to adhering to parents’ expectations and rules. Most often, I see this when the teen doesn’t understand the reasoning behind how her parents choose to discipline, so they disregard it. This is why logical and natural consequences are critical to effectively disciplining your teen.

Logic dictates that the consequence relates to the misbehavior.  For example, when your teen misses curfew, a logical consequence is that she doesn’t have the opportunity to go out the next day, or maybe she has an earlier curfew. This can be presented in the framework of earning freedom through responsibility.

Natural consequences allow teenagers to experience the aftermath of their choices, without a parent’s interference. For example, when your teen doesn’t complete her homework this will result in failing the assignment.  It can be hard to be a bystander in this moment, but it ensures your teen understands the consequences of her choices.

*A note about cell phones: Restricting or limiting access to your teen’s cell phone should still be navigated by using logical and natural consequences. Phone misuse can, and should, result in consequences surrounding phone usage. For example, if your teen is on her phone past bedtime, a logical consequence is to restrict or limit access at night.  However, by using your teen’s phone as the only source of consequences, it creates a power struggle over phone usage, as opposed to guiding your teen to make healthier choices.

Clear Expectations & Consistency

In order to effectively implement logical and natural consequences with your teenager, it’s important to provide clear and concise expectations. Often, I hear parents use phrases like “show responsibility” or “get good grades,” but does your teen know how to achieve these expectations?  As a way to provide clear expectations, I encourage your family to discuss how your teen can show responsibility, and even define what you mean by “good grades.” This reduces confusion, negotiation in the moment, and conflict when expectations aren’t met.

Your expectations (and consequences) need to be consistent. This allows your teen to learn boundaries and provides a framework for him to understand the connection between his choices and consequences.

My esteemed colleague, Theresa Buch, MS, LPC, goes further in depth on the importance of clear expectations and consistency, while also highlighting how this can support parents in managing argumentative children and teens.

Open Communication and Loving Relationships

A loving relationship and open communication between parents and their teenagers are critical to the success of effective discipline strategies. Open communication gives your teen space to share her feelings, opinions, and learn healthy communication strategies. It’s important to note, that the goal of open communication isn’t that parents and teenagers need to agree, but rather it’s an opportunity for the teenager to feel validated while also learning how to navigate differences in opinions.

Most importantly, your teenager needs to feel loved and wanted in your home. Without this, discipline will feel like punishment.


If your family is struggling to implement effective discipline strategies, our family at North Shore Family Services is here to help.


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