Top discipline mistakes parents of older kids make
How to get your tween and teen to behave, and achieve more harmony at home.
By GreatSchools Staff
As your child turns into a tween and then a teen, you may well wonder, “What happened to my sweet child?” She rolls her eyes, scoffs at your every utterence, and slams the door in anger when you dare ask what homework she has today.
And that’s on a good day. On the worst days, you may feel that all you do is scold, nag, and question. To make it more perplexing, suddenly the rules about discipline have changed. Research has found that kids respond differently to discipline as they grow, so what worked for your elementary schooler might backfire on your middle or high schooler.
While younger kids do best with positive feedback, older ones can and do respond to negative feedback. Developmental experts think this is because they are now able to deal with more complicated thought processes. “Oh, I did this incorrectly, and this is a better way to do it.” Conversely, younger kids only want to know the best way to do something.
While raising a teenager can be exhausting and sometimes dispiriting, this is no time to let down your discipline guard. The stakes are potentially much higher now, with the possibility of very grown-up issues like sex and drugs becoming a reality in your child’s life.
So if you can avoid these common mistakes and keep the lines of communication open with your teen, she will most likely come out the other end a strong and confident young adult.
1. Overdoing it
The problem: Your child comes home a half-hour late from a party, and you ground her. She gets a C on her report card, you ground her. She loses her wallet, again. You ground her. In fact, it seems like you spend most of your time meting out punishments. And no one is happy. You are exhausted by playing cop, and she feels defeated, resentful, and picked on.
Try this instead: As your child grows into her teens, you need to adjust your rules to fit her new level of maturity. You don’t have to punish her for every infraction. Sometimes it’s better to use a mistake to help her learn a life lesson — what’s popularly known as a teachable moment.
If she gets a speeding ticket, she’s probably already been frightened by having to deal with the police. So use the incident as a way to help her talk through what she did. And help her figure out how she’s going to make it right. For example, ask your child how she’s going to pay the ticket. This will help her start thinking for herself (and make her think twice the next time she is tempted to put the pedal to the medal!)