A parent’s job is never done. Bad behaviour doesn’t end when your child graduates from potty training or even from primary school. In fact, the teen years can bring some of the toughest challenges for parents to face.
Sulking, arguing, rebelling, lying and back-talk are just some of the ways teens misbehave. There is a good reason for these bad teen behaviours. As a teen becomes more independent, they still lack the emotional maturity needed to make informed decisions. This is because the parts of the brain responsible for decision making and impulse control haven’t yet fully developed. It is this combination of autonomy and immaturity which can lead to risky teen behaviour, like drinking, smoking or unprotected sex.
Parents want their children to do things right but disciplining a teen isn’t straightforward. When they talk back, you can’t give them a time out like you did when they were toddlers. In order to effectively discipline your teen, you will need to make a few adjustments to your parenting strategies.
Here are some simple tips which should help you gain more control over your kids:
Set clear rules. As your child gets older and becomes more independent, they will start pushing boundaries to see how their parents will respond. It’s important to set clear and determined rules, as well as defined consequences for breaking those rules. For instance, the punishment for missing their curfew might mean that your teen has to stay home next weekend.
You will meet with far less resistance if you involve your kids in setting the rules and establishing consequences. However, remember that you will have the final say.
Put it in writing: This will help ensure that there are no misunderstandings. Create a formal list of house rules or type up a behaviour contract that you both have to sign.
Examples of clear set rules include: Curfew is at 8 P.M. on weekdays and 10 P.M. on weekends. There will be no leaving the house until after homework is finished. Anyone who breaks one of these rules won’t be allowed out for a day. If your kids break one of the rules, all you have to do is point to the list.
Be firm and consistent: It’s important to bear in mind that teens are adept at negotiating and manipulating. They are also very good at spotting any sign of parental weakness. If you give into their pleas once, they will expect the same treatment every time they break the rules.
Being consistent about teen discipline means, both parents need to present a united front. If one parent always says ‘yes’ and the other says ‘no’, your teen is going to know exactly which parent’s mind can be changed!
While it’s important for parents to be firm, it’s also important to be fair and understanding. A little empathy will go a long way when it comes to disciplining teens.
It’s also important to know which rules are important to you as you want to be consistent, but not harsh. It’s okay to give in to the little things every once in a while, provided that it isn’t dangerous. For example, dyed hair might not appeal to you, but it isn’t harmful behaviour. Drug and alcohol use are obviously non-negotiable.
Be a good role model: If the rule is "No swearing," and you use swear words in the home, then you are giving your child an incentive to copy your behaviour. The best way to encourage positive teen behaviour is to model them yourself.
Teach responsibility: An important part of parenting teenagers is to teach them how to make positive decisions. Teenagers need to learn that every choice they make comes with a consequence.  It’s important to have open dialogue with your children about some of the long-term consequences that risky behaviours can have, including drug abuse, pregnancy, drunk driving and smoking.
It’s essential that parents also understand that no matter how well prepared their children are, that they will still make mistakes every so often. The important thing is to show them how to learn from those mistakes.
Stay involved: It stands to reason that one of the best ways to prevent teen bad behaviour is to know what is going on in your kid’s lives. You don’t need to spy on your teens or listen in on their phone conversations; you just need to be an involved and interested parent. Ask what they are planning on doing when they go out, where they are going and who they are going with.
Being a parent who is involved also means watching out for any signs that your child is in trouble. Signs which could indicate this could include; skipping school, gaining or losing lots of weight quickly, having trouble sleeping, mood swings or having problems at school.
If you do notice any of these signs, you should contact your GP for advice.
In order to get your children to open up you about their problems, it is essential that you create an environment of honesty and respect. Let your child know that you will always love and support them, no matter what they do.