Appropriate Punishments for Teenagers

Gabrielle Applebury
Father speaking with teen daughter

It can be really frustrating for a parent or parents to figure out appropriate rules and consequences for their teenager. Ideally consequences should aim to teach your teen about insight, self regulation, and self control.

Start by Setting Boundaries

It's important to think about yourself as the parental figure, the rule setter, and the maintainer of family balance within the household. These roles are not appropriate for your teenager to fulfill, and if they end up doing so, the family unit ends up becoming unhealthy. Once you have established that you are in charge, continue to maintain this position by being consistent. If you are raising your teenager with another parental figure, you both will need to be aligned in terms of your household rules and regulations.

Lead by Example

After establishing boundaries and maintaining the mentality that you are the head of the family, instead of a buddy, it's best to show your teenager what appropriate behavior looks like. If you make a mistake, use it as a teaching example for your teen. Explain your thought process, your emotional experience, and how you've reconciled the situation. Be sure that you pick appropriate examples to share with your teen and nothing too heavy or serious.

Choose Appropriate Consequences

In thinking about consequences be sure that they are age appropriate and not too extreme. Try to put yourself in your teen's position and think about how you would react to the punishments you are enforcing before officially doing so.

Being Disrespectful

It is typical for a teen to be disrespectful at least once in a while. In doing so, they are experimenting with their independence and boundary pushing. This is a normal part of them separating from their parental units and establishing themselves as adults. Speak with them in a calm, rational way about why it's important to be respectful and ask them if they've ever experienced a time where they felt disrespected. If a conversation is not enough, you can consider taking away a small privilege such as phone or tv use for a block of time. If that doesn't work, up the amount of time without the privilege.

Breaking Curfew

If your teenage breaks curfew, first find out why. It's important to help your teen learn how to slow down their thought processes and note what led them to make that decision. Really dig into this until it's clear that they understand why they made this choice. Teens tend to be impulsive and have difficulty thinking through their choices so you can expect them to make several more of these fast acting decisions. Because breaking curfew tends to impact the trust between a parent and child, think about some ways they can earn this back. This can include:

  • Running errands for you that need to get done
  • Helping out with a pet or sibling
  • Doing some chores

The next time your teen goes out, have them text you to check in a few times so you can begin to rebuild the trust between you. Be very clear about what times you will need to hear from them.

woman looking at her watch

Physical Altercation or Bullying

If your teen is getting involved in physical altercations or is caught bullying another child, it is really important to look at your own behavior first. Think about if you've sent them any sort of message that could have promoted this type of behavior. If so, it's critical to acknowledge your own behavior and know that there is time to help your teen shift their mentality towards violence and bullying as well.

  • Speak with your teen about the importance of treating peers with kindness and try to help them understand why they are acting this way.
  • Show them that bullying is never okay and that there are other ways to communicate their feelings.
  • Use journaling or emotional check-ins as a consequence for their behavior.

Everyday have them journal or do a verbal check in with you regarding their feelings, and how their feelings impacted a few decisions they made that day before they can access something they like such as their phone, car, computer, or television.

Poor Grades

If your teen is getting bad grades, speak to them about why they think this is happening. They may need a tutor, or some extra help with a certain subject. If they don't need help, but are choosing to slack off, you can monitor their homework and studying at home. Set aside a certain amount of time like an hour or two where they must be studying before they can do or have something they like. This will also help them establish a good routine and studying habits that can benefit them as an adult.

Match the Punishment With the Misbehavior

Raising a teenage is really challenging and at times can test your patience. Remember to approach rules and consequences with empathy and consistency, and don't be afraid to reach out to friends, family members, or counselors for extra support.

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Appropriate Punishments for Teenagers