The Psychology of Teenage Discipline

teen discipline, scolding, reprimand, consequences, parentingThe teenage years are a time when the biggest power struggle can occur in most households.  On the one hand, there is a child who feels they should be given the keys to the Cadillac.  On the other side, there is a parent who is not ready to let their baby go.  Though most parents and teenagers are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum- I think you get the point.  Teenagers want to be free of their parents and parents have a hard time letting go.

With this in mind, the question then is how should discipline be handled?  This is a complex question but the point of this post is to give parents some insights and hopefully add to their “parenting tool belt.”

The first thing parents of teens should know is that they are not alone.  Many parents struggle with the same issues.  Just because there are problems in your household doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or you have a bad child.  As a matter of fact, I would worry a bit more if there wasn’t a clash.  Typically, a lack of clashes means one of two things.  Either a teenager doesn’t want to see beyond the walls of your home or the parent doesn’t set any boundaries and the teenager is running wild.  Both circumstances are dreadful.

With this in mind, here are a couple of thoughts to assist with the inevitable clash.

  1.  Parents have to feel the tension while letting the fishing line go.  Obviously, the ultimate goal for a parent should be to help their child be responsible while they are gaining their independence.  This could mean with school, friends, or life in general.  When a child demonstrates they are ready for the added responsibility, a parent has to be willing to give it.  The only time I want a parent to reel the child back in is if he/she demonstrates they are not handling the added responsibility very well.


For example, let’s say a teenager wants to extend their curfew from 11:00pm to midnight.  I might insist on letting this occur on a trial basis assuming that the 11:00pm curfew has been followed.  Obviously, if broken curfews are a problem, not only would I not extend it, I may even bring it back to 10:00pm or take away the privilege for a set period of time.  In the end, it really depends on how ready the child is to follow the expectation and accept the responsibility of being home on time.


  1. 2.      Parents should remember who’s in charge.  One of the policies I have with children of any age is that I refuse to argue.  I want children to vocalize their opinions respectfully and in return, I will be an attentive listener.  Nevertheless, my house is not a democracy.  I want all opinions to be respected but my opinion (along with my wife’s) trumps all others in the house.


One way I have achieved calmness with teens under tense moments is to keep my voice under control while holding firm to my convictions.  Parents who raise their voice are typically demonstrating a lack of control.  Now, if the parent isn’t under control, how can we expect the teenager to demonstrate control?  This strategy requires a lot of self discipline and patience.

Some parents really struggle raising their teenagers and that is unfortunate.  Teens are a lot of fun to work with and discipline doesn’t have to be as “intense” as some parents make it.  No matter what the problems may be, understanding the psychology of the moment is almost as important as the moment itself.   I wish you well with your teenagers.

Feel free to follow up with questions at  Also, please stop by my website every Tuesday and Friday to learn some more helpful parenting tips at  Finally, I have written a parenting book called Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures which goes much deeper into the psychology of working with children along with a lot of real life examples to help every parent on their journey.  Trust me when I say you haven’t had as much fun learning how to raise a child as you will reading my book.  Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures can be purchased through my website or  Best wishes to you and your family!


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  1. 10/14/11: Articles for Parents This Week | Radical Parenting - October 14, 2011

    […] The Psychology of Teenage Discipline Author of the parenting book, Tantrums, Troubles and Treasures, help parents better handle discipline with their teens. […]

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