These days, it seems that children, and especially teenagers, are growing up too fast. The early teen years are an express route to a world of adult decisions and responsibilities, which often results in teens who are undisciplined and out of control. Though some of this can be blamed on the culture and world that we live in, a lot of these problems can be attributed to poor parenting. In today’s world, many parents are too afraid to discipline their children. Rather than letting their child feel the pain of the consequences of their actions, parents rush in to rescue them and soften the blow, which only leads to more poor decisions in the future.
Why are parents afraid to discipline their children? There are a few main reasons. The most common reasons are:
- They are afraid of harming their child’s self-esteem. Parents’ fear that pointing out their child’s mistakes and letting them suffer with the consequences of their decisions will make them feel bad about themselves. They feel sadness and pain at the thought of watching their child suffer in this way.
- They do not want to risk the quality of their relationship. Some parents worry that disciplining their child will damage their relationship and cause them to lose their child’s love and adoration.
- It is too much work. Enforcing rules and doling out consequences requires a lot of effort, energy, and determination. Some parents simply do not want to put forth the effort.
Create Working Relationships
The foundation of success for teenage children is undoubtedly a positive, working relationship with their parents. Parents and teens struggle to relate to one another today. Parents often worry about taking an authoritative role with their teens, and consequently end up trying to be a friend and trying to be well liked, rather than trying to be a parent. Parents need to foster working relationships with their teenagers by being a leader.
There are two main goals that parents should have in regard to creating a relationship with their teens. The first is to be credible. Parents who lecture, lay guilt trips, or make empty threats quickly lose all credibility. Parents who employ these tactics often realize that their teen’s behavior worsens, rather than improves. It does not take long for teens to realize when their parent is all talk but no action.
Parents also need to work to be respected. Respect cannot be demanded. Rather, it must be earned. It is easy to earn your child’s respect if you respect yourself and respect your child. Respect begets respect. If you demonstrate through your actions that you and your child are worthy of being treated well, spoken to kindly, and trusted to act independently, your child will develop respect for you as a person, and as a parent.
Balancing Love with Discipline
At first glance, a world without discipline may seem peaceful and copacetic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A world without discipline is often wrought with conflict. Teens do not care how they behave, because even their poorest decisions are not met with consequences. Parents tiptoe carefully around their child’s emotions and behaviors, feeling helpless to control their child or change their family dynamic. Fact is, a lack of discipline has a negative impact on the family as a whole.
One of the biggest goals of parenting is to learn how to balance love and discipline. This may seem impossible, but with hard work and commitment, parents who are determined to achieve this goal can do so successfully. The first step is to lay a foundation of love in your family. A loving family dynamic is built on support, trust, and affection. Your teen should know that you love him unconditionally, and that you see him as a person, rather than as the sum of his decisions.
Parents should build on the foundation of the loving relationship with their children by talking to their children, and letting them know how much you care about their safety, as well as their success. Talk about what behaviors are acceptable, and which are threats to their safety or their success in life. Discuss the consequences of those actions and let your child know that they will deal with the consequences if they decide to make a poor decision.
Remember that the goal in discipline is not to raise a robotic teenager who always makes the “right” decision, but rather to mold your child into a responsible, thoughtful, and caring adult. This takes time and effort, but it is always worthwhile.
Gaining your child’s trust is the first step toward your goal of balancing love and discipline. Remember that trust is a two way street. In order for your teen to trust you, as a parent, you must demonstrate that you trust your teen. This can be difficult, especially if your teenager is poorly behaved or has made bad decisions in the past. However, there are steps that you can take to rebuild the trust between you and your child.
- Communicate with your child. If a particular incident is responsible for breaking your trust, talk about it. Decide, together, how you will move past that incident. If your relationship is suffering from a general lack of trust, talk about ways that you two can reconnect.
- Talk about behaviors that build trust. This is important for both parents and teens. Parents learn to trust their teenagers when their teens behave responsibly, do well in school, complete their chores, and connect with the family. Likewise, teens learn to trust their parents when they are available to listen without judgment, provide sound advice without nagging, and allow their teen the independence to make their own decisions.
- Reinforce the positives. When you notice that your teen is behaving in a way that deserves trust and recognition, acknowledge it. A simple “Thank you,” or a hug, goes a long way toward letting your teen know that you are paying attention to their efforts.
As a parent, it is your job to implement consequences for your teen. This can be difficult to do, but it is important in terms of encouraging desirable behavior in your teen and creating a loving and trusting environment within your family. By implementing consequences, and discussing them in advance, your teen knows what to expect when they misbehave. By following through with those consequences, you are demonstrating your credibility and demanding respect.
Some parents implement fines for certain behaviors. This may be the loss of allowance for bad behavior, or a predetermined monetary fine for certain discretion’s, such as cursing or disrespectful backtalk. Other parents elect to restrict access to various belongings, such as the cell phone, computer, or even the car. These consequences work best when the teen’s poor behavior is related to these items, such as irresponsible driving, or going over their limit on their phone.
Of course, the traditional disciplines of grounding the teen or taking a “teen and parent” time out can still work well. Grounding can be performed in terms of restricted activities (no sports practice or no visits to a friend’s house for a certain period of time), or until certain chores or behaviors are being performed consistently. Using time out on a teen is much different than using a time out on a younger child. Calling a time out with your teen is most effective early on during an argument or disagreement, when emotions are running high. By taking a time out, your teen can step away, process their emotions, and gather their thoughts. This will allow you to have a calm, rational discussion about the situation in the near future, after the time out is over.
In some cases, however, it is important to let your child deal with the natural consequences of their decisions. In fact, this may be the most effective discipline approach for some teens. Resist the urge to step in and rescue your child from their choices. Parents who always try to “make things all better” often make things worse, because their child never experiences the pain and disappointment that accompany bad decisions.
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