Written by Kristi Spence, LMFT-C
Do you ever get tired of yelling at your teen? Or maybe you feel like the only punishments you know how to administer are either a grounding or taking his or her phone away? While you may feel like your teen has a superpower in rebelling, there are several ways that you can discipline him or her which will teach your teen responsibility, while also maintaining a positive relationship between the two of you.
The first steps to disciplining your teen include: (also considered “basic” disciplining methods):1) polite requests, 2) “I” messages, and 3) firm reminders. Let me dive into these.
- Polite requests
A polite request is exactly how it sounds: calmly and politely asking your teen to change behavior. We will use taking out the trash as an example. A polite request would sound like, “Honey, from now on when you notice the trash can is full, would you please take it out to the bin?” If your teen agrees, add a “thank you.”
While it may seem ridiculously simple, sometimes parents let problems fester and skip over giving polite requests and instead jump to yelling and lecturing (“Why doesn’t anyone help me with the trash?! How can you be so lazy?? You need to take out the trash when you see it’s full!”) Start with a polite request, and encourage any changes you see!
- “I”- messages
Of course, changing behavior is hard, and your teen may neglect to make the change you have politely asked of him or her. This is where “I” messages come in. A good “I” message involves identifying the behavior you want to be changed, saying how you feel about the situation, stating your reasons behind your request, and again making clear what you want your teen to do. For example:
- “I have a problem with you not taking out the trash as I asked.”
(Situation you want to be changed)
- “It makes me feel taken advantage of…”
(Sharing your feelings about the situation)
- “…because I’m the only one taking out the trash that belongs to all of us.”
(Stating your reason)
- “When you notice the trash is full, I would like you to take it out.”
(Saying what you want to be done)
To make an “I” message most effective, make sure you focus on the behavior you dislike, as opposed to commenting on the teen’s character–don’t refer to your teen as lazy or irresponsible. Additionally, when you share your feelings, try to share a feeling other than anger. Common feelings are frustration, fear, and hurt, and your teens are more likely to understand you when you talk about these emotions.
- Firm reminders
The final “basic” discipline skill is a firm reminder. After you have given a polite request, an “I” message and your teen still hasn’t changed their behavior, you can deliver a calm, clear, and concise reminder of what you have asked them to do. An example of a firm reminder is this: “Trash. Now, please.”
Keep your firm reminder in as few words as possible in order to avoid lecturing. Additionally, don’t forget to add a “thank you,” if your teen completes the tasks! Even though they forgot, and even if they had a negative attitude while doing it, your positive recognition will encourage them to keep up with the changes.
Wrapping it up
With these three discipline techniques for teens: polite requests, “I” messages, and firm reminders, you do not have to raise your voice when trying to discipline your teen! Remember, though: these are “basic” discipline methods. If you are experiencing more serious problems with your teenager, “advanced” discipline methods might be more effective for you. Stay tuned for my next blog in which I discuss the “advanced” discipline methods for teens.
Kristi Spence, LMFT-C
Legacy Counseling Services, PLLC
Legacy Counseling Service of Broken Arrow offers family counseling and counseling for parents who are wanting to gain skills to enhance their relationship with their teen or pre-teen through family therapy or through my upcoming 4-week workshop, Active Parenting of Teens (https://legacycounselingservices.com/services/active-parenting-of-teens/)Contact us today at www.legacycounselingservices.com if you are interested in setting up an appointment or registering for the workshop.