One of the most asked questions youth workers get from parents is “How do I discipline my teenager?” Don’t worry, you are not alone; in fact this question has been evaluated for many years. Your teenager probably has learned to not show you the guilt they are feeling for the sin they have committed. This is normal. Proverbs 10:23 tells us to not make light of sin and Proverbs 3 tells us that the Lord disciplines those he loves. Some of you have given up completely, some of you are about to give up, and some of you are just looking for practical discipline ideas. No matter where you are on this spectrum, this post is for you so continue reading. You only have a few years left of providing boundaries that influence the growth and development of your teenager. Here are three tips for disciplining teens. These are not exhaustive but are meant to be a simple help in navigating discipline.
Consequences should fit the crime.
You don’t get a ticket from a police officer when you don’t pay your gas bill. If your teenager’s school gives them consequences, let them take their course. Don’t intervene to either minimize the consequences or add on consequences. If they have a general sense of disrespect towards you, create a respect plan and program that will put them through exercises of showing respect. This may sound cheesy but if you want them to understand responsibility and respect then they need to practice it while they are still in your home. We desperately want our students to show responsibility so they must connect responsibility to consequences.
Discipline doesn’t mean departure
Your teenager needs to know that when you are administering discipline, it doesn’t mean that you are leaving them, physically and/or emotionally. They need to know more than ever that your unconditional love is still present through the discipline process. Teenagers have so many people walk out on their lives these days; they need to know that you are not going to leave them. This can be done through verbal affirmation, a caring note, or a random text. So often youth pastors hear the statement, “if my parents find out, they are going to kill me.” We know this isn’t true but it does mean that they need more affirmation so they understand that their failures do not mean departure.
Annoying doesn’t always mean wrong
Teenagers are annoying; you understand that and so do we. You were annoying once too. But we love them; a lot. So often we lose our cool more than ever when they are just being annoying. Take the time to pray though each decision and decide if it is a sin issue or an annoying issue. Be intentional and exhaustive in your communication. The “because I said so” tactic doesn’t work much anymore and if you want them to learn responsibility they must understand the consequences of their sin.
Remember that through the entire discipline process God’s purpose for your life and your teen’s life does not change. Remind your teenager of this often. The way that you both deal with discipline situations can and will affect how the world sees Christ.