Parenting is a lifetime gig. Once you’re through the sleep deprived younger years, it’s time to tackle the highs and lows older kids and teens can bring. Little people, little problems. Bigger people, bigger problems. To help you out, we’ve checked in with the parenting pros on how to navigate this tricky time in your kid’s life.
Many of the discipline strategies that work for younger children — such as encouraging positive behavior and responding to misbehavior — can also be applied to older children. For example, when responding to positive behavior we still want to give older children rewards, such as specific praise, physical affection, tangible rewards, and your time.
Some of the strategies covered in Family Man, such as giving stop-start instructions, are applicable for older children. However, others such as time-out, aren’t appropriate for older children or teens.
When tackling misbehavior in younger children it’s best to be calm, consistent and quick, and keep things quiet and boring. With older children, the same principles apply, but we no longer have time-out as a discipline strategy.
The steps for older children are:
These consequences are linked to the problem behavior.
Logical consequences work best when they are brief and reasonable, and there is opportunity for the child to show the correct behavior.
It is not always possible to find a consequence that fits the misbehavior. You might need to take away privileges instead.
You might have already tried this one. Have you ever removed privileges, such as the use of the phone, or television or another electronic device, as a consequence for misbehavior?
This approach can be effective, but works best when it is a ‘task specific’ consequence.
What do we mean exactly? A task specific consequence is when your child needs to achieve or practice a targeted behavior in order to earn back their privileges.
Let’s use an example. Say your child doesn’t make their bed, and it’s a household rule to have a clean room. Your child is allowed to play on the Xbox for 30 minutes a day, so as part of the consequence, you decide to reduce their Xbox privileges to 15 minutes a day until they are able to show that they can make their bed for 3 days in a row, after which you will increase their time back to 30 minutes. If they continue not making their bed, you may take the Xbox privileges away completely, until they are able to demonstrate 3 days in which they consistently make their bed.
Like logical consequences, taking away privileges works best when they are brief and reasonable. If the privilege removal is too harsh (e.g., loss of Xbox for a week) then it tends to not work so well, as there is no incentive for your child to show the correct behavior.
Here’s another idea to try. Behavior contracts are designed to motivate positive behavior. They are a good strategy for persistent or ongoing misbehavior. These are clear contracts in which goal behaviors, motivators for good behavior, and consequences for misbehavior are clearly outlined. Behavior contracts work best when developed together with your child or teen, and should be frequently reviewed.
Think your child or teen is too young to be dealing with contracts already? Think again.
You’ll want to get them involved in the process though. This ensures they fully understand the rewards and consequences for following or not following the contract. They should also be involved in deciding on these. This gives them ownership of the document.
Make sure to write the behavior contract down – this will make it easier to follow and enforce. Below are some steps to follow, and an example of what a behavior contract might look like.
These are my goals:
These are my consequences if I don’t meet my goals:
These are my motivators/rewards if I do meet my goals:
My contract will be reviewed on:
Having hormonal teens in the house is no walk in the park. As children move into adolescence, there are unique physical changes occurring. These changes create an increased desire for independence. They also result in increased emotional sensitivity. In other words, it is likely that there will be times when adolescents push boundaries and have what seem like ‘over the top’ emotional reactions. Both of which may lead to increased conflict and tension within the home. Fun times.
It’s common for parents to worry about responding to misbehavior when their children reach this stage. Some adjustments are needed when it comes to discipline approaches.
The strategies above for older children can also be applied to teens.
Here are some things to try.
Start with clear expectations for behavior and a good relationship:
Examples of activities for this age group might include going for walks, visiting a museum or gallery, watching a movie together and discussing it afterwards, taking an art class, baking a new recipe, visiting a dog park together, or working in the garden.
When problems occur, follow these steps with your teen:
If you’re worried about your teenager’s misbehavior or it’s having an impact on the family, it might be time to consider professional help. If you are worried about alcohol or drug use, or escalating behaviors at school, try contacting the school counselor in the first instance. They might provide some additional strategies and suggestions for managing the situation.
Whether you’re dealing with a tween or a teen, it’s about learning to ride the highs and lows that come with this stage of your child’s life. As your kids get older your relationship with them shifts and changes. The activities you can do together grows as well. This can mean fun times and also some challenges ahead. Try the expert-backed tips above and hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
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