Discipline Tips for Parents of Teenagers

Handling teenagers can be one tough job, especially when they’re demanding more independence and you just want to keep them safe.

Warren Cann from the Raising Children Network, says this need for autonomy is often the toughest hurdle for parents.

“Unfortunately you can’t just bundle them under your arm and haul them inside like you could when they were seven,” he says. “Your parenting strategies have to change and not recognising this is the biggest mistake.”

So how can you make sure you give your children the discipline they need without turning them against you?

Here are Warren’s tips.

Prevention is key

• Invest in the relationship as much as you can. It’s like a bank account. Paying attention, listening and showing acceptance are all deposits. Saying no and punishing them are withdrawals. The trick is to keep your relationship in the black.

• Realise that teenagers are going through the challenging time of development. They will be pushing for independence and can be clumsy about it. Avoid taking it personally. It’s not about you; it’s about them trying to grow up.

Understand that they’re going through changes

• Be involved in their life as much as possible so you can understand what they are going through. Just being the family taxi puts you in a position where you know what they are doing and who they are with.

• Don’t feel intimated about checking in, ringing parents and finding out about that party. Research has shown it is better to err on the side of being too strict than not being strict enough.

Build the right relationship

• Be a parent first, then a friend. Sometimes your children wants you to impose rules because it makes them feel valued and it’s easier to get out of tricky situations.

• Listen to them and take an interest in what they have to say and their hobbies. Showing your child that you value their opinion and who they are as a person can work wonders.

• Mutual trust and respect is important. Most children want to make you happy so express approval or praise rather than fall into the trap of being critical.

• Respect their privacy – young people need their own space. For example, knock before you go into their room.

Set rules and limits

• Parental monitoring is important during teenage years; it is a mistake to withdraw that prematurely.

• Teenagers need rules but they need to understand why they have them. Express your concerns and fears and they may be more likely to agree with you.

• Be prepared to compromise when negotiating house rules. The more you can say yes to things which are low risk, the better position you will be in to say no to those things you deem dangerous.

• Be reasonable with your rules and expectations. Times change. Don’t set rules just because it’s what you had to obey when growing up.

How to handle broken rules

• When rules are broken, there needs to be some consequence but this has to be carefully thought out.

• Don’t lose your cool and get into a screaming match – it’ll only make your teenager fight back.

• Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements.

Get Professional Help


Parentline: 132 289

Family Relationship Advice Line: 1800 050 321

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