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Learning About How to Teach Your Teen Self-Discipline

What are some tips?

While your teen tries to gain independence, they still rely on the limits you've set through discipline. Give your teen enough freedom to make their own choices and mistakes as they discover who they are. Here are some ideas you might try.

  • Use the good times to build trust.

    When things are going well, let your teen know how you care, how you trust them, and how you understand what it's like to be a teen. This lets them know that they can come to you when things aren't going their way. Find time to talk with and listen to your teen when there are few distractions. For example, talk to each other on a long car ride or during a walk.

  • Guide them, but let them decide.

    No matter how much you'd like to tell your teen what to do, it may be better to let them work through things on their own. That's how they gain the tools to make life's tough decisions. For example, maybe they are trying to decide whether to hang out with a new group of friends or what class to take at school. Offer support by asking questions and listening.

  • Set clear rules, and stay consistent.

    Rules teach your teen self-discipline. But make sure you're consistent with them. If you have a rule that says your teen must finish their homework before they can play games, you need to stay firm. If you bend the rules too often, you may be teaching your teen that rules aren't important. Don't let your teen talk you out of the rules, no matter how much they try, especially when the rules are about safety, values, and good habits. Remember that you're the parent. You can do this.

  • Help your teen understand the rules.

    The rules you set for your teen will likely be based on your values, culture, and background. These are different for every family. Your top priorities might be safety and health, while other parents or caregivers might feel more strongly about respectful relationships and caring for each other. Talk to your teen about what’s important to your family and set the rules together. Explain why you’ve set rules. Your teen is more likely to follow the rules, even when you’re not around, when they:

    • understands the rules
    • knows why the rules are in place
    • know what you expect from them
  • Talk with your teen about what happens if they break the rules.

    If your teen breaks the rules, decide what results (consequences) will best help them to understand what happened, be responsible for their actions, and learn self-control. Try to use the moment to help your teen learn from their choices. For example, if your teen stays out past curfew, you might start by setting an earlier curfew. If your teen breaks the rule again, you could take away their privilege of going out. Talk openly with your teen about the consequences and what your teen can learn from them. Remember, you’re trying to help your teen be responsible, not changing the consequences to make things easier for them.

  • Expect your teen to break some rules.

    It’s normal for your teen to break rules sometimes. In fact, breaking a rule can teach your teen why it was there in the first place. Encourage them to talk about what happened and why. These talks can help your teen learn to trust you and discourage them from keeping secrets or being sneaky.

  • Set realistic, helpful consequences.

    Don’t set consequences that are too harsh or that you can’t follow through on. For example, can you really stop your teen from leaving the house for a year? Or would taking away their phone for a week help them learn the lesson you’re trying to teach? Set consequences that:

    • are realistic
    • relate to what happened
    • affect only the person who has broken the rules
  • Model self-discipline.

    Leading by example is a valuable way to show teens why self-control is important. Your actions and attitudes can affect how your teen feels and behaves. Remember that you are your teen’s best role model for how to act, deal with tough situations, and practice self-control. Your teen learns self-discipline when they see you:

    • take care of yourself (exercising regularly, taking time for you, not smoking)
    • avoid temptations (making healthy choices as much as possible)
    • feel confident
    • work hard to reach your goals
    • be supportive of them and others
    • communicate in a clear way
    • act with reason
    Being a good example for your teen helps them get on the right path to becoming a positive, healthy, and fulfilled adult.

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