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Six Ways to Discipline Your Adopted Teen

It’s not our favorite part of parenting, but someone’s got to do it.

To say it’s one of the less thrilling aspects of parenting may be an understatement. We all love our kids, so it can be tough to be hard on them when we know that they need to be disciplined. It can be especially hard to discipline our adopted teens as we don’t want to push them away or risk having them angry with us. Barbara Greenberg, clinical psychologist known for her appearances on CNN, Good Morning America, and ABC’s Nightline, breaks down the best ways to discipline our teens to make it a little less painful for us (and for them).

As parents, we can likely all admit that it is easier to discipline our children the younger they are. Although temper tantrums can be brutal, time-outs, talking to our children, and enforcing consequences is a bit easier with the little ones. However, as our teens get older, we notice that they are more likely to hang on to bad feelings, more likely to confront or question us as parents, and even disobey us when we try to discipline them. So how can we enforce effective and healthy forms of discipline that teach teens while diffusing the situation? How can you discipline your teens who may be both bigger and louder than you are? Greenberg helps us find out.

The six best ways to discipline your adopted teen.

  1. Set up a contract of behavior. By giving your teen input on the expectations of behavior and the consequences when they aren’t met can be much more effective. Teens are more likely to participate in discipline when they feel that they had a say in it.
  2. Make punishments consistent and proportional to the infraction. When we are upset with our teens, it can be easy to make punishment a bit over the top to make sure that they don’t do it again. We assume that by making punishment daunting and dreadful it will certainly persuade teens from repeating the behavior. This can backfire on us though. If your teen takes out the car and comes home half an hour late then losing rights to the car for a day or two seems appropriate, but keeping them from the car and their friends and grounding them for a month is a bit over the top. Not only is it too much; it may lead your teen to resent you and less likely to obey your wishes in the future.
  3. Avoid shaming your teen. Shaming seems to be a new trend in parenting, but it’s also a dangerous one. Parents are posting videos in which they shame their teens for bad behavior. In Greenberg’s opinion, this simply leads to humiliation and a damaged relationship between teens and parents.
  4. Have your teens do repair work. This can be a very effective way to not just discipline your teen, but give them accountability for their actions. If your teen’s behavior led to a broken window, have them fix it. If they deserve discipline for bullying a younger sibling, have them do extra acts of kindness for a week. Make your teen responsible for their actions and it does more than just punish them.
  5. Try to not have an excessive number of rules. This can be tough, but remember to pick your battles. Remember that your end goals are to keep your child safe and happy, but also to keep your relationship positive and be someone that they can come to with problems and for advice. By enforcing a significant amount of rules, we become seen solely as disciplinarians, more than just parents. While it is important to distinguish between the role of friendship and parent, we don’t want our teens to only see us as the beacon of punishment.
  1. Your teen deserves compliments and positive reinforcement. This last item may seem a little counterintuitive for this list on discipline, but it’s important to remember. Disciplining our teens is about more than just punishing them, it’s about encouraging positive behavior and working towards their goals. Even if they shrug off your words of praise, they likely hear them and know that you care. Greenberg says through her clinical work with teens that she knows for a fact that teens want more than anything else to avoid disappointing their parents. So with this in mind when your teen is misbehaving, reminding them of their excellent behavior in another area can be a positive reinforcement they need to learn from their mistakes.

Content for this article was based on a column by Barbara Greenberg for the Huffington Post.

Three Points Center is a highly successful and sought-after program that specializes in treating troubled teens who are adopted. Our specialty allows us to hone in on problems affecting adopted teens and their families to help them heal and grow, rediscovering a better path in life. To find out more, call us at (435) 635-0636.