Are you dealing with teenagers who don’t take responsibility for their actions?
You’ve tried every method you can think of to curb their bad behavior and discipline them, but nothing seems to work.
You may have tried taking away their phones, grounding them, or giving them extra chores.
But this has only led to more defiant behavior and attitude from your teens.
It’s a frustrating situation to be in.
But as parents, we have to understand that correcting our teens’ behavior goes beyond punishment.
In this article, I’ll explain some effective strategies to help you discipline a teenager who doesn’t care about consequences.
(Make sure to download your free quick action guide below.)
Types of consequences that work
How do you discipline your teenagers?
It’s natural to become angry when they do something wrong. But this will cloud your judgment when you’re dealing with rebellious teenagers.
Refrain from yelling at your teens in a moment of anger. Instead, pause and reflect on the reasons behind their actions and on how you can help them learn from their mistakes.
There are two types of consequences that are most effective in helping your teens learn from their poor choices:
- Natural consequences
- Logical consequences
Other types of consequences are rarely helpful.
Natural consequences are outcomes that occur naturally as a result of your teenagers’ actions or decisions.
On the other hand, logical consequences are consequences that require your intervention. These consequences are directly related to your teens’ actions and show your teens the lesson they need to learn.
We’ll explore examples of natural and logical consequences later in this article.
Why constant arguing can further hurt your teenager
When your teens make a mistake or misbehave, do you yell at them? How often do heated conflicts break out?
Constant arguments and shouting matches will strain your relationship with your teens.
This makes it harder for them to talk to you about their emotions and struggles. As a result, they’ll be less likely to turn to you for support and advice.
Research studies have also demonstrated the importance of a close parent-teen relationship.
Teenagers who have better relationships with their parents are more likely to have better mental health as young adults. They’re more optimistic and are less likely to be depressed.
It’s important to correct and teach your teens, but the methods you use shouldn’t put a lasting strain on your relationship with them.
10 strategies for handling a difficult teen
It’s frustrating when your teens still misbehave and break the rules despite your efforts to discipline them.
Punishing them for their mistakes doesn’t guarantee that they’ll learn to respect boundaries. In fact, it might lead to your teen shutting you out.
So here are 10 strategies you can use instead to handle a difficult teen:
1. Communicate in an honest and open manner
Start a conversation focused on solving the problem, and let your teen be part of the decision-making process.
If your teen has been displaying several problematic or risky behaviors, tackle just one issue at a time.
Avoid being a parent who sets all the rules and boundaries without considering your teen’s opinions. Instead, make it a point to listen attentively to his or her feelings and concerns.
Maintain eye contact, avoid interrupting, and be honest (but gentle) in sharing your thoughts and emotions.
The discussion should help you and your teen agree on reasonable house rules and consequences for breaking those rules.
2. Be empathetic and understanding
An open line of communication with your teenagers allows you to learn more about their struggles. For example, they may be facing issues related to self-esteem or bullying.
It’s a good idea to reflect on any possible underlying unmet needs that have led to their bad behavior. Their actions could be a call for attention. Or maybe they crave more space and freedom.
It might not solve the problem right away. But understanding the “why” behind their actions will enable you to relate to and empathize with them.
3. Set clear expectations
Your teens can’t follow rules that are vague.
Discuss appropriate boundaries with your teens, and help them understand the reasons behind them. Make the rules as specific as possible.
For example, avoid saying something vague like, “Don’t be back too late.”
Instead, you could say something like, “Please be home before 9 p.m. on weekday nights and 11 p.m. on Saturday nights.”
You should also be clear about the consequences of breaking the rules. It would be good to have the rules and consequences written down or printed out.
4. Be consistent
Your teenagers won’t take your rules seriously if you don’t enforce them.
When you’ve set a rule and a consequence for breaking it, make sure you follow through.
Teenagers might try to take advantage of the situation if one parent is firm while the other parent isn’t. Try to ensure that you and your parenting partner are on the same page.
5. Allow natural consequences to take place
The saying “once bitten, twice shy” comes into play here.
Most of the time, your teens will learn best when they experience the natural consequences of their actions.
Natural consequences don’t require your involvement. As long as the consequences don’t lead to safety concerns, it’s best to avoid stepping in.
For instance, if your teenage son forgets to bring his basketball jersey to school, don’t bail him out by bringing the jersey to school for him. He might not get to play in the basketball game, but at least he’ll learn a valuable lesson.
(Of course, I’m not saying that you should never be kind or gracious to your teens!)
6. Create logical consequences
Like we talked about earlier, logical consequences are consequences that are directly related to your teens’ choices and lead your teens to learn a specific life lesson.
An illogical consequence would be taking away your daughter’s phone because she insulted a teacher.
Another illogical consequence would be giving your son extra chores to do because he received a string of bad grades.
These punishments rob your teens of the opportunity to learn and mature.
In contrast, logical consequences encourage teenagers to take responsibility for their actions.
For instance, you might be forced to restrict your daughter’s screen time if she spends too much time on her devices instead of doing her schoolwork.
Or if your son accidentally damages your neighbor’s car because he was playing soccer in the front yard, then he might need to pay for the damage and write an apology letter.
7. Provide choices
When setting consequences, try to provide your teens with options. Having your teens pick the consequences will make them more likely to accept the consequences.
For example, the consequence of coming home past their curfew could be getting grounded for the weekend. The alternative option could be having an earlier curfew for the following month.
8. Provide positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement encourages and acknowledges good behavior.
You can apply this principle in the following ways:
- Giving your teenagers more freedom
- Appreciating them for being responsible
- Increasing their privileges
Research has demonstrated that recognizing good behavior is essential for a teenager’s development.
9. Be a role model
You’re shaping your teens’ values and character by modeling the right behavior.
Here are some ways to be a good role model for your teens:
- Take full responsibility for your mistakes.
- Apologize when you make a mistake.
- Never blame others when things don’t go your way.
- Practice what you preach. (Teens can spot hypocrisy a mile away!)
- Always follow through on your commitments and promises.
10. Seek professional help
If your teen continues to break the rules and display rebellious behavior despite your best efforts, it’s time to get professional help.
Getting professional help doesn’t mean that you’ve failed as a parent!
Sometimes, an underlying condition, like anxiety or ADHD, could be the cause of your teen’s challenging behavior.
(I offer this 1-to-1 coaching program for teens, and I’d be happy to help your teen to get on the right track.)
I’m confident that these 10 tips will help you deal with your teenager who doesn’t seem to care about consequences.
The first step is to reflect on how you react to your teen’s poor behavior.
It’s easy to say or do things in a moment of frustration that can scar your teen permanently.
So take it one tip and one day at a time.
With patience and persistence, you’ll learn how to correct your teens and connect meaningfully with them too!
(If you have trouble getting your teen to listen to you, download the free quick action guide below.)