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How To Discipline A Teenager For Bad Behavior

A. People Are Starting To Be Creative

Hi, I'm Nicholeen and I'm actually an expert on parenting teenagers. For many years, we took troubled youth into our home to do treatment foster care. They were all between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. And we taught them how to govern themselves. 

Now, these children that came into our home had a variety of different issues that they were working through. And so, many things needed to be disciplined. What I'd like to share with you in this article is how to discipline a teenager for bad behavior. People are getting really creative with trying to teach their teenagers lessons.

In fact, I don't know if you've noticed but in recent years there have been some have shown some parents being pretty mean to their teenagers. Sometimes taking guns and blowing holes and devices and things like that just to try to teach their teenager how to behave themselves on a device, I guess.

You're going to have to forgive me for not using the word teenager probably very often throughout the rest of this article. And that's because I don't like the word teenager. I would rather call them youth or young man or young woman. And the reason why is because, before world war II, a youth, a young man, or a young woman were the terms that were always used to describe what we would now call teenagers. In fact, before world war II, the word teenager was a derogatory term that meant a child who was misbehaving not doing things properly. 

A youth that was not turning out if you know what I mean. So, I feel like it's more respectful to say youth. And that's just how I've trained myself to talk. So, we're still talking about people in their teenage years in this article. But I just want to prepare you for that. So, let's talk about some of the things that parents are doing right now to try to get their youth's attention. 

B. What Parents Do

So, some parents are taking things away. This is very common taking away car privileges, taking away phones or devices. Taking away all kinds of things to try to make their child feel the pain of missing something that the parent feels like that will make an impact on them or inspire them to make some sort of change. But when you take things away, that's actually just a power struggle. And it's manipulative, it feels like it. And it's going to encourage your youth to start fighting with you. Power struggles are not the way to discipline your youth. 

They need to have someone who is a good leader pointing the way not just trying to intimidate, cause them anxiety, fear, worry. Those things actually increase dishonesty which we definitely don't need during the years where they need to have open communication with us more than any other time. When I was a parent of the foster children, they were all between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. 

I did that for several years. And I learned a lot about those years of adolescence when the youth really need the direction the love and the bonding that comes from good parental communication and connection. Another thing that is not effective while parenting youth and disciplining youth is surprises. 

C. Surprises

I think parents love to surprise their children because of the shock value. They feel like if they can shock their child then possibly the child will be inspired to change because they won't know what's coming next. Surprises aren't good. In fact, they increase anxiety. If there's one thing we know right now in society it's that children, youth especially are struggling with anxiety and coping with anxiety more than ever before. Or maybe we just know about it more.

In fact, when they go through adolescence and puberty, their hormone levels are changing at such rapid rates that that alone increases their anxiety. So, why would we spend our time as parents trying to shock them? That doesn't help. In fact, the youth that came to my home had been in other placements where it had been more aggressive, more shocking and they weren't thriving. 

That's why they paid for higher-level care to bring them to a treatment home which was my home. And when things were planned and predictable and they understood what was expected of them and how things would be corrected and that no one was going to ever get angry, they had peace. 

They had trusted, they bonded, they opened up and their hearts changed. I am known for my teaching self-government program where I teach parents and children how to govern their own behaviors. Part of self-government is changing your heart. Desiring with your heart to be a different version of yourself than you currently are. 

Hoping for a better version to come out with adjustments. That's what happened to the youth that came to my home. I have four children of my own and all of them now have gone through adolescence. And so, I can tell you that what we are going to talk about with how to discipline youth in this article is going to be life-changing. 

D. Skills

There are 3 things that you need to pre-teach your youth. Number 1 is skills

They need to know the skills that will help them succeed. In our family, we teach youth 4 basic skills following instructions, accepting no answers, accepting consequences, and disagreeing appropriately. 

Each one of these 4 basic skills has a skill set attached to it. For instance, to accept a no answer or criticism, that's all the same skill. You look at the person, keep a calm face, voice, and body. Say, okay, or ask to disagree appropriately. And then drop the subject. 

How many times do you have to tell your youth "no" for something? Or how many times is there a boundary that they shouldn't cross? Many times. So, this skill comes in really handy. If they are pre-taught the skills before they ever need them, then they will be able to draw upon them to solve their problems. 

When problems occur just because I taught my children how to follow instructions accept no answers, accept consequences, and disagree appropriately, that doesn't mean they never had a problem. No. Their children are still their youth they're going to experiment with things and they are going to make mistakes. 

But I knew exactly the step to pinpoint when the problem occurred. And so did they. Because we already had pre-planned that these were the skills that we needed to use to govern ourselves and find the maximum amount of freedom. 

E. Corrections

The second thing that you need to pre-teach is corrections

So, how are you going to correct the children? They need to know that word for word. They need to know everything that you will say to them when it is time for them to have a correction. I tell my children, I will describe what happened, describe what should have happened, give you a rationale for why you should make that change. 

Tell you what you earned then allow you to accept your consequence, then we will practice things 3 times so that you get a lot of practice at doing things the right way then you'll get to do your consequence and all the way along I will praise you. We practice it. They pretend that they're me and we role-play it. And I'm the child and they do this with the correction skill. And then we switch it around and I'm the adult in there the youth and we practice and role-play that skill. 

They know it backward and forward. And I'm not afraid to use it. I use it all the time. Because of that, they're not afraid of corrections. They're not afraid of someone disciplining them. In fact, discipline is really best done by yourself. When a person learns self-government, they are self-disciplining themselves. 

So, really the best thing that parents can offer their children is a framework, which is a structure that tells the child, "This is when a correction needs to happen, now you need to discipline yourself. That's really the better way to think about correcting our children and helping them get through those troublesome negative behaviors that they stumble on from time to time. 

F. The Rule of 3

The third thing that we need to pre-teach our children is something called the Rule of 3

Now, I wish I could go into comprehensive teaching of this particular skill for you right now. We don't have time but I'm going to give you the premise of it. So, the rule of 3 is what we do when a child decides to go completely out of control. We call it out of instructional control in the teaching self-government program. What that means is a child is not willing to follow any instruction. So, let's say I give a child instruction but they don't want to do it. 

They don't keep a calm face voice and body. They don't say okay or disagree appropriately. They don't do any of those or they miss one, even just one of those 5 steps of following an instruction. At that point, I do a regular correction. Which I described to you earlier. 

If they don't choose to accept their negative consequence when I do that correction, then we start with something called the rule of 3. And it starts with a pre-teach. I say to them, "It seems to me that you might be out of instructional control." And I often tell them ahead of time, "I know you want to tell me something. I want to know what that is. We need to have a discussion about this. But we've got to choose to be calm first then we can talk about it." I have a cardinal rule. 

The cardinal rule is we will not discuss a problem until everybody is calm. That means me and them. Everyone must be calm. If you're not calm, then you're in the wrong part of your brain to sort out a problem or make plans for the future. You have to be in the front brain, in the prefrontal cortex to actually solve your problem well. And make an impact on future decisions. 

G. Calmness

The emotional part of the brain is mid and back

If you are in one of those areas, you're not going to accomplish anything by talking about it. So, then the direction I point is let's go to calmness. That's the whole reason that we do the rule of 3. 

The rule of three is basically something that we do to point the direction toward calmness. To get them calm and ready to discuss what needs to be corrected. So, we do 3 things, 3 times. We do a pre-teach, instruction, and then a correction. And they get the opportunity to earn 3 negative consequences during that interaction if they don't choose to do the steps (which are five steps) to follow instructions. 

So, basically, to stop the rule of 3 from happening and to stop those consequences from occurring, they just have to look at the person, keep a calm face voice and body,, say okay or ask to disagree appropriately, do the task immediately and then check back. after you do all the pre-teaching, then what's left is follow-through. You've got to be consistent. If you're not consistent with your youth, then they will manipulate you. 

They'll just start playing the system that you're giving them which is a little bit off. They'll say, "Is this a good day for mom or dad or is this a bad day? Do I have to behave today? Do I have to be respectful today? Do I need to connect with them today?" Consistency, follow-through. You've pre-taught all these things now do them. 

H.  Decided to love

The most important thing that you should remember through all of this, through your consistency, and through all of the teaching and correcting that you're going to be doing for these youth is your bond to them. Your relationship, your heart is calm, and feeling like everything's okay. You're feeling love toward them. Even though complete strangers came into my home for parenting, I decided to love, to deeply love them as if they were my own. 

That way, I could truly advocate for them having a change of heart. If you want them to have a change of behavior and a change of heart, your heart has to be in the right place first. So, make sure that you are bonding with them and not allowing yourself to be bugged by them. If you're bugged by them then you're in a selfish place, you're taking it personally and you will not be able to help them have the change of heart that they need. There are so many more things that I could share with you. 

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