Early and Midadolescence (Ages 9–15)
For most parents, more frequent and more serious discipline problems begin during the first two stages of adolescence. For example, your son or daughter may start “forgetting” unwanted obligations, become more argumentative, test limits and rules, ignore schoolwork, delay compliance with chores, experiment with the forbidden, sneak out after hours, and lie, to name a few of the unwelcome changes that commonly occur at this more oppositional age.
In response, you need to use a variety of disciplinary responses to convince your adolescent to do what you want, and to discourage your adolescent from continuing to do what you don't want.
There are four common strategies that can influence the kind of behavior you would like to see. First, use guidance as a persuasive technique. Through giving continual feedback to your adolescent about what is working well and not so well in his or her life, you provide a constant, caring reference for constructive conduct.
If he misbehaves significantly, he should know that, regardless of what other consequences he suffers, he will always receive a good talking-to that will last as long as it takes for you to state everything you want to say on the subject. Your continual feedback operates as a compass to guide responsible decision-making.
When you give instructional discipline, keep it specific by focusing on the behaviors you want or do not want to have happen. When you give corrective discipline, keep it non-evaluative: “I disagree with the choice you have made, here is why, and this is what needs to happen in consequence.”
Second, close supervision is effective discipline. Through nagging and checking you will make sure that your adolescent is taking care of her responsibilities at home and at school, and you will use your relentless power of insistence to wear down your teenager's resistance to carrying out tasks you have asked to be done.
Third, provide structure by setting rules — but only ones that you care enough about to back up with punishment if they're violated. Punishment is not for undone chores or homework. Those are supervisory matters.
Punishment is for major rule violations, meant to catch the teenager's attention, cause the teenager to think about the violation, and discourage the teenager from repeating it again. Having to do something to work off the infraction (reparation) tends to be a more powerful corrective than simply losing a privilege or freedom (deprivation).
And last, use exchange points to acknowledge the teenager's dependence on parents for a host of resources, permissions, and services that the parent may withhold until the non-cooperative teenager relents and does what the parent has asked. The parent is basically saying, “I am happy to do for you what you want, but before I do, I want you to do something for me.”
These four disciplinary interventions have larger social lessons to teach. Throughout adult life there will be authorities telling the child what to do and what not to do, keeping after the child to see these demands are met, expecting cooperative contributions from the child, and punishing infractions if social rules are violated. Family experience approximates what it will be like living in the larger social system for your child.