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Discipline & Teens


For many parents, dealing with a teenager is perplexing. Teenagers require special patience and wisdom. Here's help with some of the common concerns - particularly how parents can help make the school years more productive - from KNEA teachers.

Letting teenagers know you care
The fundamentals of good discipline include:

Setting standards
Don't assume children know what you expect. Tell them.

Apply those standards consistently
Show concern for the child 's self-esteem
The behavior may be unacceptable, but the child is still a worthwhile, loved human being. Make sure you say that. The particular needs of teenagers include:

Reasonable academic standards
The assumption is that teenagers need to be pushed, that they're not performing to ability. That's true for many. But others push themselves too hard, and that's just as damaging. You need to be sensitive to your child's abilities and attitudes.

Responsibility for their own actions
Painful as it may be for both children and parents, teenagers must accept the consequences of their behavior. When children have problems, it is tempting to rescue them. But teenagers are becoming adults; they must learn firsthand that we're all accountable for our actions. If a teen is in trouble parents often ask, "Where did we go wrong?" That question can only lead to blame and self-doubt. A healthier question is, "How can we help our child to go right?"

Sensing that their parents respect them
Even when you "know" your children are wrong, you must listen to them. Sharing feelings and reasons is essential to their well-being as well as to our understanding. If you stop listening, they'll stop talking.

Recognizing the impact of peer pressure
To many teenagers, their friends' views are more important than their parents' views. Downgrading those friends or their views usually drives the teenager even further away. On the other hand, don't relinquish your role and become "one of the gang." Children need responsible adults with high standards who care about their welfare. Respect the fact that peer pressure exists, but tell your children when you think that pressure is leading them in the wrong direction - and why.

Discipline and School: How parents can help understand the school's discipline code
Most districts have a written policy on discipline. It outlines unacceptable behavior and establishes penalties. Ask your child, or the school, for a copy. Read it. You gain the respect of your teenager and the school staff when you take an interest in the rules of behavior. Stress the importance of an orderly school environment. If your teen has a problem, contact the school. Both you and the school staff want what's best for your child. Be positive. Ask how you can help.

Encourage regular attendance
Understand the policies of the school. Sometimes academic standing is affected by absences. The school needs to know if there is a special problem. Check to see that your child makes up the work he missed when absent. Let your child know that his record will follow him and that employers put a high premium on regular attendance. Teachers recognize that frequent absences are often a sign of other problems. It's better to consult with both your teenager and the school before there's a need for them to contact you.

Attend parent-teacher conferences
Virtually every school conducts regularly scheduled conferences. Unfortunately, parents of teenagers often neglect these conferences. Don't. Look at conferences as an opportunity to:

  • Learn what will be happening in class that year and how you can help.
  • Provide information that will help the teacher work with your child.
  • Ask about the evaluation system. What do grades mean? How are they determined?

Work with teachers
Sometimes a particular concern arises and you would like to talk to an individual teacher. Do so! KNEA teachers welcome the interest and help of parents. Whether you or the teacher arranges that conference, remember: Contact the teacher first. If you feel the problem has not been resolved, ask for a joint conference with a guidance counselor or the principal. If you go over the head of the teacher, you are sending the wrong message to both the teacher and your child. A decision to include the child, or anyone else, should be a mutual one. Listen with an open mind. Share your feelings and concerns calmly. Remember that the goal is to resolve the problem, not to assign blame.


Working with teenagers is a challenge. Cooperation between the school and parents makes that job easier for everyone!


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