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Parenting Problem: How Do I Discipline My Out-of-Control Teen?

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How Do you Discipline Difficult Adolescents?

If you're a parent and your teenager is angry, wild, or out-of-control, how do you discipline him or her with consequences that help? Our parenting expert, Marney Studaker-Cordner, is sharing her advice from her book, The Whipped Parent.


How to Choose a Consequence

Things to consider when choosing a responsive consequence:

1. Are you responding to your adolescent while you're emotional?

If you're feeling angry, hurt or frustrated, wait until later to choose the consequence. You can let your adolescent know by saying,

"I'm upset right now and need time to determine how I'm going to respond to your behavior. I'll let you know when I've decided what I'm going to do."

2. Is the consequence fair?

Does it fit the severity of the behavior? You may want to come back to this question after reading Chapter Thirteen on exaggerating and minimizing.

3. Has your adolescent already received a consequence?

It may be unnecessary for him to be given a second consequence. For example, if your child swore at the teacher, he probably already experienced a natural consequence, like school detention. Is it necessary to provide a responsive consequence yourself?

4. Have you developed a fail-proof consequence?

When developing a fail-proof consequence, it may be helpful to think about what your teen likes,or things he wants and asks for. Fail-proof consequences are very difficult to come up with when you deal with someone like Jack (He's mentioned in earlier chapters.). You might be able to find only one or two effective consequences. If that's all you have, use it carefully and consistently.

How to Develop a Fail-Proof Consequence

1. Start by selecting a consequence you think may be fail-proof.

Be specific. What is the exact length of time the consequence will be given for? When will it start and end?

2. Now, check it, to see if it is fail-proof.

List the possible reactions your adolescent may have to this consequence. List all you can think of, covering as many scenarios as possible. If you choose to respond to his behavior of breaking curfew by not giving him rides anywhere for the week, what might he do in response? Hitchhike? Steal your car and drive himself? Steal someone else's car? Walk?

3. Do you still have control over the consequence?

After each of your adolescent's possible reactions ask yourself if you still have control over this consequence. Remember, you can control only your own behavior, so if the consequence depends on your adolescent going along with it, it isn't fail-proof... (to read more advice on consequences go to page 94.)


I like Kimberly's advice about consequences. As parents we need to really think through the consequences we choose because out-of-control teens will do everything in their power to get you to give up the consequence. It takes a consistent courage to stick to your word.


Pick up The Whipped Parent: How for Parents Raising an Out-of-Control Teen 

The Whipped Parent

Available at  

Let's APPLAUD Marney Studaker-Cordner, MSW, CSW, Kimberly Abraham, MSW, CSW, with Kathryn O'Dea for writing a book so many parents with out-of-control teens can turn to for advice. A book where the authors understand the problems and offer wise solutions is a treasure indeed.


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With warm wishes,

Jean Tracy, MSS

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