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Curb Your Teen’s Bad Behavior with Discipline that Works

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Smarter, Stronger Discipline Strategies continued...

Know which rules are important to you. You want to be consistent, but not harsh. It's OK to give in about the small stuff once in a while, provided that it isn't something dangerous. For example, purple hair might not appeal to you, but it probably won't hurt your teen. Drug and alcohol use, on the other hand, are non-negotiable.

Be a good role model. If the rule is "No swearing in the house" and you curse like a sailor, you're giving your teen a free pass to do the same. The best way to encourage positive teen behaviors is to model them yourself.

Teach responsibility. An important part of parenting teenagers is to teach them how to make decisions. Kids need to learn that whatever choices they make -- good or bad -- have consequences. Sit down and talk about some of the dangerous and long-term consequences that risky behaviors can have, including drug abuse, pregnancy, smoking, and drunk driving.

Know that no matter how well you prepare your kids, they're going to make some mistakes. The important thing is to show them how to learn from those mistakes.

Stay involved. One of the best ways to prevent teen bad behavior is to know what your kids are up to. You don't need to spy on your teens or listen in on their phone conversations -- you just need to be an involved and interested parent. Ask what your kids are doing when they go out with friends. Know who they hang out with and where they go.

Being an involved parent also means watching for any warning signs that your teen is in trouble. These signs include: skipping school, losing or gaining a lot of weight quickly, having trouble sleeping, spending more time alone, getting into trouble with the law, or talking about committing suicide. If you see any of these changes in your teen, enlist the help of a doctor or therapist right away.

Understand. You might look back at your own teen years through rose-tinted glasses, but don't forget that this tumultuous time of life comes with a lot of stress. Teens are under an enormous amount of pressure to do well in school, excel at a lot of different activities, follow all the current fads, and fit in with their friends.

Before you come down hard on your teen for bad behavior, try to understand what's driving it. Could there be trouble in school? Boyfriend or girlfriend problems? Bullying?

Get your kids to open up to you about their problems by creating an environment of honesty and respect. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything. Even sensitive subjects like sex and drug use should not be off-limits. Let your teens know that you will always love and support them, no matter what they do.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on July 25, 2013
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