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How Teens Respond to Punishment

by Tanya Brown

Every parent deals with a time when he may have to stop misbehavior or defiance by using punishment. Punishment is a means of asserting your authority while preventing your child from repeatedly making wrong choices. While punishment is necessary for children of all ages, it is not always welcome, particularly when it comes to teenagers. Some teens accept their punishments and deal with them, while others resist by arguing with their parents or by taking actions that further challenge their parent's authority.

Teens and Poor Choices

Most children have the ability to control their actions by the time they reach their teenage years though they are not yet able to reason effectively, express themselves fully or understand the consequences of engaging in risky behavior. The frontal lobe of the brain controls these actions, and it does not fully mature until the early 20s, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This affects a teenager's ability to make mature decisions, which generally causes parents a lot of frustration.

Accepting Punishment

Establishing enforceable rules with your teenager before issues arise and always following through on punishments is a good strategy for minimizing defiance and extreme outbursts from teens. Teens who know beforehand that a certain offense will merit undesirable consequences will generally have less resistance when it comes to accepting their punishment, notes the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. Making sure that the punishment is suitable for the offense is also important. If your teen was given a ticket for driving recklessly, taking away his car keys is a suitable punishment; however, this punishment is not suitable for a teen who forgot to wash the dishes before bedtime.

Resisting Punishment

It is not uncommon for teenagers to talk back to or yell at their parents when they enforce punishments. According to a 2009 "Psychology Today" article written by psychologist Carl Pickhardt, most teens go through a phase when they have a strong desire to assert their independence, and this phase generally ends in the late teens or early twenties. Pickhardt also notes that rebellion is reinforced by messages from peers. Expect your teenager to resist punishment at some point, but stay firm and continue to hold your teenager accountable for the poor choices he makes.

Behavior Contracts

A behavior contract is a formal written agreement that outlines the behavior expectations that parents have for their children. It generally addresses behaviors displayed at home and at school along with the consequences for making poor choices. Behavior contracts can be advantageous for teens and parents. They make teenagers aware of the rules that they must follow and encourage parents to be consistent with discipline. Parents and teenagers can create behavior contracts together and modify them as necessary.

About the Author

Before starting her writing career, Tanya Brown worked as an eighth-grade language arts teacher. She also has a background in nursing, with extensive experience in urology, neurology and neurosurgery clinics. Brown holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and is pursuing her master’s degree in educational psychology.

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