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Teen Discipline Tips

We get many phone calls from parents asking for discipline tips or ideas. We are happy to share ideas that we have learned based on our experience with both our own children and our “summer kids” that attend our military summer camp each year. Major Denton is no stranger to the many challenges of parenting, discipline and maintaining order. She understands that some days are easier than others, and that it can be exhausting to be an effective disciplinarian at all times. Below are some ideas and discipline goals you can set for yourself, to make the challenging job of parenting just a little bit easier.

  • Be Consistent
  • This is probably the most difficult rule to follow. It can be irritating when you need to enforce the same rules and values constantly, especially when certain issues are every day battles. If children realize that they were allowed to get away with something once, they will continue to try and test their limits. When they see that you will not back down, usually they will end up accepting your rule, rather than trying to break it. Making exceptions and allowances only teaches that you are inconsistent and not willing to enforce your rules. Stay strong- consistency always pays off.

  • Don’t Argue with your Recruit- Ever!
  • One of the most common mistakes I see that my Ranch Parents make is arguing with their Recruits. It starts small, usually by explaining “why” your child is not permitted to do something. They begin questioning your explanation, so you explain a bit further to make sure that your child is educated, and can understand why you make the rules that you do. Before you know it, the cute plant that you’re feeding has grown so large that it wants to eat you! I have a saying in my home, that I use with my own children (and other people’s children, should they decide to drop in for a visit). I say, “I don’t owe you an explanation!” And with that, the conversation will cease. Of course, I will usually provide my children with a brief answer to explain my decision if I choose to, but any further questioning will result in a firm reminder that my decision is final, and I’m not willing to negotiate. I recommend that all Ranch Parents be able to use this simple phrase, and mean it! Repeat it if you need to, but whatever you do, don’t argue with your children! You are the parent, you are in charge, and you don’t owe them any justification for your decisions! The more information you provide them with, the more ammunition you are giving them to use against you. Don’t explain, don’t justify, and most of all, DON’T argue with them!

  • Pick Your Battles
  • Prior to planning a confrontation, you need to ask yourself a few questions: Is this really worth my time and energy? Will it affect my child’s well being or safety? Does this go against our family morals and values? If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, then it’s definitely worth intervening. If not, I would suggest you temporarily leave the issue alone. Step back and take an honest look at the situation, and decide if it is worth expending your efforts. What would you like the outcome to be? What are the odds of achieving the outcome you desire? Several summers ago, I had a father complain about his 15 year old son. His grades were good, he was polite and respectful, but there was one problem. He was overusing and abusing the family computer. While it certainly would have been beneficial for his son to be more outgoing and get more exercise, I did tell his father that if he were my son, I would appreciate the comfort of knowing that he is safe and sound in my living room, rather than at some unknown location with unsavory characters in the middle of the night. Which would you choose?

  • Raise Your Expectations
  • It’s extremely upsetting to hear a parent say, “All I’m asking for is a C average… and for him to check in every once in a while. That’s not too much to ask, is it?” Actually, that’s not asking enough. What type of message are those minimal expectations sending your child? With effort and good study habits, every child should have an A-B average, at a minimum. Parents should demand that their children put forth maximum effort into their academic life. There is no excuse for anything less. We’re not in some underdeveloped country lacking funding and educational resources; we’re in the great land of America, where there is no limit to what you can learn and achieve. I always tell our children to “Shoot for the moon!” because “even if they miss, they will still land among the stars.”

  • Lower Your Expectations
  • It’s hard to believe sometimes, but children are not miniature adults. They are children. Although they may act like and appear to have adult-like wisdom and knowledge (especially when talking back to you), they really are just little kids in bigger bodies. It is easy to start expecting too much from your child, especially when they demonstrate high levels of maturity. Please remember that it is very difficult, if not, impossible for your child to be absolutely perfect. This unfair pressure can cause even the most level headed teens to become rebellious and difficult to handle. A recruit of mine (who was an excellent student) put it best when he said, “I’ll never be good enough for them, so why should I bother trying?” Do yourself a favor and cut them a little slack, don’t expect so much. Hey- some parents expect more out of their children than they do from their own spouses! Now there’s something to think about…

  • Lead By Example
  • An eleven year old boy was sent to Reality Ranch several years ago, and I had learned that he had begun experimenting with marijuana. This surprised me, as the child was so young, so I asked him where he had obtained the marijuana from. To this day, I’ve never forgotten his answer: “From my mom’s purse.” Need I say more?

  • Say what you mean, and mean what you say
  • How many times have you threatened to send your child to a teen boot camp, grandma’s house, or even the Army before looking at this web site? How many times do you make threats, and never follow through? It’s a lot easier to be inconsistent, than to be consistent, isn’t it? I know there are some days, when you just don’t want to fight; you’re drained, you’re tired and not in the mood for conflict of any kind. Our children pick up on this (I believe they may have some type of radar system installed), and every time you make a threat and don’t follow through, your word will mean less and less to them, until they realize that you are making empty threats. If you must give your child an ultimatum, make sure you are prepared to follow though with it as you said, and in a timely manner.

  • Get Involved
  • We live in a rapidly declining, busy and sometimes selfish society. Times have changed, and the Cleaver family and the Brady Bunch no longer exist, unless you watch Nick at nite. Fortunately, spending time together as a family can still be a pleasure. Most parents work hard to provide for their household, and are unavailable to volunteer in school or carpool ‘round the clock. If this is the case, don’t fret- you’re perfectly normal. I recommend participating in a hobby with your children, whether it’s an established one or a new one- get involved in the things they enjoy most. Hockey, skateboarding, soccer, computer programming- these are all simple things that parents can get involved with in order to remain a constant part of their child’s life. Or try this: Take a moment out of your day to tell your child how much they mean to you. You may be surprised at the reaction you will get. If this is a trying time in your life, and this may be too difficult for you, pull out a photo album. Look at your child as an infant, and as a beaming toddler….. his first day of kindergarten, fifth birthday party, first visit from the tooth fairy. Hopefully these happy memories will take you back to an almost magical time where innocence was common and love was abundant. It’s hard to think about these things, especially when parenting becomes challenging, but as parents, we will never forget these happy moments.


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