Disciplining Teenagers

Sage ReddyHappiness, Health15 Comments

Disciplining Teenagers image

Smack! Smack! Smack! That’s the sound of my wife slapping herself silly in the middle of the night. Is she crazy? No! My sweet wife, Becca is trying to rid herself of mosquitos.

Even though I can sleep under the covers and am quite immune to the darn mosquitoes, I can hear the pesky things buzzing around. And it’s hard to sleep knowing that your wife is suffering because well, you screwed up. How did I screw up?

I’ll tell you in a minute. But first, let me paint the context for you.

It’s January in southern India. Becca and I are visiting my folks for a few months. The very evening we got got here, my dad told me that I should shut the door to the balcony at 6pm sharp every evening to keep the mosquitoes away. And everyday since he’s been repeating his mosquito mantra. Have I been heeding his advice?


Why children don’t listen to their parents

Given my history with my dad, I still act like a teen around him. And since when teens take their parents’ advice? My old man’s looney theory? “If you shut the door between 6pm and 8pm, the mosquitoes won’t bother you.”

Really? First, the teen inside me doesn’t believe it. Second, the rebellious teen likes the door open. Third, it’s hard for the teen to take unsolicited advice, especially from a parent.

So I listen, but rarely follow my old man’s advice. Teens everywhere, it seems, are hardwired to reject all parental advice. “Be careful,” “Save money” “Study hard” “Be nice”… is the kind of stuff you get to listen to when you’re little. After a while of this, the child’s brain simply tunes all parental advice—no matter how well-intentioned.

And if this parental advice is too frequent (and/or the parent has lost credibility in the child’s eyes), such advice is much like the pesky mosquitoes buzzing around your head in the still of the night.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that this article is neither about mosquitoes nor about India. It’s about parenting. As a rule, all parents are overflowing with “great” advice for their children—even when the children are grown-up. And again, as a rule, most teens don’t heed parental advice. This strange phenomenon transcends cultures and spans the entire globe.

How do you get your children, particularly teens, to listen to you?

Sometimes, parental advice is absolutely stellar and right; it’s right on the money. Sometimes, it’s plain wrong. Right or wrong, most parental advice gets usually ignored—and hence quite useless. But parents being parents keep dishing it out anyway.

Part of the reason parents put out so much advice is because they love their children and want the best for them. And part of the reason children don’t listen to their parents is because a constant stream of advice is, well, boring. Who wants to be cafeful when you want to have fun? Besides, teens know f-all. Don’t they?!

Are you a parent and want your child to do well? Don’t want your child to suffer needlessly or get hurt? Then listen up.

How to get your child to listen to you

While your intentions are good and noble and those of a loving parent, if you truly want your child to fare better, you must first grow up yourself. You must learn to back off and let your child take the occasional “fall.” Allow your child to screw-up. Let him make mistakes. If you keep rushing in to keep your child from falling, he’ll never fall. And if he never falls, he’ll learn.

Ever since Becca and I got here, my dad’s been looking out for us. Every evening around 6pm he comes in my room to shut my balcony door. Except for last night, that is. For whatever reason, dad forgot to do it last night. This meant that I was left to fend for myself. Which I did admirably by chugging beer out in the balcony with the door wide open. By the time I shut the door, plenty of big fat mosquitoes got in, unbeknownst to me.

Now you know why my poor wife is covered in mosquito bites. Mosquitoes like sweet things, I joke with her, but will I ever forget last night’s screw-up?

No. Never!

Dad no longer needs to remind me to shut the balcony door each night. Thanks to what happened last, I can’t forget. Now, come 6pm every evening, I’m on it like a hawk.

My dad’s advice was falling on deaf ears. He knew that I wasn’t listening, which is why he kept repeating himself. Now if my dad were a smart parent, he’d have told me his looney mosquito philosophy, shut the door once to make a point—then backed off. One evening of mosquite hell is all it’d take for anyone to come to their senses.

As a parent, do you find yourself trying too hard to prevent your children from hurting themselves?


Do you do everything you can to to keep your children from making the same mistakes you made in life?


Be a smart parent—and back off. Find the courage to let your child take the occasional fall. It may be the best thing that ever happened to him/her. A little booboo will teach your child more than all the great advice in the world.

Happy parenting!

Image Source: graphicshunt.com

15 Comments on “Disciplining Teenagers”

  1. I dont think I can ever be a teacher or a lecturer, I mean be it with kids or with teenagers…saying things like “Be quiet”….”Be good”..”dont talk” somehow asking people to discipline makes me feel guilty…..just isnt like me…..

  2. Teenagers before and now are totally different. Teenagers before are afraid to have Boyfriends and Girlfriends but teenagers now are use to angry when there parents would not agree for having boyfriends and girlfriends at the early age. Teenagers before are very disciplined but teenagers now are very hard to discipline with. Guidance from the parents are always needed by this new generation teenagers like me my mom always use to remind me for not doing things that can make me bad.
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    1. Good to see you here again, Nicholle. I agree, teenagers these days are very different from back when I was a teen. Then again, every generation would say that. 🙂 Even so, teenagers these days have much less structure than the previous generation.

  3. As a parent handing down the gift of experience ALONG with looking out for their best interest (and providing the proper guidance) is very beneficial to children. Just like touching a hot stove and getting burned.

    You have to let them get their hands dirty, but show them how to clean up. Leaving them in the dirt is where many fail to follow through. It’s the parents responsibility to show them the way and lead with the proper guidance so they can fully grasp and understand the gravity of their choices and decisions.
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    1. Good to see you here, Jason. And thanks for your insightful and well-articulated comments. These two statements of yours sum it up nicely: “You have to let them get their hands dirty, but show them how to clean up. Leaving them in the dirt is where many fail to follow through.” Letting your kid take the fall is not the same as neglecting them.

  4. Natural consequences seem to be the best teachers of all! Parents can save  a lot of energy by simply letting nature take its course. And kids are far more intelligent than parents give them credit for. Furthermore, constant nagging/reminding is not only disrespectful to your child, but an attempt to control. So why not hold to this: you can tell them once, but after that let them decide how they will proceed. And be there with love when they reach out to you for comfort/help/support.

  5. Sage, what a wonderful story-telling way to get the message across. I love the way you write. As a survivor of 4 children, I must say that I did back off and let them screw up. To a degree that is. It is like when they are little and run, they fall and scratch their knee. The same applies to teens. A very challenging time of life as a parent. You can loosen the reins, but pull back when necessary. I find that kids are like computers. Everything you tell them goes into the hard drive. Then when they get out of college and reach that age of reason, they start “acting” different. They apply the values you have given them. (hopefully)
    It is a strange thing to watch. They do remember and when mature will act on the lessons given as a teenager. It takes time and patience to be a parent.
    Great Post
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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Donna. And you offer excellent thoughts here. As a mother of four, I bet you have many insights about parenting. As a parent myself, I hate to see my kid get hurt. But I’ve learned to back off and he’s learned to become more responsible. Win win. I agree, kids are like computers. We can install a lot of good programs on their hard drives — if we first make the time for them and give them plenty of quality attention. Blessings!


    I’m a 23 year old who has had a lot of problems with my parents. Through my lifetime, I realized that my parent’s never really listened to me. To listen means that you sit back and give your kid the time to express their opinions.

    No matter the age, I feel when you affirm your kid’s actions / thought / opinions, that are actually validating, then you won’t have a problem when you provide your own advice on situations that need correcting.

    Also, if you want your kid to listen to you, it’s always good to tell your kid everything about your life. Tell them what you do for a leaving, how you make your money, what your parents have taught them. We are a society of stories, and with kid, we love them!

    The reason why kids love their grandparents so much is because grandparents listen to their grand-kids and they have a ton of stories that they share with their grand-kids.

    My suggestion is that you can defiantly let your kid, fail. However, I’d rather see my kid follow my advice and become successful! Tell stories and listen to your kid, first… then the rest will be easy.
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    1. It’s great to have you here, Jonathan! And thank you so much for your extremely insightful comments. I couldn’t agree more. I have no problem with my child listening to me because I make the time to listen to him, and he knows it. I never have to raise my voice or repeat myself. With him, I take great pleasure in listening more and preaching less.

      For a 23 year old, you’re very enlightened. I’ll be sure to visit your blog. Cheers!

  7. My stepmom always says… you can tell the kid a few times, but until they experience it, they will not take heed. For example, if your kid hits you… you hit them in the same place with the same force. They learn not to hit people…. or in my son’s case… bite people.

    My son is 9 right now, and he is a very good kid. Only gets in trouble for speaking out in class because he got done with his assignment (my ex-husband and I send him to school with extra workbooks to keep him occupied.) However, I look forward to the challenge when he is a teen. I don’t think it will be bad.

    (If you hear me complaining in 2-3 years… you can tease me on it…lol)
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    1. Thanks for sharing that, Nile. It’s good to have you back here. Your comments made me laugh. Your son sure has a smart mom! He learned to stop biting people on his own. And I totally agree with your step mom. I’m sure your little boy will fare well as a teen, thanks to your insights about parenting. If not, I’ll be sure to tease you about it. 🙂

  8. Disciplining teenagers certainly is not easy but its not impossible either because one fine day they will come across some experiences which will make them realize the truth. It was certainly interesting to read about the mosquito timing and your father’s mosquito philosophy:)

    1. You’re right, Dr Suarez, teenagers are difficult. Anything that inspires quick learning is what I’m in favor of. My father’s mosquito philosophy works like charm, at least in this part of the world. 🙂

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