Out of Control Teen : What to do When Punishment Doesnt Work

Just when parents think we have good boundaries, consequences, and routines down for our kids and teens, they throw us another curveball that essentially renders every effort obsolete. When teens act out and are out of control, it can make things even more of a challenge. What previously worked for your teen may not work now at all. Just what is a good consequence for a teenager?

How can you make sure that you can discipline a wildly defiant and rebellious teen?

How do you discipline a teenager who doesn’t care about consequences?

Does your teen ignore the boundaries and consequences you give to him? When children and teens are faced with something that they don’t like, they will often behave in a way that indicates it doesn’t matter to them. If your teen appears to be largely unbothered when he is issued a consequence, or he says, “I don’t care” or “Whatever,” what he is really trying to say is, “Your consequences can’t hurt me.”

This is because consequences and punishments can make teens feel like they are powerless. By making the bold statement that he doesn’t care about the result, your teen is doing what he can to take back his power. The issue with this is that it gives him the sense of power he wants and takes it away from you.

What can you do? One school of thought is to focus less on what it takes to make him care and more on lessons that you want your teen to learn. Consequences aren’t designed to cause teens to apologize. They help your teen alter behavior.

Don’t get drawn into an argument with your teen when he says that he doesn’t care. Instead, tell him that it’s okay if he doesn’t care. He’s still going to be faced with the consequence.

There are a few things that you can try when dealing with an obstinate teen who doesn’t care if he faces the consequences:

  • Make sure that you’re using consequences that will have meaning for him. You don’t always want to cause him discomfort, but you should pick out punishments that will get his attention.
  • Don’t issue consequences while you’re in the midst of an argument. It’s too easy to be too harsh or too lenient when trying to devise punishment plans with emotions running high.
  • Try to skip the speeches. Your teen will likely tune you out if you go heavy on the lectures.
  • Ensure that each consequence is clearly defined. Punishments should be black and white. There should be no room for your teen to interpret the outcomes. It can be beneficial for your teen to understand the punishments ahead of time to know what to expect the next time he acts out.
  • Instead of grounding your teen for an extended period, consider consequences that can end when he accomplishes set tasks. By making the punishments task-oriented instead of time-oriented, you can allow your teen to learn and improve on his behavior.
  • Don’t keep him from going to important events, such as the big game or the prom. Taking away milestone events in your teen’s life will not teach him any lessons. It’ll leave him feeling angry and bitter.

If this approach doesn’t work, what should your next step be? You may get to a point where you feel you’ve tried everything. It may be time to consider an alternative approach that includes a residential treatment center for your teen.

How do you deal with a defiant and disrespectful teenager?

If you’ve tried setting boundaries and establishing consequences, you may feel entirely out of your depths only to see your teen being disobedient and disrespectful. How can you cope with a teen who is willfully defiant and disrespectful?

  • Don’t engage him in an argument, no matter how much he seems to be egging you on.
  • Don’t be insulting or sarcastic when engaging with your teen.
  • Keep your conversations cool, calm, and respectful. Losing your cool will only result in further inflaming the situation
  • If your teen takes a turn for the physically violent, don’t engage at all. Get help from the authorities and take steps to protect yourself and other household members.
  • Seek out therapy for yourself and everyone in the family. Family therapy can help everyone learn better communication skills.

If you’re at the point where you feel that you’re out of options, you should consider a residential treatment center that will give your out-of-control teen a fresh start.

List of consequences for teenagers

When establishing consequences for your teen, you must define them clearly before you need to rely on them. This can put you in a better position to issue the punishment when needed and give your teen less room for interpretation. If you’re at a loss as to what kind of consequences might work for your teen, we’ve got a list of suggestions:

  • Losing his phone for a set period, or during after-school hours.
  • No more tablets, game consoles, or laptops unless specifically used for schoolwork.
  • Being restricted to his bedroom in the evenings and on the weekends when it’s not dinnertime.
  • While it’s not always a good idea to keep your teen from those milestone events, it may be effective to let him know he can only attend a party or other event with friends if he keeps his attitude and behavior in line.
  • If your teen drives, you can restrict his ability to use the car for anything else but going to and from school or work.
  • Assign extra household chores on top of those he is already responsible for.

Making a chart that clearly defines the rules and consequences for your teen can help. Not only does it outline everything clearly for your teen, but it gives him no excuse for breaking the household rules. Keep in mind that it’s perfectly acceptable to adjust the rules and consequences as you and your teen figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.

Just be sure that you communicate well with your teen. In an environment where emotions are already running high, the last thing that you want is for your teen to feel that he is being ambushed by changes he wasn’t expecting or aware of.

If you’re looking for the resources you need to help your out-of-control teen, call HelpYourTeenNow. Our knowledgeable team matches you with the right resources needed to help get your teen and your family as a whole.


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