Choose the Best Punishment for Teenagers

Clock showing missed teen curfewThe young man sat in my high school counseling office. “I’m grounded for the rest of the year,” he moaned. “I won’t even get to enjoy being a senior. What am I going to do?”

How Parents Typically Punish Teens

As a counselor, I learned a couple of things about how parents punish their kids. One, their choice of punishment is often spontaneous, overly harsh, and unrelated to the misdeed. Two, the punishment is frequently cancelled before it’s completed. After all, who, in their right mind, wants their high school senior trapped in the house for half a year? That’s more painful for the parent than for the teen.

Thirty Minutes Past Curfew

The young man in my counseling office had been thirty minutes past curfew on Saturday night. His cell phone battery was dead, and his parents could not reach him. They were frantic. By the time he walked in the house, they unleashed on him the worst punishment they could imagine – four months of being grounded to the house.

Parents Can Choose the Best Punishment for Teenagers

What would be a better punishment? The consequence for a misdeed should match in severity and type. A mother I knew said to her teens, “If you’re thirty minutes late on Saturday, then next Saturday, you come in one hour early.” Simply stated, her kids repaid double for their time past curfew.

“But,” they protested, “That’s not fair. It should only be thirty minutes.”

Her answer was direct and ended further debate, “I charge a high rate of interest for having to worry about you. And if you argue, the rate doubles.”


Have you found an especially effective match of punishment to misbehavior? For example, what is a good punishment for leaving an after school snack mess in the kitchen?

In my next blog, we’ll look at how to choose appropriate consequences for younger children.




    • says

      Referencing your post, I asked for additional ideas on Facebook this morning and got some great ones. Preventative: family time, family dinners, doing things together your kids like, not feeding the entitlement mentality, volunteering together, lots of physical work, redirecting time. Punishments: removing bedroom door for slamming it, and taking away cell phones.

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