How to Discipline Your Teen When You're Pushed to the Limit: Practical Solutions For Parents

Parenting a tween or teen is not easy. And it’s not supposed to be. It’s a dance of holding on and letting go. 

As teenagers go through the adolescence transition, we as parents need to make space for them to grow at their own pace, to experiment with their interests, to go out in the world and explore – while also ensuring that they remain physically and emotionally safe. 

It’s a difficult balance to nurture, and can only be done when we are able to set clear expectations and boundaries with our teenagers. 

Conflicts at this stage are natural, especially as our kids are going through critical physical and emotional changes that can cause emotional swings, visible egocentrism, and also intense reactivity. 

In this post, we explore tried and true ways you can discipline your child and hold them accountable for their actions while continuing to love them with all your heart. 

Managing Conflict With Your Teen

When we talk about “conflict” we mean the intense disagreements that can push us to our limits – the slamming of doors, the heated arguments, the outright breaking of rules.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you find yourself in the midst of such a heated conflict:

Give It Time And Space

When a conversation gets heated, the best thing to do is to give it time and space. Pause, take a break, and suggest that you regroup when both you and your child have had time to cool down.

Don’t Name-Call or Point Fingers

It’s important that when the emotions are charged, that critical language is avoided. Using words like “lets’ ‘, or “we’ ‘, or “us” gives the signal that you’re treating this argument like a team, and not pushing the blame. It calls for a more collaborative approach that your teen is more likely to respond to. 

Strategies for Respectful Communication

When parenting a teen or tween it’s important that we make respectful conversations a part of our every-day life (and not limit them to times of conflict). 

It’s in the day to day work that you build up that deep connection and understanding with your teen, that eventually makes handling conflicts easier. 

Holding space for slow, calm, and respectful communication around sensitive issues is not an easy job – especially when your teen is getting on your nerves and testing your limits. 

Here are a few tips that can be of help: 

Figure Out The Root Cause

See if you can pinpoint the root of your child’s negative emotions.

Are they exhausted? Hungry? Worried about a friendship gone south? 

If you can figure out the root cause, it will help you respond in a more empathetic way and help your teen feel understood and heard. 

Think About How You Would Want Someone To Talk To You

Before getting all worked up, pause and reflect on this really basic question: How would YOU prefer to be approached in times of overwhelm, frustration, or anger? 

When you shift the equation, and think things through from your child’s perspective, it paves way for you to show up with more patience and understanding.

Listen Without An Agenda

We can’t emphasize this enough. Deeply listen to understand what they’re trying to communicate. 

Showing up for your child in complete presence can work wonders. 

Be Prepared For Potential Conflicts

It always helps to be mindful of issues and topics that can potentially trigger high emotions and reactivity. 

When you’re mentally prepared about potential issues, you can start gently addressing them ahead of time, which helps in mitigating huge outbursts.

Use Humor When Appropriate

Levity can be a gift in an otherwise heavy conversation. 

However, we recommend using humor only when appropriate, and this is something you as a parent to your teen, would know best. 

All of these are great ways to establish respectful communication around sensitive topics with your teenager. However, outbursts and conflicts are bound to happen nonetheless, and sometimes even when you show up with all the tools available, you might still end up in situations where your patience is tested. 

This is when it is important to hold your teen strictly accountable for their actions. 

How To Discipline Teens In Difficult Situations

There are a few principles to keep in mind when considering holding your teens accountable to strict boundaries and expectations:

Behavior is Communication

Consider viewing your teenager’s behaviors as a reflection of either unmet needs or lagging skills

For example, if your teen breaks a curfew, it could be their way of telling you that they need more freedom. That’s a potential “unmet need”

Considering their perspective in this situation can help you have a more informed conversation with them (and you might even end up slightly relaxing those rules). 

However, if their defiance of your curfew seems like a reflection of “lagging skills” such as poor time management, or lack of prioritization, you can then approach the conversation differently.

Either way, viewing their behavior from these lenses helps us as parents navigate these difficult situations with more expertise. 

Positive Reinforcement vs Negative Consequences

Using positive reinforcement is a highly effective approach in guiding and disciplining your child. It means praising or rewarding positive behaviors, which encourages your child to repeat those behaviors. 

Unlike using negative consequences which can breed fear and arrogance, positive reinforcement sets a constructive tone by giving your child something to strive towards. 

Consequence Needs To Fit Action & Impact

When you choose to impose a negative consequence to discipline your child, it’s important to consider the ways it influenced your child’s behavior. This helps us make sure that the consequence was appropriate. 

For example, if your child throws a party when you leave them home alone for a weekend, the impact is that you lose trust on them, and so the consequence could be that they accompany you the next time you’re going off, or that you assign a supervisor so as to ensure they are not alone again. 

This kind of consequence makes more sense than, say, taking away their phone or grounding them for a week. 

Hence, understanding whether the consequence fits the action is really important in establishing healthy boundaries and ensuring they’re not broken a second time. 


Lets remind ourselves that parenting a teen or tween is never a smooth ride. 

The road definitely has its ups and downs. It may seem at times that your child is pushing you away, or disrespecting you, or that they don’t care about you. 

It’s all part of the journey. 

Keeping an open mind, being patient in the process, and leading with healthy boundaries will ensure that you develop a deeper connection with your child over time. 

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