According to Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., psychologist in Texas and author of several books including, “Stop Screaming,” disciplining your teen should be saved for major offenses, such as sneaking out of the house. While breaking the rules is a common side effect of the adolescent mindset, failure to properly discipline your teen for sneaking out of the house can cause her behavior to worsen rather than improve. The sooner you make sure she knows her behavior is against the rules, the better chance you have of breaking her of this bad habit.
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Create a Behavior Contract
According to Scott Sells, Ph.D., psychologist, author of numerous books and founder of the Troubled Teen Information Center, this is an effective way to make sure your teen knows what is considered unacceptable behavior, to have some measure of control and to commit to good behavior. For example, if you put in the contract that sneaking out of the house is against the rules and punishable by grounding, your teen might be less likely to sneak out. Additionally, a contract gives you the opportunity to negotiate terms. For example, if he thinks that your idea of a curfew is too early, you can negotiate what it will take for him to be rewarded with a later curfew, such as staying out of trouble for a set amount of time or making good grades.
Grounding Your Teen
One effective method of discipline for teens is grounding. If your teen is caught sneaking out at night, grounding her from leaving the house is a punishment that fits the crime. According to the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund, an organization designed to help families, it is best to make sure the punishment goes with the misbehavior. For example, if you catch your teen sneaking out or sneaking back in, tell her she is grounded for the rest of the weekend or even a week and that she cannot leave the house until the time frame of her grounding is up.
According to the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund website, taking away something you consider a privilege for your teen is an effective punishment. For sneaking out, you could take away his privilege of having a later curfew on weekends, driving, using the Internet or even participating in after-school activities. Sneaking out is no longer as exciting or worthwhile to your teen when he realizes that it means losing out on things he likes.
Tips for Effective Teenage Punishment
No matter what you decide to do in terms of punishing your teen for sneaking out, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you keep punishments short and never punish anyone but the guilty party to get the most out of your teen’s punishment. For example, if the timeframe of your teen’s punishment is long-term, she may become more defiant because she doesn’t feel that things could get worse. The AAP recommends punishments that last 24 hours or less in most cases; grounding can be longer. Additionally, if you discipline your teen for sneaking out, make sure it doesn’t affect the rest of the family, such as cancelling a family trip to accommodate your teen’s grounding.