At some level, most parents fear the possibility that using discipline with their kids might drive them away. Yet the reality is that discipline is needed, and (for most kids) it works.
Many kids aren’t mature enough to realize that if their parents don’t ground them; if they don’t attach consequences to actions that are outside the established boundaries, their parents are not acting in love toward them.
Healthy discipline is a sign that parents love their children. Let’s think about God for a moment. The Scriptures tell us that He disciplines us because He loves us: “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” –Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT) This passage in Proverbs ties God’s discipline to the human discipline a parent provides to his or her child, and this is how we know that discipline (provided in a healthy way) is a demonstration of love.
I believe the healthiest and most effective way to discipline teenagers is to set up consequences for violating boundaries ahead of time. When consequences are set ahead of time, you set up the dynamic where it’s not you versus your child, but rather you and your child versus the consequences. For example, if my daughter comes home late, missing her curfew, and I meet her at the door, I can tell her, “I’m so bummed that you missed your curfew and now you have to spend the next three weeks with Mom and me.”
I don’t have to get angry. I don’t have to yell. I don’t even have to raise my voice. I can actually be empathetic toward my daughter, because the reality is that we agreed to the consequence ahead of time. It’s my daughter and me against the consequence.
No teenager is ever going to go up to a parent and say, “Thank you. Thank you. I love it when you ground me!” But, loving guidelines and strong parental boundaries are a sign of love. Beyond applying consequences, your kids need you to help them process bad decisions and help guide them toward learning from the mistakes they’ve made. They need your coaching and encouragement to build confidence that they are capable of making good decisions.
Your kids are not going to ask you to ground them or bring more discipline into their lives, but they need it! Discipline is a sign of love! Just make sure you discipline in a reasonable and loving ways!