It’s common for parents to anguish over punishing their children for any infraction, regardless of the offense. Nagging self-doubts persist for parents at all stages of their children’s upbringing, and we constantly wonder if we’ve done the right thing when administering punishment. Have we gone too far? Were we too lenient? Will he resent me forever?

The reality is that all kids, even the most well-behaved, make poor decisions at some point in their adolescence. All decisions have consequences – some more grave than others. While it can be the hardest choice a parent has to make, a part of parenting is to discipline your child, even when you feel that you are being especially tough. You are not alone. According to a study by the Child Mind Institute, about 22 percent of parents said they have a child with mental or behavioural issues.

Be clear and consistent

The rules you set in your household should not be considered guidelines. They are your basic expectations. While your own family values will dictate what those expectations are, you still need them and they should be clearly articulated and enforced. You should also involve your child in his or her punishment by helping them understand what they did wrong and why they need to deal with the consequences.

No excuses

It’s natural for parents to make excuses for our children’s bad behaviour. After all, we are their biggest advocates. But constantly blowing off misbehaviour with excuses like, “She’s just tired,” or “His friend did it, too” aren’t helpful in any situation. Stop enabling kids by brushing off their misdeeds. They hear you doing this, which reinforces their own habit of blaming another situation or person for what they have done. Kids need to learn to take responsibility for their own actions and if they see you not holding them accountable, it becomes okay for them to do the same.

Know the signs

As your child becomes an adolescent and enters the tumultuous teen years, it’s normal for them to occasionally be moody and difficult to communicate with. They’re still growing and figuring out complex issues, and experiencing a host of new and confusing emotions. But be aware if they are exhibiting ongoing, and almost constant troubling signs such as:

  • Aggression
  • Bad temper
  • Spitefulness
  • Easily angered
  • Consistently refusing to follow rules

These and other signs, according to Family First Aid, could mean that your child isn’t just going through a phase, but might have other underlying issues that must be addressed.

Ask for help

Unfortunately, the most difficult admission a parent can make is that the problem is too big for them to handle. This is a particularly heart-wrenching decision because it makes us feel like failures. The opposite is true. Sometimes, saving your child from ongoing harmful behaviour that can affect them for the rest of their lives means reaching out and asking for help from experts. And there are experts available. This can include things like wilderness therapy, behavioural camps, counseling and more. But if you are in a situation where you feel that you’ve lost control, reach out.

No one said parenting would be easy. Along the way, every parent faces various dilemmas about how to appropriately discipline their child for infractions big and small. We all want our children to one day reflect on a happy, healthy home life with good memories about growing up. But when kids go astray, no matter how far it is, our job is to help them get back on track, and sometimes that means making incredibly tough choices. When those choices are made for the love of our child, and for their future success, they are usually the best ones to make.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with your friends and family. After all, sharing is caring!

Author: Elliot Caleira

Elliot Caleira is a freelance writer in the self-mastery and health and wellness spaces. When he’s not writing you’ll find him cooking or teaching Portuguese classes.

Main image credit: