Discipline for ADHD Teens: The Strategies Every Parent Needs to Know

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Are you pulling your hair out trying to figure out discipline for ADHD teens? Is your teen driving you nuts and upsetting your household? If we’re all honest, this sounds like most teenagers in most households. Still, though, the complexities of ADHD sometimes present additional difficulties. This especially can apply when it comes to discipline in the household.

If you sometimes feel at a loss as to how you should discipline your teen with ADHD, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many parents of ADHD teens feel like the odds are stacked against them. In general, teenagers present difficulties all their own. As a result, many times, we as parents, simply feel like nothing we do works right.

In this article, we want to go over some simple strategies for approaching discipline for ADHD teens. These tips might not give you the magic solution to solve all your problems with your teen. Still, though, these guides might set you on a road to understanding your teen more fully and knowing how to approach disciplinary issues. Let’s look deeper at some ways you can start handling discipline for ADHD teens better today.

Ask for Your Teen’s Input

For starters, to make discipline for ADHD teens function well, you need to consider involving your teen in some of the decision process. Nearly every teen craves their own independence. Additionally, even though many teens seem to run from responsibility, they many times want to see that you as their parent trust them in small ways.

Many times, your teen might rebel or argue with you because they feel a need to challenge your authority. This can originate from personal insecurities. It can also come from resentment that they feel you don’t trust them or respect them enough. This constant strife and arguing then can make applying any discipline difficult or impossible.

A way to help fight against a rebellious attitude in your teen is simply to start showing them small amounts of respect and responsibility. Most parents want to always see their teens as they were when they were little children. Thinking this way, though, doesn’t do anyone any good. You need to start seeing your teen as an independent person who needs responsibilities of their own.

For starters, start telling your teen that you respect them and want to invite them more into decisions. In advance of any possible discipline, ask your teen about what they think consequences for wrong actions should be. For instance, if you know your teen might be tempted to break curfew ask them what an appropriate consequence should be and why.

This doesn’t mean you have to use their suggestion, but you should, nonetheless, try to incorporate some of their thoughts. The more important aspect, though, is that by simply asking they may find greater respect for your relationship. As a result, inviting them into the conversation can make discipline easier to apply if it comes to that.

Consider a Written Contract

Secondly, when considering discipline for ADHD teens you should consider putting rules and consequences in writing. In part, this goes along with what we just discussed. A written contract in advance of any discipline allows for you to discuss with your teen standards and what happens if those rules are broken. It also allows for you and your teen to agree on set consequences.

Beyond an opportunity to invite your teen into a discussion, though, contracts provide clear black and white limits. Teens in general need structure and rules and boundaries. Boundaries keep them safe and on a path to future life success especially as they seek to define themselves.

Teens naturally want to push back against authority. They want to define themselves as individuals. To do that, most often they seek to throw off identities they see as forced on them by others and by rules. You don’t want to completely give into this notion in your teen. Rather, you want to ask them to help define the rules set on them. Putting a contract in place can help with this.

Additionally, a contract is helpful because it provides a chance to discuss possible infractions before they occur. Furthermore, you can have your teen sign the contract and agree to the rules you set up. This way, when they break a rule, they aren’t breaking your rule, but rather a boundary agreed on by the household. As a result, they will more likely be accepting of the consequences and the discipline.

Using a contract helps to keep rules in place without making you as the parent the only bad guy. It also makes consequence clear and consistent and can provide the structure to your discipline that both you and your teen need.

Stick to the Issue at Hand

Thirdly, success with discipline for ADHD teens depends on not digging up the past with every new argument. As parents, we care about the habits and routines of our children. This means that we notice lifestyle patterns as they develop.

As we seek to guide our teen’s development, we sometimes want to revisit old actions to help our teen see possible negative habits forming as we do. We also, sometimes, do this out of hurt to ourselves that we still want to work through. No matter the reasons, though, you should steer clear of continually bringing up the past with disciplining in the present.

Digging up past hurts or rule violations really helps no one. Not only that, but also by constantly referencing past issues, you undermine your own authority in the moment. When you talk in the past, all your teen hears is that you are continually to punish them for past poor mistakes. They then start to lose respect for your authority for addressing issues in the present.

When you simply keep your discipline to the violation at hand, you remind your teen that each action stands on its own. While everyone has a past, we aren’t always defined by our past. Rather, we can chose to make better decisions in the future. Showing your teen that good decisions are possible should be your main goal with correction in discipline. The best way to find this route is through leaving the past in the past when you discipline.

Give Space to Let Feelings Out

Fourthly, discipline for ADHD teens shouldn’t simply be about punishment and definitely not about suppressing your teen’s feelings. Rather, discipline should provide constructive guidance, which helps reinforce positive behaviors. Discipline shouldn’t simply be about enforcing your will, or about pushing out how your teen feels.

In light of this, you need to make sure that you provide space and opportunity for your teen to really express themselves. This doesn’t mean that you let them say anything and everything they may want. Rather, this means that you give them space to think through their emotions and express them in some small way.

Some of this goes back to the idea of making sure your teen has a voice in your household. By giving them a space to vent their feelings, they know that you respect their right to their own feelings even if they disagree with your emotions. To provide this space, you can encourage your teen to journal. Alternatively, you can simply give your teen a chance to say (nearly) anything they want after or as you provide discipline. Tell them that you want to hear what they have to say and what they feel. Tell them that they can respond to the discipline with their true emotions, and you won’t argue with them about how they feel.

The last bit is key. So many times, we as parents want to argue with our teens to correct their wrong view. What our teens want more than anything, though, is simply to be heard. Providing an opportunity to let them speak to their feelings lets them know that you respect them as individuals. As a result, they will respect your authority more and will fight less against your discipline.

Stay Firm on Important Issues

Some things carry important weight no matter who you are. When it comes to discipline for ADHD teens, some issues really stand out as critical. The teenage years, almost more than any other period in life, really impact how a person’s adult life will go. This means that thoughts, actions, and habits formed during a person’s teens can have lifelong implications.

Individuals with ADHD have a greater tendency to develop other mental and physical health issues. For instance, ADHD has a high co-morbidity rate with other diagnoses such as eating disorders, learning disabilities, depression, and substance abuse. This high association makes it difficult for teens trying to define themselves. Often teens who struggle with their ADHD symptoms or life issues might turn to self-destructive means to cope.

Furthermore, many individuals with ADHD struggle with boredom and have a greater tendency to engage in risky behavior. For teens, this additional risk seeking might lead to risky sexual behavior or drug or alcohol dependency.

We mention all this to say that for parents, you really need to stand firm on some very critical areas. You need to pay attention to how your child eats and if they seek out dangerous behavior or spend time where drugs and alcohol are available. Any activity that might point towards alternative coping, you need to restrict access to your teen completely.

As a parent, you can learn to be lenient on some areas of discipline. When it comes to critical areas, though, you need to stand firm with your discipline for ADHD teens. Drug or alcohol dependency or other habits that lend towards self-destructive behaviors are hard to kick once they start. Make sure you keep firm limits on such behaviors to keep your teen from ever starting down that road.

Discipline for ADHD Teens: Making Rules that Stick

Ultimately, discipline for ADHD teens works best when it’s based in a strong relationship. You need to know your teen and their personality. Furthermore, they need to know you and feel close to you and respected by you.

The teen years are hard for everyone. For starters, your teenager is just trying to learn who they are. Additionally, you as the parent still might not want to recognize that they are growing up at all. For discipline to work, though, you can no longer approach it the same as when your child was in grade school. You need to strike a new balance between listening and understanding and yet still staying firm on key rules.

In the teen years, you need to look at discipline as more of an ongoing conversation. You should invite and involve your teen into every part of that conversation. You still lead the direction and set out the limits and boundaries, but you have your teen speak into what goes into discipline and what discipline looks like. This way, your teen can learn to appreciate the need for boundaries and rules. Ultimately, then they can even learn to appreciate the need for correction and consequences when rules are broken.

Hopefully, this article provides you a good place to start a new conversation around discipline for ADHD teens in your household. Using these tips as a starting place will give you a good foundation for pursuing discipline better. Your teen might even thank you for it. (Yeah, right!)