parents arguing over teen discipline

 

It’s midnight and I’m pacing around my house waiting for my 16-year-old son to get home. His driving curfew (according to the law for 16-year-old in Florida) is 11 p.m.  I’m fuming. My husband is sound asleep. I have a tracking app on my phone but it has stopped working. I am not sure why.  For the last hour, every time I thought about calling or texting Garret, I stopped myself. The last I could tell he was in a part of town where the streets are very dark and lined with canals. I am terrified about distracting him from the road. Ugh, raising teenagers is not easy!

When Garret finally arrives home, he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that he’s an hour late or that I have been awake worrying.  I’m livid. I start screaming at him about how he should have called or texted me. He calmly responds: “If you want to know where I was, why didn’t you just track me?”  As we are arguing, my husband screams from the bedroom, “Can you two keep it down. I’m trying to sleep.”

I wanted to kill both my son and my husband.

I told my Garret to go to bed and we would discuss his punishment in the morning.

When I woke up the next morning, I still was angry and filled my husband in on what had happened. My husband did not have a curfew growing up and thinks that curfews are unnecessary.  Of course, he goes to sleep when our teenagers are out at night driving and doesn’t worry. I, on the other hand, can’t sleep until they are home safe.  I ask my husband to help me come up with an appropriate punishment. He thinks I should just tell my son to be more conscious of his curfew. I don’t agree with that punishment. Most of my son’s friends are 17. At that age, the driving curfew goes later, until 1 a.m.  My son often negotiates a later curfew when he isn’t driving. So, I think the punishment should be he has to be home by 11 p.m. and not one minute later, regardless of who is driving —  until Garret can prove himself trustworthy.  My husband thinks I am getting carried away with the punishment and making it so Garret will rebel.

We argue.

I win.

This is not the first argument my husband and I have had over how to discipline our teenagers and I’m sure it won’t be the last. My friends  tell me they, too, argue with their spouses over teen discipline.

My friend Jennifer punishes her teen daughter by taking away her cellphone. When her grades slip, the cell phone gets taken away until her grades improve. Her husband is completely against that form of punishment. He thinks taking away the cell phone is more of a punishment for them as parents because they can’t reach their daughter when they are running late to pick her up or need to tell her something.  They are constantly arguing over how to discipline their daughter, Jennifer told me. (Not long ago, Raquel wrote a post that questioned whether taking away a teen’s cell phone really works as punishment)

When my children were younger, my husband and I argued a little over how to discipline the kids. — should they go to time out for hitting a sibling or maybe get put to bed earlier? However, the issues were small and the stakes were low. With teenagers, finding the right punishment for the crime and being on the same page as your parenting partner is a HUGE challenge. Teenagers  test limits and sometimes they ignore your rules just to see if they can get away with it. They love dividing parents and playing one against the other.

What are friends doing for teen discipline?

Feeling agitated by my weekend’s parenting clash, I call my friend Stef, who has mentioned to me in the past that she and her husband often argue over how to discipline their teen sons. Stef explains to me that she disciplines with words and consequences, where her husband yells and slams doors.

“He has a shorter fuse than I do and he doesn’t tolerate disrespect,” she told me. “We try not to let them divide us and come off to them as if we’re coming from the same place, but it’s hard.”

Stef said the biggest disagreements with her husband are over the degree of the punishment. One time when her son mouthed off to her husband, he wanted to revoke all driving privileges for two weeks. Stef felt the punishment was too severe. “I had to take him aside and tell him that if he did that, he was going to be the one driving our son to school and home and anywhere else he needed to go.” They worked out a compromise of two days of no driving.

By now, I have learned that teens can either pour on the drama over even the slightest punishment, or be masters of looking like they don’t care about any discipline we dole out. I’m not sure which is worse!

Explaining the reason behind teen discipline

I read this bit of advice from Rosalind Wiseman on YourTeenMag.com and it stuck with me: She says the conversation with your teen about the punishment is more important than the actual consequence. “Focus on what you want your teen to learn from the experience,” she said, adding that while it can be so much easier to yell or disconnect, these conversations can be the most important you ever have with your teen.

Like most parents, I just want my son to grow up understanding respect and to become a responsible adult. It may be that I don’t always agree with my husband on how to make that happen. I would imagine this is even harder if you are divorced. If you and your spouse or partner or ex disagree on teen discipline, how have you handled it? Please share your experiences with teen discipline in the comment section below.

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