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As I’m sure you know, raising a teenager is no easy task. If you are at the end of your rope, positive discipline may help you regain the peace and respect you have lost along the way, which will help you keep your sanity too.

What is Positive Parenting?

Positive parenting is all about building a strong parent-child relationship and finding ways to discipline teens without “breaking their spirit.” Communication and mutual respect are the cornerstones of positive parenting. The focus of positive discipline is to encourage positive behaviors. Through positive discipline, parents can teach not only “what” but also “why” and can help their children learn the art of self-control.

Keys to Positive Discipline

Dr. Jane Nelsen is credited with developing the theory of positive discipline, which is “designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities.” There are five criteria that are the cornerstones of positive discipline:

  1. Is Kind and Firm at the same time. (Respectful and encouraging)
  2. Helps children feel a sense of Belonging and Significance. (Connection)
  3. Is Effective Long-Term. (Punishment works short term but has negative long-term results.)
  4. Teaches valuable Social and Life Skills for good character. (Respect, concern for others, problem-solving, accountability, contribution, cooperation)
  5. Invites children to discover how Capable they are and to use their personal power in constructive ways.

In addition to these five criteria, there are also five keys to positive discipline that you can use today with your teenager: Accountability, expectations, limits, support, and humor.


To prepare our children for their lives as adults, we must teach them accountability. Being able to say “I made a mistake” or “I didn’t do the right thing” (rather than trying to shift the blame) is part of being an adult. To develop accountability, we depend on the other keys of positive discipline. We need to set clear expectations and limits for our teens. Teenagers also need the support of their parents. Last but not least, as parents, we have to keep our sense of humor when dealing with our kids.


To use positive discipline effectively, you must have clear expectations that you expect your teen to meet. For example, decide what kinds of grades you expect your teenager to bring home. All C’s and above? Higher? Once you know what you expect of your teen, sit them down and talk with them. Make sure you are clear with them about what your expectations are. However, remember to be realistic and not to set your expectations too high. Don’t tell your teen who has always struggled to get a C in math that you expect an A. And always be consistent when it comes to expectations.


Setting limits is an important part of positive discipline. Once again, you need to be clear with your teenager. Setting limits for your teen gives them the ability to set limits for themselves once they are adults. However, goals need to be set with empathy. To effectively set goals with empathy, start by developing a strong, supportive connection with your child. Let your teenager know you are on their side now and always. Then, remember to always take the time to see things from your teen’s point of view.


Being a teenager is not easy. Growing up is hard. Adolescence may be the most difficult years your child will experience. As such, they desperately need the support of their parents. By supporting your teen, you strengthen your relationship, which helps you enact the positive discipline strategies that can help you get a handle on life again. When a teenager feels that their parents support them, it opens the door for honest conversations that might not happen otherwise. Let your teen know that you love them unconditionally and will always “have their back,” so to speak.


If you lose your sense of humor while raising a teenager, you are going to lose your mind as well. Approaching these difficult years with humor is what will see you through the rough times. Sometimes, you just have to laugh. Humor can also come in handy to ease tensions during difficult conversations with your teen. Never, ever, lose your sense of humor. A good laugh can see you through the rough patches and get you to the other side.

Putting Positive Discipline into Practice in Your Home

Starting today, you can begin using positive discipline to regain the peace and respect that you thought were gone forever. If you feel like you need more direction before implementing positive discipline in your home, there are a variety of programs available that will help you learn how to change the way you interact with your teen. There are also positive parenting support groups where parents help one another learn how to use positive discipline with their children. If the techniques you have been trying with your teenager have failed to produce the results you are looking for, then it is time to give positive parenting a try.

Featured image CC 2.0, by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via Wikimedia Commons

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