23 answers

Appropriate Punishment for Teen Son

I've just been notified that my 13 year old is missing assignments at school again! This has been a struggle ever since middle school started. I'm trying to determine what an appropriate and EFFECTIVE punishment might be. As he gets older, it's difficult to determine what punishment will have a true effect and help him learn his lesson.

Some of my thoughts include taking the cellphone away for a month (or more), extra homework from home, grounding, taking away xbox 360, etc. The problem is I've tried all of these in the past (except the cell phone as it's fairly new), and the behavior continues. I'd be interested in hearing what other moms have tried and what worked or what didn't work.


1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

Thank you all for your ideas! I agree that encouragement usually works better than punishment. However, I think that sometimes parents need to find a way to incorporate both. So, I decided to take his cellphone away for a couple of weeks, but we also started an incentive plan for no homework misses and good grades. I have to say that he seemed to be very affected by the loss of the phone. We continue to help him with study plans and time management. As with many things in life, it's trial and error.

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It is hard to tell from you post, but you seem to say that he has had this problem before, and that you have tried to punnish it away. I am just thinking, if that were going to work, it probably already would have. You should go to the school and request an evaluation to see what will work. Maybe this is not a "bad kid" because the good ones also can have underlying issues that will respond the the appropriate help.
It sounds like he has a lot of stuff that could be a distraction, so you will have plenty of things to reward him with when he can show you that he has followed through on the plan that the school puts into action.


1 mom found this helpful

If this is an ongoing problem, I would get him a dayplanner or someplace where he writes down what is due for each class each day. Once you let him pick one out insist he has EACH teacher sign it each day for a week or two weeks confirming he has the assignment correct. This gives him a tool to change behavior and remember his assignment and the mild hassle of having to go up to each teacher at the end of each class(which will help build the habit) I'd tell him, this isn't a punishment this is a solution to a problem.

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Hi, C., Long story short--2 divorced parents, 5 teenagers, problems. Family counseling led to a list house rules---jobs, curfews, allowances, whatever your list needs. Then you all sit down as a family and agree on exactly what the consequence will be for breaking each rule. (Surprisingly, our teens were suggesting stronger punishments than we would've. This gave us room to negotiate on other things.) What you end up with is a list for every child, with his or her personal agenda. Then, when a rule is broken, there is no yelling, no anger, no wondering what to do, no one parent overriding the other,just-- well, that was your choice. If you see willingness to break one rule repeatedly, you need to renegotiate the punishment. It's surprisingly simple, and it truly works wonders for the whole family. The stress levels go down for everyone, (and the kids monitor each other, too-- a bonus).Good luck on whatever you do. This a tough age for everyone.

2 moms found this helpful


It is hard to tell from you post, but you seem to say that he has had this problem before, and that you have tried to punnish it away. I am just thinking, if that were going to work, it probably already would have. You should go to the school and request an evaluation to see what will work. Maybe this is not a "bad kid" because the good ones also can have underlying issues that will respond the the appropriate help.
It sounds like he has a lot of stuff that could be a distraction, so you will have plenty of things to reward him with when he can show you that he has followed through on the plan that the school puts into action.


1 mom found this helpful

I think punishing your son for this behavior is heading in the wrong direction! The only thing you're going to teach him through punishment is to hide his behavior better (and believe me, he can). 13 is the perfect age to develop the organizational skills that will get him through college, so try teaching instead of punishing (and if you're worried about it, don't worry - some of these steps will feel like punishment to him, anyway). He may just be lazy, instead of disorganized, but the steps you need to take will be the same.

Both my brother and I had serious problems turning in our homework. Organization was not a skill we had effectively developed, and my brother was eventually diagnosed with ADD, in the middle of high school. Looking back, my mother suspects I may have had ADD as well (it often shows itself differently in girls), but in any case, we both had to learn to be organized to cope with it.

Step one: make sure your son has a docket or assignment calendar to keep track of all his assignments. Have him help to pick it out, because I can only use calendars organized in a certain way or they don't organize the same way my mind does. Buy him two folders (of different colors) - one for assignments he hasn't completed, and one for things ready to turn in. Losing assignments was another problem my brother and I faced frequently.

Then, when he comes home, he gets a half hour to hour break from school, and then it's homework time. This is where that punishment-like feeling kicks in! Homework should be done in a public place without distractions (the kitchen table only works if the TV isn't on, for example) so that you can keep a close eye on him, and so that you are there to answer questions or help him through the tough parts. The first couple of times, you are going to have to be over-involved so that he knows he can come to you if he's really just stuck. Check his docket for him, and watch him work (make sure he's making progress). Ask him to show you his assignments. Let his teachers know you are doing this so that, if assignments still go missing, you'll know he is not using the docket, folders, or lying to you. Once he has the tools to be organized, lying is something you can punish.

If his behavior continues, you may want to meet personally with his teachers to talk to them. They may give you some mumbo-jumbo about either letting him do it on his own (organization) or them not having the time to personally monitor your son. But you need to have this sort of thing under control by high school or your son will become seriously overwhelmed, so engage everyone who will work with you. Yes, eventually, you will have to let him do it on his own, but apparently he's not ready for that yet.

I haven't had to use these techniques with my own children yet, and I'll confess, my parents started a little late with my brother and me. We were already in high school, and though we were both able to pull it together by the end, it would have been better for all involved if we had learned to be organized earlier (it's also a lot harder to keep a 16-year-old in line!) Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Dear C.,
Maybe he needs to be isolated if he is a social teen. I know that my son would learn that way. It could also mean he is ovrewhelmed by the work and needs some one to help him get organized. L. J.

When this problem occurs with my son, I take him to the public library after school, and he gets to sit in a cubicle with nothing but a desk until his homework is done. Since there is no talking or cell phones allowed there, he has to work quietly. And since he would rather be anywhere else - he tends to focus and get it done. There are times now that he will actually ask me to take him there if he has a ton of work to get done.

He's 13 & trying to spread his wings! This is normal for boys more so than girls. Taking him to task just won't do for him now. It's time for some "hard love", C.. Talk to the school counselor & see if there is a program to get your boy into that will keep him occupied & out of trouble; but will require him to do his homework. He is probably running with a group of boys that really don't have much to do; no responsibilities. Remember in some cultures, your boy would be considered a man! So it's time to start treating him as such. You & your husband need to set down with the boy & tell him what he is responsible for & that if he doesn't not meet those responsibilities; then he forfeits say pocket money for awhile. There are camps that he could go to during the summer months as well or for a whole school year if you feel that is warranted. He will learn how to take care of himself & animals plus how to garden as some of these places. At others, he will learn responsibility for his future. And just so you know, yes, he will always be your baby boy & tell him so; but that you realize that he is wanting to be an adult now, not five years from now. Good luck C..

My friend had this problem with her teenage son. She made him clean out his closet and his shoes - he then had to wear kahki pants and white button down shirt (tucked in) and dress shoes everyday to school until the next report card came out and the grades were up and teachers were reporting that assignments had been turned in. She also stopped by class (as well as her husband) on occasions to make sure his shirt was tucked in! It worked! We as parents have to get creative. If we take away the 360 they find something else, we take away the cell, they'll find another way to communicate. But it won't work if you don't stick to your guns and let the screaming, crying, and I hate you's blow off your back.
Good luck!

Hi C.,

I totally feel your frustration! We have one like this, too, and it has been a lot of trial and error figuring out what worked for us. It was a combination of things. It required a lot of consistency and more than a few confrontations with our sun, but this is the most successful either of our teenage boys have been, yet.

A lot of kids (according to the school counselor) have a hard time with the organization and self discipline they need when they enter middle school. So, we instituted the universal binder. It is a binder that goes to every class with them. We found one that even had an accordion folder in it so that there was a section for each class. You could use tabbed dividers with pockets, instead. In that binder went every note, every piece of homework, every handout. All of it. It came home with him every night. That way he always had the stuff he needed to study or do his work at home, and he always had his homework to turn in at school. That way we didn't hear,"I forgot it, I left it in my locker, I grabbed the wrong binder, I grabbed the wrong book" and so on. On Thursday, before binder check on Friday, he brought all of his binders home and trasferred everything into the appropriate binder. We made weeknights study nights. He gets no more than two hours of free time, and that doesn't include games, going to friends. He can get on the computer, talk on the phone, watch tv, but that's about it. All the other stuff is saved for the nights when he doesn't have school the next day.

We have a computer site called progress book that the school uses to help us keep track of his grades, upcoming assignments, missing assignments, and tardies. We check it every other day. If you don't have that, contact the teachers and tell them you would like an email every week of his grade and any missing work. Explain that if he has a grade lower that (what you deem acceptable) or any missing assignments he will be spending the weekend studying and making up the work. It doesn't matter if he will get credit for the late work or not. It is about the fact that a person in authority told him to do something and he is going to do as he's told and follow through with his responsibilities. Most teachers, when they know you are on board and are supporting their effort to teach your child, will go miles to work with you. If, in fact, he has an unacceptable grade or missing work, all of the stuff that you have saved for him to do on the weekend is GONE along with the normal stuff he would get to do. He will be studying and making up his work.

Lastly, we instituted a rewards system. For every month that they keep their grades up and have no missing assignments, they get a reward. Sometimes it is microsoft points for the x-box. Sometimes it is an itune giftcard for the ipod, or an application for their phone like a game or ringtones, or even a visa gift card for a shopping spree. Usually we keep it to $15 or $20.

I think it's important to stress that you are not doing this TO him, but FOR him. If he doesn't develop these habits now, what is he going to do when the work gets harder, the teachers step back more, or he is off to college and you are not there to check on him. You are preparing him for success.

Hope these ideas help in some way!

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