Appropriate Punishment for Teenager

Updated on June 08, 2008
T.B. asks from Eau Claire, WI
21 answers

My daughter will be 13 next weekend. She pulled a stunt today that deserves punishment, however we are unsure of what to do. She had permission to walk the mile home from school. She was over an hour late because she took it upon herself to stay after school and talk to her boyfriend. She didn't attempt to call to let us know what was going on.

We consider this a severe breach of trust and safety and that she would be punished appropriately once we decided what to do. For sure there will be no socializing with her friends for some time. Any other ideas on what would be appropriate? The other problem is that school is now done so not letting her talk to her friends/walk home doesn't faze her since she wouldn't get to do that now much anyway.

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So What Happened?

Wow! Thanks for all the responses. We did punish her by not letting her talk on the phone or going to visit her friends. We also are setting some very strict guidelines that she needs to follow for the future. She is basically a good kid, but has been focusing more on friends and has been letting her grades and chores slip, so we are keeping a very close eye on those things also.

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answers from Omaha on

I would take the all phone privelages away (cell and house), Computer time also. If she isn't going to have the respect to call and tell you where she is or what she is doing than she doesn't need to be in communications with any of her friends.

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answers from La Crosse on

For punishment as well as for the fact that she is only 13...don't let her have a boyfriend. Do not allow her to spend the summer days alone at home, or babysitting her siblings. You could tell her you will delay her the privilege of attending driver's ed/getting her temps when she is 15 1/2 by one month every time she is irresponsible like that. I suppose you could make a chart for it.

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answers from Janesville-Beloit on

As others have said, yes punish her but dont make it very long or severe. You have to pick your battles very carefully at this age.

I can only offer what I did w/ my children at that age. I did the whole yelling "You could have been kidnapped and blah blah blah!" They didn't get much from that cuz it happened again and so I changed my tactics (my children are years apart so this had to be repeated for each). 1st; I ground them for the weekend - no computer, cell phone or friends coming over, basically no life outside our home and family. 2nd; I had them do everything w/ me for the weekend - no leaving my side except for bathroom or bed. They helped me do all my chores and let them know it was cuz I was sooooooo very afraid I had lost them! I over did it so I could make my point. 3rd; this came 2 or 3 weeks later - I came home late w/ the excuse "I was talking to my friend and forgot the time!" and my kids were panicked cuz they couldn't get into the house and they didn't know where I was cuz I left the original place I was going. I got yelled at! And grounded for 3 days! LOL! I ended up doing their chores w/ them as they wanted me in their sight at all times! LOL! Boy, did that ever make a point!

Sit down now (you and hubby) and think of certain situations your child(ren) could break the rules. Rank them, think of what would be worst and least offenses. Then have an idea of how you may respond to each. Not cut and dry cuz teens have a wonderful habit of finding loop holes in every rule. You may want to share a few w/ your kids but not all of them. Tell them 1 severe and 1 not so severe consequence and then say "You get the picture." This gives them the thought of what you expect and what they can expect BUT it leaves things open for you to alter something when needed.

Most of all be consistant! A will get you B. This way they will have clear guidelines in which to live by.

And just to be real honest here, my baby (a full fledged teen) can easily get round me on groundings! I was so good w/ the others! Anyways, I have had to get more creative for him! LOL! Sometimes, it's nothing more than doing the "gotta pinch your cheeks and kiss that sweet face" routine in front of friends. But I can follow thru w/ grounding for a particular activity (like Homecoming) or a particular item (no more minutes on his cell phone). Or worse yet! He had to attend a family function! Those are the big things in his life right now.

What I'm trying to say is that you can change things up a bit for each child. They are different people so they can have different consequences just not different basic rules.

Oh this is a book I lived w/ in my hands when my oldest put me thru the wringer! Get Out of My Life but first could you take me and Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D. You may be able to find it at your library or at or

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answers from Duluth on

I'm a high school teacher of 8 years, and just want to throw one caution out there--if you punish her severely, and hand it down like a judgment from God, you may lose your ability to communicate with her--and 12/13 is awfully early to lose that kind of communication with a teenager. I'm certainly not recommending ignoring it, and I'd be sure to stress the importance of safety and how worried you were and how not knowing where she is for an hour is a huge concern, but IMO, getting her to understand, truly, why not contacting you was wrong is a bigger issue than how to punish her. Walking the line between her desire to be "adult" and her need to be parented is very hard, and I'm definitely not saying I have the answers, but I do know that not recognizing her belief that she's growing up and into an adult (whether she acts like it or not) can easily result in her simply being disgusted with her parents and ignoring them entirely.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I think you are seriously overreacting. Was this willful disobedience or did she just get caught up in the moment and loose track of time? If you punish this as severely as you plan to, she will likely find ways around your rules to do what she wants. Give her your rules and some reasonable consequences and then work with her to help her be respectful of your needs and desires. It is important that she follow through with what is expected and she needs to know that this is not OK. But if you use your big guns on this issue, you may run out of ammo before you get through the whole war.

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answers from Rapid City on

Teenage years are so much fun:-S. She made a mistake on not calling you or following the agreed upon privelage so I can understand why you are angry with her. Thing is you are acting out of fear along with teaching her how to think of others and act responsible. If you go overboard on punishment with this, she will rebel on you in the years to come. I was a pretty strict mother and my kids hid so much of what they did (now that they are adults I am finding out just how much). If I had to do it over again I would home school them out on a ranch and keep them from any other person until they are 20! Ok I am just kidding on that, but after talking with her letting her know how scared you were and telling her if it happens again these will be the consceqences... Taking her phone for a few days or taking away her internet/computer/video games for a few days might be enough to teach her to be more thoughtful. If you punish harsly over a hour late home from school (how many times do we get caught up when we get to visiting our friends and forget the time?), then what will you do for something like drinking, lying, stealing, back talking and rebellion? I would also say don't give out punishments that you can't control. I use to ground my kids when they were teens and with me working, I couldn't be home to see that they abidded by it. Needless to say, it didn't work very well. Although my daughter when she was grounded would clean my house from top to bottom and then ask to go somewhere. I always felt it was a way of appologizing and would let her go. My youngest was grounded and asked his sister how she got off being grounded and was told he needed to clean the house. He said he tried that and it didn't work (surprised me, I didn't know he tried cleaning house :-O) so she told him he had to clean it really really good! The next day while I was at work I recieved flowers (thinking of you mom) from him! See flowers to get out of trouble must be a inbred thing.

Anyway, good luck with your daughter and be prepared, it does get worse before it gets better (when they move out and find out they had more freedom at home with you paying the bills) and know that this too shall pass.

Something to remember, aliens come down and clone our good children and take them for about 4 years. They leave this clone which gives you fits who looks like your child but you know it isn't cuz yours wouldn't EVER act that way! They do bring them back though and it is secret what they did while gone. I asked my kids and they just rolled their eyes and said "Mommm". Keep a sense of humor and know some day they too will be the mom or dad of a teenager!

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answers from Minneapolis on

My son is 13 and he also walks a mile home from school. We learned from experiences like yours, that it is his time to dawdle and talk, socialize and daydream. His school is competitive and hard and he does do chores when he gets home. Believe me, I've had a few harried moments of not knowing where he was, but I'm learning to change my expectations. I know he's a generally cautious and responsible person - who is definitely prone to acting like a difficult teenager. From what I've read about raising teens, the most important thing is to keep communication open and to set limits for them... which they will push back again and again. If you decide on a stern punishment, then I would suggest also countering it with a lot of really positive feedback about what your daughter does well and how you're proud of her. I also ask my son what he thinks a reasonable punishment is - the kids all talk among themselves about punishment - so-and-so is grounded, so-and-so has to clean the bathroom, and all the kids do compare whether their parents are reasonable or not (none of us are, but there is still comparison and I for one want to be considered fair). I like the tactic of taking away privileges for a short period of time (a day or a weekend) and then letting it go. My son recently confided in me that he has found that the kids at his school with the most lenient parents are the most obnoxious kids - but I'm not supposed to tell his friends he said that!!!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I dunno she's 13 it's the last day of school. I would have done the same thing. I think there is alot worse things kids do these days.

Ground her for 1 week and be done with it. If she was caught smoking,having sex,stealing,something along those lines I would be as upset as you are.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Hi Terri B,

I'm a mom of 3 [2 of whom are now happy adults] and still i have a 14 yr old at home. i truly enjoy this parenthood role, from the fortunate perspective of experience. In fact I'm now a life coach and love to coach parents.

2 things I want to suggest. First - change the language. Instead of punishment [which is all about how you act] use the word consequence. this will help your daughter see how HER behavior will help her control her world.

The second thing is nurturing your SELF. It's imperative that you are happy and well taken care of: rest, healthy eating and enjoyment will allow you to be the stable parent your teen needs and can rely on.

It's great to read all the words of wisdom other moms have for you. KNOW that you are doing your best! and that these years ahead you'll be developing trust in your daughter because she's your beautiful child and you see her and guide her on her path.

K. C.
Mother of 3 - grandmother of 2! - and Mamasource business owner

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answers from Madison on

Hi Terri -- Did you make it clear to your daughter that she was supposed to come directly home when school was over? That she must call if she wouldn't be home by a certain time? Those things may be obvious to us, but sometimes they have to be spelled out for a teenager! If you just relied on her common sense without defining your terms, it might be wise to go easy on any punishment this time. Maybe you & your husband & she could sit down and CALMLY discuss the issue. Describe the safety benefits of you knowing where she is and/or when to expect her. (She'll probably pooh-pooh that.) Describe the benefits to your (the three of your) relationship of you being able to rely on her -- you'll be able to trust her with more responsibility, give her more freedom, etc., as she proves herself. Remind her that in the real world courtesy goes a long way toward making life pleasanter for everyone.

I'd be interested to see how she responds to your calm, fact-based comments. I would think that if she seems contrite and/or understands the wisdom of what you're saying, maybe you could say something like, "Well, since we weren't clear about our expectations before, we'll let it go this time, but now that we all understand each other you realize that if you goof up again there will be serious penalties. If you're not sure how we'd feel about a situation you can always call one of us."

On the other hand, if she is obstinate and says you're crazy, all the other kids do it, etc., you have to show her that irresponsible behavior has consequences.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I am a new mom - 25 with a 2 year old daughter... So my advice may not seem that relevant, but I remember vividly what it was like to be a teenager that age. I also have a bachelor's degree in Psychology with an emphasis in childhood development. I recommend being strict about the punishment... Taking away privileges (phone, internet, tv, or whatever she values the most) and having a very good talk with her about why it is so important to tell you where she is all the time. Since summer is coming, I would recommend in general (not even just for a punishment), giving her a list of chores to accomplish every day. Every night you can come up with a list of things you need done around the house - laundry, dusting, vacuuming, etc. This will teach her responsibility AND prepare her for the real world when she gets out of the house. I just suggest keeping her busy, because kids who are busy don't have that much time to get into trouble.

Some of the responses you have received, in my opinion, are too harsh. I don't think that this ONE act of disobedience means the downfall of your daughter from now on. I would just punish each poor behavior as it happens, and make sure she knows she can always talk to you about anything. Keep that line of communication open.

I can speak from experience that very harsh punishments can push your daughter away and make her begin to lie and hide things. That is what happened when I grew up. My dad gave VERY strict punishments - summer long grounding (and we lived in the country so it was really grounding), manual labor chores - digging trenches!, no sleeping in at all, etc. It was hell for me, so I would hide drinking and sex and all kinds of things. (I was not a good teen!) I don't recommend going easy on your daughter, but I say, take one behavior at a time and sit down and talk to you daughter with logical reasoning.

Good luck!!!

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answers from Cedar Rapids on

It is a proven fact that teenagers brains are not able to process things as an adult brain would. I know this first hand. I was a really good kid and never wanted to do anything to make my parents angry-even in high school. But, I did do some very stupid things when I was young. I got into a car of a man I didn't know because my friend's NEW boyfriend knew him and proceeded to go to this man's apartment to watch a movie. As an adult, I am mortified that I did that. My parents never found out...they knew I was with my friend, but not that we left the school ball game and did this. It worries me that my daughter could do something like this and see nothing wrong with it at the time, as I did. If my parents had found out and punished me, in my mind, it would have just made me angry. Rather than making your daughter angry (because when teens are angry, they have the tenancy not to pay attention to what you are saying), maybe you should try sitting her down and telling her that you realize that she is older now and with that comes responsibility. That you understand that she wanted to talk to her boyfriend on the last day of school, but that a phone call would have been nice. Make sure she knows that you trust her to do the right things, and that is why you chose to let her walk home. After a good heart to heart, and she realizes why you are so angry, I would ground her from friends, phone, and things like that for a week. At the end of the week ask her what she would do if put in that situation (or a similar one) again, what would she do? Help her to learn from her mistakes, not be afraid to tell you about any others she might make. She is still a kid and they just aren't able to make the best decisions all the time. It may help you to give her some scenarios every once in a while of things that could happen and ask her what she would do. It will help her think ahead of time about what her reactions would be to certain situations and what you would expect her to do in those situations. Good luck...and don't be too hard on her, she is only 13 still and that is a rough age. Right in between feeling like you are still a kid and trying so hard to be a grown up. I'm sure it is frustrating for her as well as you.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I don't know if she has a cell phone, ipod or anything along that line. You could take that away. I suppose you could do something along the lines of community service.



answers from Milwaukee on

Hi Terri,

I am only adding my two cents for whatever it is worth.

I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it's wrong, but when I saw the words: "severe breach of trust and safety" I kind of wondered if there is more that you haven't told us.

Because if this was the first time, and if your daughter walked home, and it took her an hour and she didn't call you, but she let you know when she got home (or if you had asked and she told you then) what she was doing, who she was with, and that she was sorry for being late: I would say thank you, and talk to her about how worried you were and your concerns. And just have an adult discussion.

If your daughter was into drugs or alcohol or a bad group of kids I would worry, but if it's just hanging with kids at school I wouldn't have a problem with that as long as they are a good group of kids. You have to trust that you have instilled the differences between right and wrong in your children and trust that.

If there was a problem with the boyfriend and sex issues, I would say there would be a problem, BIG PROBLEM, but if it's not then why worry.

If you lived in a bad neighborhood, I would be worried.

I guess for me or anyone to offer you an opinion on a punishment, we really would need to know about the situation. Every child is different. Every parent has different rules. Every environment is different.

My advice is to look into your heart and ask yourself if "YOU" did what your daughter did, truly in your heart, how would you have wanted "your" mom to handle the situation with "you"..............Then take your own advice.

I can only share with you that these years are the hardest on these kids especially these days with all the electronics, the peer pressure, the internet, etc. there are so many choices kids have. Not like in my day, where there were no cell phones, or internet. We all talked to each other.
I am not making excuses for them, I have only seen what we've gone through with our children. Age 15 was my nightmare.

13 is such a hard age for kids. They are trying to find their identity and trying to break that "kid" label.

Our daughter wasn't into boys until she was 15, so 13 for me is kind of a young age to be dating. We didn't allow dating until she was 15.

But, I know that if you ask yourself that question, you'll answer your own question. Hope that helps.

God Bless,




answers from Minneapolis on

Hi Terri
I think you are right in not letting her talk to her friends for a while. I also would not let her walk home until she earns back your trust to do so. Good Luck the fun is just begining. :)T.



answers from Lincoln on

I personally don't think you were seriouly overreacting, not in this day and age where children get snached off the street all the time.... My daughter did something like this and I grounded her for two weeks, even took away her birthday party, (her birthday is Halloween) she hasn't done anything like it since. You need to find something really important and take it from her, a planned trip with the church, or something she was really looking forward to. I know that I'm a worry wort, but my cousins were playing in their yard when a guy ask them if they wanted to go for a ride, they lived in a town of about 800 people at the time. I figure if it could happen there it could happen anywhere. You can not be too careful.



answers from Minneapolis on

Remember, she is your oldest. If her grades are slipping, her chores aren't being done. There just might be more going on than what she's telling you. How you handle this situation will set a precedence with your other children and how she will respond in the future. I would make sure that she knows she has to earn your trust back. You stated it was a severe breach of trust. I would agree with your statement. It is a severe breach of trust. In this day and age where children are disappearing at an alarming rate, you need to know where your children are. As a parent it is a major responsibility. I would rather make a mistake on the side of caution. There are so many things teens try today because of peer pressure, they truly need our guidance at all times to stay safe. I've always tried to have my kids friends over to my house and they have always enjoyed coming over. I'm a grandma now and I raised 4 children.



answers from Green Bay on

Well, teens do like to talk to teens. My son have many friends he NEEDS to talk to. A book someone recommended from the list that has been useful to us is: "Teen Breakthrough. the relationship approach" Enjoy your teen.
Blessing and support,
Mom of a 14 yr old ds, homeschooling and Mamasource business owner


answers from La Crosse on

I agree with Elisa. Find out why it happened and help her understand why you are so upset. Many times kids at this age (especially girls) are daydreaming and not paying attention to the clock. My middle child was like that until, one day, she could not reach me at home or on my cell phone. She freaked! She told me she finally understood why I wanted to know her whereabouts at all times. BTW, I'm not necessarily recommending you do that, but maybe if you just say, "How would you feel if you couldn't find Mom?"



answers from Sheboygan on

The best thing that I think you can do is to take something away from her that means a lot. So if she is always on the phone or computer, take one or both away from her. It has to make enough of an impact to make her stop and think and to not want to be punished again.
Good Luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Since you are asking what an appropriate punishment is, I'm assuming she doesn't get into trouble much. If this is the case, I wouldn't punish her for this 1 incident. Pick your battles. In a day or two, will you still think it's a "severe breach"?

Count your blessings: she was honest with you. She told you what she was doing, and who she was with. She could have lied.

However, I think it's appropriate to lay down the ground rules for the future. Sit down with her, and have a calm conversation. If she is going to be late coming home, she needs to call. If she doesn't call, she will lose her phone privileges for a week (or internet or whatever is important to her). A punishment might be an increase in chores or a revoked privilege. Most teen girls love to talk on the phone.

Lastly, are you bothered by the fact that she was an hour late, or by the fact that she has a boyfriend?

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