Consistent and Firm Discipline in High School and Healthy Parent Child Relationships – No

After giving this question much consideration, and as a parent of a daughter halfway through high school and a son halfway through college, I have to vote no.

When children begin their metamorphosis into adulthood, which should begin sometime during the high school years, they need to be able to begin making some of their own decisions and learn to be fully responsible for the consequences.

As a parent, this is the time to make a gradual downshift of power, allowing teenagers to throttle up their self-discipline and sense of responsibility. I think it is imperative to be available communicably and to be a helpful positive resource for your teenagers struggling to achieve their independence. Unfortunately, the parenting window of opportunity begins to close as teenagers naturally grow more independent and if, by high school, you haven’t instilled good values and a good work ethic, it may be too late.

Increasing or unyielding discipline towards kids of this age will only drive a wedge between you, making you seem dictatorial and creating bigger issues as they feel the need to rebel against what they feel is unfair. Indeed it is unfair to ask your teenager to take on more responsibility and act like an adult when they are given very little authority.

It is a difficult thing for a parent to stand by and watch their teenager screw up, but a glorious and very proud moment indeed when teenagers resolve their problems on their own and learn from their mistakes. It brings to mind when my own son was going through this phase. He was driving by himself to visit his girlfriend who lived about 10 miles away. I would be fine with him staying out late and then I would be fretful and feel the need for him to come home early; my reluctance to follow my own advice made me seem erratic. He would get so annoyed with me, until it dawned on me and I told him that I had to train myself to learn to trust his judgement and asked for his patience. That made sense to him and we worked through it.

While I think consistent and firm discipline in high school is a waste of effort and potentially damaging, I do think that developing mutual respect for each other is important. The teenager you see before you is a slightly diluted version of the adult that he or she will become. Therefore, accepting who they are and moving into the next phase of our lives – from parents to mentors – is the best way to maintain healthy relationships and ensure their success.