Teenagers and “Discipline Without Distress”

Ah, we are down to the LAST two chapters in this book and then we will be ready to start “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Ned To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate.

This chapter is an interesting one from my perspective because I have a few things to add from  not just an attachment parenting perspective but also from  a Waldorf parenting perspective. 

The title of this chapter is “Discipline Tools for Teenagers 13-19: Negotiate”. (Which okay, I have to admit, when I first read the title, I sort of thought, yes, negotiate, but not just negotiate!  But let’s see what Judy Arnall says first).   The author starts the chapter by saying, “I believe most rebellion and power struggles among teenagers and their parents result from the lack of change of discipline techniques that should occur when children grow, particularly the use of non-punitive discipline from the time children are born….The problem occurs when parents use punishments and bribes liberally through the school-aged years, and then find out those methods aren’t working anymore with the children who are more resourceful and bigger than they.”    Agreed!

Another quote:  “…there are plenty of studies that also show teen rebellion, risk behavior, and crime are linked to harsh physical punishment and neglect.”  Agreed.  I have also seen this first-hand in my  work with children and families.

“Some anecdotal evidence comes from the home-schooling community.  It’s interesting to see the peer pressure that engulfs school teens is relegated to the sidelines in homeschooled teens. Family is still front and center in their lives.  I’ve noticed that influence and warmth of family togetherness is still a priority in some home-schooled families’ lives with teenagers.  …..Even in families whose children attend school, I’ve seen close parent-child relationships if the parenting style was nurturing and democratic.  It’s even more important in non-home schooling families due to increased peer pressure.”  Yes!  And this is another reason for the “Hold On To Your Kids” book study coming up!  Attachment can benefit all families, no matter what age the child!

The author talks about how much of the moodiness, sensitivity, etc of the teen years are due to hormones.  This, of course, not being that kind of book, does not take into account the four-fold human being (head back to this post if you need refreshing as to what the four-fold human being entails:https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/27/the-four-fold-human-being/    )  Yes, teenagers have hormones, but that only takes into account the PHYSICAL body.  We know that teenagers are in the midst of the  astral body – the seat of emotions, passion, antipathy and sympathy.  Even if you don’t believe in Steiner’s view, how about this idea that something else is developing besides just the  physical body’s progression toward different hormone levels?  The teenage years are about individuality, about discovering one’s identity, one’s likes and dislikes, where one fits.    It is a wild ride!

The author Judy Arnall lists the following parenting techniques that would be helpful for this stage:  listening,  making sure your teenagers knows no topic is off-limits, sharing fun, talking about your days together, being comfortable with disagreeing, offering your advice as an option and not the “ONLY” answer, using humor, telling them what they can do as opposed to what they cannot do, rehearsing strategies with them for situations that would involve risk-taking behavior.

She talks about the development of teenagers, that they do go in and out of the stages of childhood (and therefore are not completely mature), that we must  recognize that their body clock does want to stay up late and sleep late, and many more tips.  This list is on page 125.

She has a whole wonderful list of “living together issues” and “values collisions” and what to do.  There are things such as “Be prepared to seek community support and information should sexual activity, drug use, or other risk taking behaviors go beyond teen experimentation.” 

The next part is sections is negotiate your “no”, focus on the child’s strength, speak respectfully (and insist on being spoken to respectfully), offer a one-time consultation, reflective questions (and I would add NonViolent Communication can be a good tool for those 14 and up), keep communication lines open, reconsider the situation with new information, have a few clear rules, decide what you will do, take a parent time-out, separate the big issues from the small issues (and mentions figuring out the three things you will uphold  no matter what), reduce the reasons for rebellion, respect privacy, change the environment, stimulation, model behavior, decide on problem ownership (this reminds me of Barbara Coloroso’s book), connect and then direct, problem-solve, use I-statements, active listening, spend time together, don’t lecture over a casual question about a “hot”topic, encourage capability, contracts, welcome your teenager’s friends,  developing humor and acceptance, and holding, cuddling and hugs (still important!).

She remarks, “Teens still want  two critical elements of attachment theory:  freedom to explore and a secure base.”  “Teens still need and want  their parents very much but in different ways than in the past.”

She delves into handling “attitude” (both your child’s AND yours!), how to influence a behavioral change (which, always ironically, means to start with changing yourself), dating, driving, school problems, teen pranks, teen peer groups and then high-risk behavior:  sexual  behavior, drugs, suicide, crime, weapons possession, eating disorders.  One sobering statistic noted is that the “average age of first marijuana use in the US is age 14, and many teens abuse alcohol by age 12.”   Also, the US, the UK and Canada, suicide is one of the top three leading causes of death for 14 to 19- year -olds.   Another sobering fact.

The high-risk section was most interesting to me, and I would like to talk about it a bit more in my next post. 

We are almost through this book and I highly encourage you to read this book if you have not been reading along with us before now!

Would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter if you do have the book!

Many blessings,


6 thoughts on “Teenagers and “Discipline Without Distress”

  1. Thanks for the posts on older children/teens. I am still in the early stages in my parenting journey but work quite a bit with teens and older youth in a Therapeutic Foster Care program in Canada and am always so happy to find thoughts based on attachment in working with teens. I find typically at the older ages, individuals who have been so amazing emotionally attuned in the younger years simply lose it and begin to parent soley from a behavioral perspective, which surprise, surprise-the older children do not respond to..

    Also looking forward to your comments on Hold Unto Your Kids. I have seen Neufeld and have had some conversations with him about thoughts on older children especially. Actually I was talking with him just a couple of weeks ago when he was near where I live doing a seminar, and recommended he look at your blog as he was talking about the early years of parenting and effectively almost all suggestions I have read on this blog and other Waldorf sites. Just thought I would let you know.

    Thanks again

    • Wow, thanks Suzin! Gordon Neufeld is my hero! How wonderful would that be?
      I also LOVE your perspective regarding parents who “switch” from being connected earlier on into more standard discipline approaches and how this fails.
      Thank you!
      Many blessings,

  2. love neufeld’s book! i think it is a great approach to parenting teens, especially for those of us who parent in an attachment way. i have a recently turned 13 year old and i know that she really needs me – actively – on her side when facing all of the pressures that young girls face these days.

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