Parenting Modern Teens (& Kids!)

Parent Coaching Teen Coaching Podcast Free Support Screen Addiction My Story Articles Contact Book Your Free Call Login

Why “Heart-Talk” Discipline Works and Punishments Don’t

Every teen needs good discipline:

Noun - the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.

Discipline helps teens understand that life has order, boundaries, and natural consequences – and that becoming a mature, independent, successful adult means controlling oneself to thrive within family and societal boundaries.

Good discipline is a necessity to help young people properly learn and mature.

 This article IS NOT JUST ABOUT the amazingness of discipline.

 This article is about why punishments don’t work – yes, they are different.

 Punishment Is...


👎🏻 Taking a teen’s phone or screen away

👎🏻Restricting who they spend time with


 As you know..and have felt..these responses are hard on you, your teen and the family.

In my parent coaching work (via in-person and parenting videos), I teach parents how to replace these traditional, out-dated parenting responses, with more effective forms of discipline and parenting. 

 There is a better way to train (= discipline) a modern teen.

3 Ways To Best Understand Effective Discipline With Teenagers


1. The Best, Most Effective Discipline Occurs When A Parent Sits Down With A Teen To Help Them Process, Learn and Makes Amends

No matter what subject you are teaching another person: math, how to apply make-up, how to change a tire, or how to behave better -  humans learn best when someone sits with them and calmly teaches them.

In my work with families, I call these conversations “Heart-Talks” or “Sit Downs”.

 These intentional conversations occur when parents and teens sit down to speak, listen, care and connect with each other. This is good discipline….good discipline means good training.  

This dialogue should not be forced, and should happen when a parent invites their teen to talk, and the teen agrees.

The parent then effectively tells their teenager about how they have broken a rule OR not met the expected bar AND how their behavior affects/hurts feelings. AKA: Parents should speak with their head AND their heart.

Parents should not give long lectures or sermons, but this should be a two-sided exchange with short speaking increments and active listening from the listener.

If your teenager wants to also speak about their feelings or opinions, this is the time for the parent to listen, emotionally connect, show empathy, and express care.

Being an inviting listener to your teenager when they act out does not excuse their bad behavior. Instead, it creates the best learning environment for your teen to reflect on their choices and learn from their mistakes.

This “Heart-Talk” is the time for your teenager to care for feelings and make amends...and "make things right".

A simple, “I’m sorry” goes a long way for some parents/families…and for others... it does not.

Therefore, teach your teenager how to show empathy, validate feelings, make amends and bring emotional healing to the damage they have done.

 Your teenager is a young adult and is capable of this!

 Yes, they will need your help and training to learn how to have this “Heart Talk”. This is not a subject they teach in schools!

 (If you would like to learn more about “Heart Talks” or how your family can benefit from them, please contact me for coaching or take this class: The Parenting Teens Masterclass.)

2. Punishments Usually Don’t Reach A Teen’s Heart….While Heart Talks Do

We yell when we don’t feel heard.

We give long lectures when we don’t feel understood.

We scold them when we want them to feel the pain of their actions.

We ground/restrict when we want them to learn their lesson.

We take their phone away to get their attention.

Yet, with all these responses, we usually don’t reach their heart...and therefore, the bad behavior usually doesn't change.

The heart is where the action is. If you want a teenager to change their behavior, you need a parenting approach that reaches their heart.

 Most teens will tell you, with either their direct words or their repetitive, poor actions, punishment does not change them or help them grow.

3. Good, Strong, Natural-Consequence, Discipline Should Be Used As A Last Resort.

If you feel like your teen’s behavior is not growing or changing, first, try a “Heart-Talk”. Train them on how to listen well, care well, show empathy, heal, make amends and bring closure. (The goal is to parent your teens without giving consequences…Wouldn’t that be nice!?)

If their behavior is still not changing, have another heart talk. Try again.

Tell them you would prefer to not give out consequences,

 “I am really hoping these talks can be used to help you to grow and mature. I want to work with you. I am on your team. I love you. I don’t like giving you consequences and I know you don’t like getting them. But if this talk doesn’t impact your heart and your mind, we’ll have to use consequences.”

If your teen’s behavior continues, then, as you warned them, it is best to give him/her a natural consequence for their poor behavior.

If you ignore the behavior and don't give a consequence, how will he/she learn? How will he/she ever grow?

Your teens should reap what they have sown. They should feel the pain of their choices.

If your teen is defiant, out of control, or if they will not even sit down with you to have a Heart-Talk like this, then something is seriously wrong.

I recommend that you reach out to me for help. This is not ok. Parents should be able to have mature sit downs with their teenagers.

You can contact me for coaching or learn about how to get your teen to talk to you in the Parenting Teens Masterclass and in the Code Red Parenting Toolbox courses.

Thinking of discipline as training will help your teen to understand that you are on their team and are working with them as a partner and mentor.

Stay Strong. Be close. Teach Wisdom.


By Sean Donohue

Family Coach and Founder

Take my free Parenting Class!

We Coach Parents To Make Parenting Teens Easier and More Enjoyable