How to discipline youth

As an ex-school bus driver, social worker, and teacher, I have seen too much permissiveness. Young people want to know the limits, but many adults fail to set them. We see this in a child acting up at the supermarket and hear the lame excuses. This is bad enough when the child is small. But when he becomes a teenager, it is serious as he is susceptible to alcohol, drugs, sex, crime, and gambling. The causes of these are given all sorts of clinical names and made to seem complicated by professionals (who have an amazing lack of solutions), but the problem stems from the youngster’s being spoiled, immature, and irresponsible. Discipline can help prevent this. So, keep in mind these points how to discipline youth :


You must insist young people respect property, people, and authority. They can dislike them, but they must respect them. Once you allow disrespect, then comes verbal abuse, threats, and fights. If you have a position of authority, they may dislike you, but they have to respect your position. Many adults feel they have to be liked to be effective (and kids know it). Not so.

In turn, you have to respect them and not unnecessarily humiliate them. Nor should you patronize nor manipulate them. They can see through these and will respect you less.


As the one in charge, you’re there for their safety and other reasons. You know more and better. Don’t apologize for it. What you say, goes. [Of course it has to be reasonable.] Authority is part of life; they have to learn it as someday they will be in authority.

If you are nagging, yelling, or exhausted because of their lack of cooperation, you don’t have authority. You aren’t running them; they’re running you. Respect and obedience are the basics. If you can’t get them, get help or quit.

Being strict

Strict limits give kids a vital sense of security. They want to know how far they can go; that is why they test you. They have a sense of what is right and wrong, but need you to define it. You have to set limits. To do this you must know your limits.

6 disorder, bedlam
5 stress
4 your limits
3 safety margin
2 their limits
1 some activity

Set their limits (2) well below yours (4) as they are going to go over theirs. You need a safety margin for your peace of mind. Being the harried, frantic adult, playing it to the hilt is not the way to show you care.

Start off hard rather than soft. When trouble starts, nip it in the bud. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. Keep one step ahead of them. Don’t make unreasonable nor empty threats. Warn once, then punish.

Kids love challenge; often the tougher (within reason) you are, the more they like it. Being tough doesn’t mean you dislike them; it means you care enough to risk their wrath, and you have the good judgement to protect them from their folly.

Sometimes you’ll have an especially troublesome kid. If you discipline him fairly and consistently, he will think the world of you because you were the first to stand up to him.

Rewards and punishment

These should be fair, proportionate, and consistent. Make it more trouble to be bad than good. Make the ‘rules’ reasonable so that after the child has chosen to disobey, he will be punished. The punishment should fit the offense. If time permits, punish with what he dislikes (and reward with what likes). Most kids dislike being isolated from their peers for a period of time.

When he is being punished, don’t be his buddy or do a bunch of explaining; it’s his time to feel bad and think about what he’s done. If he doesn’t know why he is in trouble, you should empathize briefly saying, ‘I know you don’t understand, but you will later,’ and drop it. If you have acted wisely, he will know.

Generally praise in public and punish in private. When you have to punish a child in front of his peers, don’t let the others laugh, explaining they wouldn’t like it if they were in his position. Don’t feel rewards are vital (in today’s emphasis on ‘positives’). Some adults tell kids their reward is not being punished.


Be fair and honest. Be an adult, not one of the kids. Earn a kid’s confidence, don’t demand it. Avoid comparing kids. Try to see a child as others see him. Let him seek his own level, and encourage him to pursue his ambitions. Get a book on manners geared to his level. Never allow arguments at meals. Expect dislike and anger from and for kids at times. In any new situation, you’ll get to know the ‘bad’ kids first. Get ideas from your peers, but in the end, decide for yourself. Accept the power and responsibility of your position. You’ll have more in common with some kids, but, of course, don’t play favorites.

Drop a lot of modern theories; they are backward and have done tremendous damage. One of these is you have to like ‘bad’ kids to bring about order. Nonsense, such kids are awful. Discipline them until they are orderly; then they are likeable.

A good disciplinary system means fewer fights; a bad one means more fights. Moderate spanking for emergencies up to the teen years is OK.

Without proper discipline, kids get out of control, possibly injuring each other. Then the adult in charge might blow up and possibly injure the kid. Who was wrong? The adult for letting things get so far out of hand that it got the best of him.

Good discipline is vital. Once it has been established, kids are secure in knowing the limits. This brings a great calming; they are putty in your hands and become little ladies and gentlemen. They are the cute, lovable, little people they are entitled to be. There is peace and dignity; you can enjoy their delightful ways, and relish in your shaping of them.

(Further ideas from Parents Anonymous or Tough Love)