Mom arguing with turned away son

3 Things teen therapy clients say to stop

Mom arguing with turned away son

As an expert in teen therapy for over 12 years, I have had the chance to hear from hundreds of teens in the Katy and Houston, TX area.

Anyone who knows teens, knows they aren’t shy about expressing their opinions, especially when it’s about something they don’t like!

While we don’t stop doing things simply because teens don’t like them, we might want to pay attention when we notice they don’t seem to work and even make it worse.

Over my years working with teens, here are the 3 top complaints I hear from teens about their parent’s discipline. (bonus: these are also the ones that tend to make teens more secretive, distant from parents or increase poor behaviors.)

Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to

Understandably parents get upset when they realize their teen has colored outside the lines. Perhaps your teen didn’t turn in a homework assignment, didn’t complete a chore or left the house in the middle of the night. You have caught them red handed. You see the zero in the grade book, found their laundry stuff under the bed or found their room empty.

While it’s tempting to see if your teen will take accountability or lie, asking your teen if they did or didn’t do something when you already know the answer is a trap.

Your teen will see this as dishonest and will only serve to drive a larger wedge between you and your child. Likely you are already angry or disappointed and if they chose to lie (and many times they will for fear of punishment), you will only double your frustration.

Instead, I recommend straight up telling your teen you know what they did or didn’t do and what will happen as a result. For example “I see you didn’t put your laundry away. You will not be able to go out with your friends until that is complete.”

This is also a valuable time to problem solve with your teen for minor issues such as chore or homework completion. You can ask questions such as “what got in the way of getting your chores done on time?”

Teen girl annoyed with upset parents

Taking away privileges with no clear time frame or understanding on how to earn them back.

In the heat of the moment many parents take away privileges such as cell phone use with comments such as “You can have it back when I decide you have earned it.”

While this message is well intended, it is ambiguous and lacks any clarity on what exactly needs to be done or how long it might take. This increases a teen’s anxiety and often leads to rebellion.

Instead, I suggest parents think of removal of privileges as discipline much like a remediation plan at a place of work. Provide clear guidance on what exact behaviors you want to see happen and over what period of time.

Where possible, use natural consequences or have them earn a privilege back. For example, “When you are caught up on all your missing assignments, you may have your phone back.”

While it’s tempting for parents to use long periods of time such as one month of grounding or no screens until the next grading period, research suggests these are ineffective and often backfire.

Instead, I recommend shorter period of time with clear benchmarks for success outlined from the start.

For serious issues such as dangerous or risky behavior, giving a teen opportunities to earn back trust and learn safe behaviors is vital.

For example, say your teen got drunk at a party. You may decide after a period of time your teen can attend a party after you have met the parents and only for a limited time while you stay parked down the street. Your teen does not have to agree, but also does not have to attend if they do not.

Saying your teen is “talking back” or has “attitude” when they explain their behavior

Look, I get it, teens can be cranky, loud and not exactly great at communication. That said, we want to teach them how to have a voice.

While blind obedience can seem like a positive, how do we teach them how to speak up when another person is abusive, incorrect, or unsafe? Simply because someone is an adult does not make them safe. Just spend one day in my office and you will learn just how unsafe some adults can be.

Instead, I suggest parents encourage positive communication skills. If you or your teen are heated, call for a 20 minute cool down break and come back later. This is not me at to end discussion, but rather to make sure you can effectively discuss the issue from a calm space.

If your teen uses foul language or a raised voice, try telling them what TO do instead of what NOT to do. For example: “lower your voice” or “try another word”.

You may also want to set a boundary at the same time “We do not curse in this home. Try another word.” If they persist, you may want to take a break and discuss consequences later.

I also realize teens may use arguing as a tactic to wear parents down and get a different outcome. It’s completely ok to tell your teen you aren’t going to change your mind or you are done discussing the topic. This is modeling healthy boundaries!

I could write an entire article on just this one topic, but in short, the idea is not to label disagreement as bad. Instead, teach your child how to have a healthy disagreement. After all, if we don’t teach them who will?

If you find yourself having done one or more of the hit button issues above, give yourself some grace. The reason I hear about it so often is because they are so common! You likely experienced these same issues when you were a teenager.

Take this time to remember how you felt as a teen when your parents did this. Sure, you turned out great and successful….and maybe, just maybe there is another, more effective way of getting to the same place.

Want more information about Play Therapy and how it can help your Child? Visit the  Parents Corner at The Association for Play Therapy ( Or follow the steps below to connect with us at Katy Counseling:

Mom and teen daughter arguing

Other Mental Health Services Offered At Katy Counseling

In addition to offering  Teen Therapy, we also offer a wide range of services for adults, couples, and children. These services include Child CounselingAdult CounselingCouples CounselingTrauma CounselingWomen’s Issues, and Lens Neurofeedback. Our goal is to meet you where you are and help guide you through the issues you are facing in a positive and supportive way.

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Author Kelly Peyton, LPC-S, RPT-S is a teen counseling expert serving Katy, Texas and the surrounding West Houston area for over 12 years. She has been featured on channel 39 news and in local media for her work with teens and is a former president of the Sam Houston branch of the Texas Association of Play Therapy. She also provides speaking engagements for professional development and training for other therapists nationwide.

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