Why Disciplining A Teenager Is Like Going To The Gym For The First Time.

They’ve been in my office more times than I can count- distraught parents of unruly teenagers who suddenly need discipline. They’re frustrated, confused, at a loss, and desperate for any ounce of help they can get. After listening to their stories of how their kid won’t listen to a thing they say, is defiant and out of control, or laughs in their face when they give an ultimatum, my conclusion is the same: you’re about a decade or more past due in making this shift!


Have you ever gone to the gym for the first time after not being there in a long time, or maybe never before? What were the results?

Pain? Exhaustion? Frustration? Defeat?

If you’re anything like me it was all of those things bundled into one. I recently returned to the gym for a workout after being away for 2 whole months. My plan was to do a 40 minute workout. You know, jump right into the deep end :-). I made it a grand total of 18! Every part of my body was in throbbing pain. I thought my lungs were going to explode right out of my chest. It was so hard.

I was frustrated and mad, mostly at myself. I left feeling defeated. I wanted to scream at every perfectly fit person I passed on my way out.

But I couldn’t blame anyone but myself. You see, going to the gym one time will not produce the results I am looking for, nor will it instantly make me into a fit person. If I want to see maximum results, I need to make this a habit. I need to stay the course, go to the gym daily, continue to work and work and work. I have to commit to a plan and stick with it. And, I have to start somewhere.

The same is true when it comes to disciplining teenagers, especially if this wasn’t the norm when they were young children.

Sure, we could sit around and lament the fact that they’re not the same precious child they were just 5 years ago, or the fact that we blew it in their younger years and didn’t emphasize boundaries and consequences, but what good would that do?


If you want to get physically fit, you have to step toward the gym. You can’t keep driving by the facility and hope you’re going to get in shape. It doesn’t work like that. If you want to get on the right track with your teenager, you have to take the first step. You have to choose to start setting boundaries. Stop tolerating their poor behavior, or accepting their crappy choices, and start disciplining them.

You can’t hope, or wish, or dream, or even pray that things will change until you take the first step.


Going to the gym the first few days, heck, even the first few weeks, is going to hurt….A LOT! So will deciding to set clear boundaries and choosing to discipline your teenager if that boundary is crossed.

This is a muscle you have to continually work out in order to build strength. One and done, or a few weeks and done, will not produce results.


Any fitness expert will tell you- consistently working out gets results. Keep lifting weights, keep eating right, keep running, keep getting up early even though it hurts. Do this day after day, week after week, and the weight will suddenly start to disappear; the muscles will become stronger, and you will get in shape!

Likewise, consistently setting boundaries with your teenager, and emphasizing consequences will get results with your teenager.

YES they will buck your new system! YES they will hate your guts, rebel, and scream that it’s not fair! YES you will feel like giving up (just like you feel after the first week or two of getting back into shape)! Stay consistent. Put your helmet and shoulder pads on and hit this task head on!

I promise that if you weather this storm, stick to your guns on the boundaries and consequences you’ve set, you will see results. Not immediately, but in time, you will. I can also promise that if you are inconsistent, give up after a month or so, you will not see results. In fact, the situation with your teenager will become worse.

So what if you never set any boundaries or emphasized consequences when they were little?! Start now. It’s as good of a time as any. So what if they “hate this” or “think you’re stupid” because of your new plan to raise them right?! You’re job is to be their parent, not make them happy! Your job is to do everything in your power to keep them healthy and safe.

So, start. Forget what happened in the past, focus on the present and dream of the future! Your teenager will know they’re loved deep in their heart…I promise :-).

Question: Have you had to start from scratch in setting boundaries for your teenager? What lessons did you learn? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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