The most effective punishments for 11-year-olds are ones that relate to issues most common in tweens: desires for stronger autonomy, higher self-esteem, and control over their environment. Discipline should be seen as an opportunity to teach consequences and encourage better behavior in the future.
Below are eleven effective ways to discipline your child. With the goal of teaching important life skills and behavior, we have replaced the word “punishment,” with “consequences” and “discipline.” Where punishment seeks mainly to retaliate against a negative behavior, a consequence is an opportunity for constructive modification of outlooks and behavior.
1. Behavioral Contracts
Tweens want to be taken seriously. They feel they can do things on their own and want to prove themselves responsible. They also don’t want to take responsibility. A behavioral contract acknowledges their abilities within the household as well as outlines expectations and consequences for breaking them.
For example, if your child wants a pet, discuss the responsibility and initiative caring for a pet would require. Write down the behaviors you want to see from them before getting a pet, such as keeping their room clean for 2 weeks or taking out the trash consistently. Also outline the consequences of what will happen if they fail to uphold their end of the contract (in this case, no pets).
2. Problem Solving
Sometimes kids act out when they feel overwhelmed or stressed about a problem they don’t know how to solve. Instead of punishing this behavior, discuss how you might solve the problem together. Problem-solving includes: identifying the issue, brainstorming multiple solutions, listing the pros and cons for each solution, and choosing and testing a solution.
Armed with the ability to problem-solve, they are far more likely to behave better in the future and have more peace of mind. When they have returned to a calm state, discuss the issue of their negative reaction and suggest they try to problem-solve themselves in the future.
This builds trust between parent and child. Starting by helping them instead of immediately punishing them shows that they can come to you with their issues even if they might have behaved poorly. In addition to teaching them how to better handle life situations, this makes it more likely that they’ll come to you for help with bigger problems in the future.
3. Task-Oriented Consequences
A task-oriented consequence is related to negative behavior and has a clear learning objective. For example, if your child fails to stay within their screen-time limit, remove 30 minutes from their screen time the next few days. If they stay within the allotted time, return it to the original time. This teaches them to follow the rules as well as build trust between parent and child.
Showing that you have faith that they can follow the rules increases their self-esteem and their desire to follow rules in the future.
4. Time Constrained Currency
Time-Constrained Currency is a discipline where your child has a certain length of time by which they need to accomplish a certain task in order to earn back a privilege or currency.
The length of time should be long enough that your child has to exert effort, but not so long that they give up. For instance, providing the goal of no television for 3 days in exchange for returned tv privileges is long enough to feel hard, but not impossible for the child.
5. Go Back to the Beginning, Do Not Pass “Go”
When giving out an assignment as a penalty for behavior, do so with the clear stipulation that if they fail to follow through, the time will start over. A good example of this is one where a boy who is grounded from video game use for 48 hours has to start the 48 hours over each time he asks for an exception to use his gaming console. This is a good way to build self-control within your child.
6. Running Laps Up the Stairs
When my siblings and I misbehaved during our tweens, my parents used to make us run all the way upstairs and touch the wall opposite the stairs all the way down to the bottom stairs and back up (that was one lap). Small offenses would only cost us 1-2 laps, while bigger offenses would get us up to 10. Not only did these allow us to get our aggression and negative energy out, but it was also good for our physical health.
Obviously, this shouldn’t be used as some kind of bizarre physical torture. In my family, it was more of a fun punishment that my mom would say with a smile on her face. We knew we had messed up and we didn’t like running the laps up the stairs, but it was all in a light atmosphere.
In short, it is a consequence that is uncomfortable enough for kids to want to avoid it in the future without being actually harmful. It is also easy to enforce.
7. Paying Recompense
This is a good way to teach respect for other people and their possessions. Let the consequence teach them. If your child is bullying their sister, a good consequence is to tell them they can’t use the computer until they write her a letter of apology. In the letter, they have to tell her what they’ll do differently the next time they’re in conflict with her.
Writing the letter of apology is a learning experience for him that wins back computer time. This way the child isn’t just completing an arbitrary activity, but contemplating what made their actions wrong and how to act differently.
8. Lecture Method
This is not what it sounds like. The lecture here doesn’t refer to lecturing your child so much as it does the classic college setup of listening and learning. Find a TED talk or something similar on behavior or psychology that matches the behavior you’re intending to dissuade your child from. Have the child watch it and take notes (enough that they can tell you 2 things by the time it is over).
Doing this forces them to concentrate on something (allowing them to calm down) and combines learning into one activity. As they listen, it also helps them understand why their negative action wasn’t a good idea and how they can be better served by different behavior in the future.
9. Matching Rewards to Behaviors
This technique rewards the behavior you want to see in your child. If your child is consistently late coming home from school, you could ground them for a few days, or instead, you could give them a goal to work towards with the reward for achieving it being something they want. For example, if they manage to come home on time for a whole week, you will allow them to stay out later on a weekend. Doing so helps build a sense of trust between parent and child.
10. Cinderella Method
Cinderella method: chores are great consequences. Kids don’t like them, but doing them repeatedly builds healthy habits. You can also frame it as a kind of catharsis if you will, a way to bring order into an environment where they have no control.
Tweens are going through a lot of emotions that they have no physical control over. Though pulling weeds in the garden for 30 minutes, washing the dishes, or thoroughly cleaning the windows might not be an initially pleasant pastime, it can help them feel a little bit more organized. And if not, they’ve still done some chores, so it works either way.
11. Gravity Doesn’t Care Either
“I don’t care” is a response to discipline sometimes used by tweens. Generally, it is an attempt at manipulating the outcome of a situation in their favor (i.e. avoiding the punishment in favor of a different one). This method gets its name from the classic parent speech: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”
Essentially: the consequences stay regardless of whether you care or not. Negative behavior = negative consequence. Jump off a bridge = fall down. Unkind behavior has certain consequences; help your kid understand that emotional wounds can be just as bad as physical wounds. People who are unkind don’t have many friends. They may not care at the moment, but the lesson will stick.