Discipline During Adolescence

Here’s a gem of a YouTube video from the 1950s.

Although generationally separated, Steve as portrayed in “Discipline During Adolescence” is very similar to the average teenager today.  In both cases, the teenagers are experiencing a boost of confidence and autonomy among their peers, and pushing the boundaries that coincide with that.  In addition to coming home after curfew, sleeping through church, and other entitlement issues from the film (“You can’t take away my allowance”), I couldn’t help but chuckle at the boys’ insistence on ordering coffee at the restaurant or pretending to read the newspaper – two mundane tasks that are social symbols for ‘being an adult’.


Certainly Steve’s parents recognized that the behavior needed to be addressed, and even though they fell on two sides of the spectrum (leniency vs. crackdown), caring about the matter is certainly the first step in the right direction.  As a teacher, I appreciate a parent who is willing to seek a solution, even if the solution is not readily apparent, because it shows initiative and sets the tone for a nurturing environment that is important for development.  I believe Santrock (2013) would agree that this sort of monitoring is integral to the parent-adolescent relationship, including ‘supervising adolescents’ choice of social settings, activities, and friends, as well as their academic efforts.’  I appreciated that Steve’s discussion with his parents, although belated, did not just focus on his social habits, but centered around a concern of improving his ‘marks’ to ensure he achieved the family’s college aspirations.  I see this in my classroom:  many students would raise their hands if asked whether they were preparing for college (especially during SAT registration time for my juniors), but those same students don’t recognize that shirking their daily assignments is detrimental to their efforts.  They very much isolate the idea of ‘high school’ and ‘college’ without seeing the connection.  As educators, we can help link current academic focus to the bigger picture; including a real-world relevancy for those who might not be on a college track, but will soon be functioning in a full-time job or similar capacity.


Although Steve’s father implemented consequences quite suddenly, he did so firmly but not confrontationally, which I feel is very important from a discipline standpoint.  Santrock (2013) explains that as teenagers push for more autonomy, parents may become frustrated and ‘heated emotional exchanges may ensue’.  It is imperative for parents to maintain calmness, understanding, and an eventual relationship of trust, to reap benefits in this transition period.  Awarding positive-decision making is one way both parents and teachers can address these issues.  In classroom discipline, educators should maintain consistency; I’m sure we’ve all heard of the ‘referee’ approach: handing out consequences without personal judgment or leniency.  I find that most teenagers welcome boundaries, even if not outwardly, because it provides a structure that is much-needed throughout their already confusing day.


Santrock, J.W. (2013). Children. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

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