How to Discipline a Teenager with Depression

Depression in teenagers is accelerating. It is unfortunate that a majority of the generation that holds the future in its hands is suffering in this mental torture. Life isn’t only hell for these depressed teenagers, their parents are equally victimized. This article addresses some key guidelines on how to discipline a depressed teenager. It will walk you through ways you can motivate your depressed teenagers and bring them back to life.

Signs that show our teens are depressed

It is extremely heartbreaking for parents to realize that the life they brought into this very world doesn’t want to live anymore. Looking for new cuts on her arm, hiding knives and the lingering smell of smoke on his clothes are all scenarios no one wants to face as parents. It is important to keep an eye out for such signs and immediately seek help. Other signs are

  • A constant feeling of sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Cutting off from friends – social isolation
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Crying
  • Anger – on trivial things
  • Not eating at all – leading to weight loss; or overeating – leading to weight gain
  • Low self-esteem
  • Addictions like smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex or pornography
  • Sensitivity
  • Being tired all the time
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Slower thinking, reflexes and body movements
  • Poorer appearance – not showering, wearing dirty clothes, tangled hair etc.
  • Self harm – cuts, excessive piercings and tattoos
  • Agitation and being restless
  • Being unable to focus
  • Thinking of death and suicide frequently

How to discipline a teenager with depression?

Once you realize your teenager girl or boy has either one or multiple of these symptoms, take immediate action. You might not have signed up for this but it will take a serious commitment and effort to get your kid out of depression’s claws. Start at home and get professional help. The doctors and psychiatrists can only play their roles. It isn’t enough to just let the doctors sort your teen’s mental health, the real healing will be done by both parents’ and doctors’ efforts.

  1. Establish healthy rules

Rules should be an important part of a household. Your kids should know what they need to stick to in order to keep a healthy family environment. The rules you set will teach them how to choose healthy behaviors, they will learn what to do and what not to. When you have a certain set of guidelines which you establish as ‘the code of conduct’ you would not have to impose your opinions on them later on in their lives. Parents need to set firm boundaries and remain loving, warm and delightful at the same time.

  1. Listen to them

Communication is important for healthy relationships. Listening to your kids is important, especially teenagers as they are developing a sense of identity. They need to feel like they are understood and validated. Whatever they say needs to be respected and listened to. Even if you don’t agree with them, listen to their opinion on the matter. Then give them logical explanations and arguments as to why they might not be thinking on the right path.

If it’s not too risky, let them make mistakes and let them learn on their own. This is a healthier way than shutting them up without even listening to what they have to say.

Listening to them about their lives and routine will help you keep up to date and you will know when something is wrong. If they know they have their parents to go with anything at all, you can avoid depression getting to your teenagers.

  1. Provide structure to your child’s day

Plan your child’s daily routine. This will leave no room for anything negative or sad to enter their minds. When he has a full schedule and a set of rules to adhere to, minor setbacks and new exciting adventures might not attract you teenage son.

Go outside; make plenty of room for outdoor activities and exercise. Physical activity is scientifically proven to help improve mental health.

Plan picnics on weekends.

Make them run errands.

Give them duties and responsibilities like taking out the garbage, doing the dishes or cleaning their room.

  1. Catch your child being good

The best way to create positivity between you and your child is to praise them when they deserve it. Appreciating your child when he has actually done a good job works a lot more than general appreciation for no specific reason. Immediate and consistent praise will make your child feel approved and validated. Phrases like ‘thank you for asking’, ‘you have done a fantastic job’ and ‘I am proud of you’ are powerful tools to help your child feel valued and esteemed. Parents tend to notice only the negative and bad behaviors and so, only provide criticism. This can lead to serious self esteem issues and the child feeling rejected and unloved.

When you want to criticize, hold your tongue. Go easy on the words you choose. Things you say can be very harsh and completely shatter your child’s confidence. You can say things like, ‘I would rather you asked before…’ instead of, ‘I am so disappointed in you for not asking my permission.’

  1. Create a reward system

Rewarding your child will work very fast and bring about great changes in his behavior. It works for children of all age groups. Create a system in which they will get rewarded according to their behaviors. Make the rewards and their responsibilities clear ahead of time so that they know what to expect beforehand. For instance, allow your teenager to go out with friends and hangout only if he did all his chores all week. If he does his homework on time, allow him to play video games or use gadgets as a reward for relaxing.

  1. Separate your child’s emotion from behavior

It is important to understand that you need to discipline your child’s behavior, not his emotions. Being able to differentiate the things your child feels and what she does is the actual goal here: being angry is a feeling and breaking things is a behavior. Rather than telling them what to feel, you should tell them what to do and how to effectively cope and deal with the situation. Phrases like ‘don’t be so overdramatic’, and ‘don’t be a baby’ are words which will not help them grow and learn. Teenagers are very impulsive and will do whatever comes to their minds whenever they feel something. You don’t need to train them how to feel but rather, how to channel those feelings by actions that are positive.

  1. Know your child’s love language

Does your teen need to hear your approval? Does she need hugs and snuggles? Does he need a pat on the back for cleaning the car? Do your teens want to come home to fresh baked cookies and hold your hands while they eat them watching Spirit?

You might not realize it but your teenagers require a certain display of love for them and you need to recognize it. It might not be the way you were raises, it might not even be your way of showing love but it is their love language you need to speak. Make sure you establish a sound and strong relationship with your teens by speaking their language of love and save them from sadness and depression.

  1. Get the alcohol and guns out of your house

Depressed teens tend to harm themselves. They will be looking out for sharp things and razors to induce pain so they feel something. Guns, even if for defense, can prove to be fatal as any moment can become overwhelmed with mixed emotions and chaos in their minds and they can be tempted to pull the trigger. If they have a constant supply of beer, wine and general alcohol depressed teens are more susceptible to abuse these things.  They might even get their hands on strong painkillers and other medicinal drugs. Keep all of the above mentioned things out of your house, there is no point in hiding them away because many parents claim to have hidden ammunition which was later found by these teens.

  1. Limit time on FaceBook and social media

Although social media are a great platform to connect the world, looking for friends is what you do in real life and in person. People on FaceBook and other social media apps just showcase themselves as picture perfect individuals. Spending too much time with these people behind the screen can prove to have a negative effect on teens. Encourage your teens to spend more time with their friends and family who are physically present with them.

  1. Encourage healthy eating

Eating together as a family at home can be very beneficial for teens who suffer from depression. Home-cooked food will be healthier and improve their physical and mental health. Junk and fast food are no good as they are just a source of comfort and snack on when you have nothing else to do. If you give your children good food and home-made snacks, they will crave less junk and be safe from binge eating. Eating well also affects the mood positively. Make sure your teens don’t miss breakfast and eat proper meals throughout the day.

  1. Address addiction

Other than alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, teens can get addicted to gaming, eating, social media, sex or pornography. Address these addictions promptly and look out for other such addictions like eating paper or hair and biting nails or scratching the skin in anxiety or out of habit.

  1. Take care of yourself

Being around someone who is depressed is like being around a black-hole; it sucks all the energy and happiness out of life. In order to effectively deal with a depressed teen you need to be strong and healthy enough. You mental and physical health is important if you want to bring about a change in their lives. Take care of yourself and don’t let your mind be drawn into this pit of depression too. Stay positive and do not lose hope.

Results of teen discipline

At the end, your goal is to provide the world with people who are positive and add something worthwhile to the society. Parents should be focused on making their teenagers confident, positive with good behaviors. These disciple guidelines will help you get your child out of depression and build his loss self-esteem and inner motivation. They will be able to control their impulses and regulate their emotions in a positive way. They will recognize their existence and take care of their well being and health. They will not only learn from their mistakes but will also be open to new, positive learning opportunities.

As a conclusion, the best way to go about it is with a lot of patience, consistency and love. You need to be clear about what you are doing and how you are handling the ways to discipline your depressed teenager. It might take long but if you are strong and motivated enough, nothing will feel better than saving your own children from the horrors of depression.

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I am a PCI (Parent Coaching Institute) certified parent coach. I have been expertly helping parents navigate the challenges and enhance the rewards of parenting through my writing. My extensive training, beneficial experience as a mother of three teenage kids and inborn individual characteristics combine to make me unique at associating with and giving cooperative direction to parents. Readers credit me with enabling them to transform their family life positively. My challenging journey as a parent, guiding three children through their difficult transitions, has proven to be an extremely powerful source of hope, compassion, and insight for my readers as well as friends. I have been a freelance writer and a parenting & family relationship expert since 2005. I have a BSc in Physiotherapy and Parent Coach Certification through the Parent Coach Institute in collaboration with Seattle Pacific University. I have also been a student of, and taken extensive parent coaching courses with, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Oprah's favorite parenting expert and author of The Conscious Parent, Out Of Control and The Awakened Family. I am happily married with three children and now living in Austin, Texas with family.


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