Teen Speak: Crime and Punishment Part 1: 3 Approaches to Disciplining Your Mancub

3 Approaches to Disciplining Your Mancub–Bleeding Hearts, Ten Commandment Enforcers and the Middle of the Road


As a mother of a teenage boy who I affectionately refer to as “Mancub”, sometimes I have to decide the best way to deal with the fact that I have been completely blown off by my beloved boy. A rule was set, and quicker than the lifespan of a two-liter of Dr. Pepper in the fridge, it was disregarded.

It becomes inevitable, dear parent, that you may have to enforce punishment upon your beloved Mancub or Watergirl. There are many extremes that can be approached here, but keep a couple of things in mind.

1. Your punishment must fit the crime. There is the far left side of punishment (Bleeding Hearts sign up here) and the far right (Ten Commandment Enforcers). I have been on both sides of this street, my friend. You must find the center, which I like to call A Happy Middle.

2. If you stray too far to the Bleeding Heart side, your punishment will likely be ineffective and frustrating. For example, your Mancub has (as we talked about yesterday) repeatedly ignored your texts/calls. What should you do?

1. Bleeding Heart Parenting

Bleeding Heart parents mean well. They are generally kind people who dislike conflict and love peace. There is a bit of Bleeding Heart in all of us.

Take the above situation, where your teenager ignored your texts/phone calls/smoke signals/neon signs.

The Bleeding Heart sighs, “Oh well…cubs will be cubs! Whatcha gonna do? Here, have a milkshake.”

Now hold on a second, you might say. Who doesn’t love a good milkshake? The line of thought here might be, “We are reasonable people. If I simply tell him my feelings about being disregarded, he will of course apologize immediately and I’m sure it won’t happen again.”

Laaateeedaaa. And you and your Mancub will skip into the golden sunset of broken promises faster than George R.R. Martin kills off the next character in “Game of Thrones.”

2. Ten Commandment Enforcer Parenting

Ten Commandment Enforcers also mean well. More authoritarian in style, TCEs worry that soggy parenting styles result in soggy kids. Maybe “soggy” is not the best word here, but you get my drift. They were likely raised by tough parents, whom they love and respect, and are trying to pass on that part of their heritage to their own kids.

Same scenario. You could not, for the life of you, contact your Mancub via the very phone YOU GAVE HIM. Much to your frustration, he gleefully ignored your many texts/calls/carrier pigeon messages.

The Ten Commandment Enforcer says, “Well, this can’t be tolerated! If I don’t nip this in the bud, Junior end up in a real-life movie set of Gangs of New York or Dangerous Minds. It’s time to bring the heat! Nothing but peanut butter (and not even the good kind–off brand) sandwiches and water for the next three meals, no screen time or electricity use, and you have to sleep in the back yard for two days while you THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID. I’ve also signed you up for two weeks of trash pickup along Highway 271 (here’s your orange jumpsuit) so you can get used to the life you’ve chosen.

3. Happy Middle Parenting

The Happy Middle Parent lives in the middle of the street. Granted, if it was a literal street this would be a bad idea, but we’re talking figuratively. The Happy Middle Parent strives to find the middle ground between the Bleeding Heart and TCE Parent.

If the above situation happened to the Happy Middle Parent, he or she would be just as mad as the others, but would realize that neither the Milkshake punishment (which, come on–it’s only a punishment if you make it an Ensure milkshake) nor the removal of all Peter Pan peanut butter and trash detail punishment is likely to get the results we want.

The Happy Middle Parent says, “Yeah, that wasn’t cool. Since you ignored me, I will keep your cell phone for a few days to remind you that ALL GOOD THINGS COME FROM ME. I will also unplug your computer/tv/Playstation/Serta Mattress (I’m reaching here…) for the same reason.

Join the conversation:

What’s your approach when your teen ignores your texts? What has worked for you, or not worked?

A Note from the Jungle:
A note to parents: I don’t claim to have the answers. I have veered on both sides of the road, sometimes maniacally, and there’s no easy answer. You do, however want to 1. Address the problem and 2. Keep a good relationship with your Mancub. Because in the end, if you are all authoritarian and no personal investment, you’ve also messed up. If you are all warm and fuzzy and little follow through, then the message is “I don’t really care enough about you to have tense moments where I have to be the boss.”
The goal is to raise responsible, kind, funny and successful men and women and sometimes it just gets messy. Your kid is your kid and you are who you are, for better and for worse.

2 thoughts on “Teen Speak: Crime and Punishment Part 1: 3 Approaches to Disciplining Your Mancub

  1. Love this, Tina! I strive to be a Happy Middle parent, Even though my mancub is only two right now and our conflicts are far more simple (his throwing toys is a current conflict), I still try to find appropriate punishments (take away said toys). Good read! 🙂


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