Discipline for Smoking Marijuana

Most moms and dads try to focus adolescent discipline on choosing the right consequences to stop an adolescent from smoking marijuana again. But disciplining adolescents doesn’t address the real reasons behind an adolescent’s pot use. Using mood-altering chemicals often fills a need for theses teens, and they are NOT going to stop just because they got caught and received some form of punishment from parents.

So what is a parent to do about teen drug use? Here’s how parents can effectively get their teenagers to “choose” to stop smoking pot:

1. Begin a dialogue with your child about your feelings about marijuana smoking. Ask her questions about why she does it, how long she's been doing it, how many of her friends do it, etc. Let her tell you the story of how the marijuana smoking began and how it fits into her life. This discussion - and the ones that follow - should focus on what's going on that concerns her the most, what worries her, what gives her pleasure, her social life, etc. rather than just talking about why she's been illegally smoking marijuana.

2. Don't freak out. A vein-popping lecture will drive your teen away and shut down any chance of a meaningful discussion. After you've cooled down and talked about the issue with your spouse, meet in your child’s room (she'll be more receptive on her own turf). Explain that you're concerned she's not making smart decisions. Reinforce the message that she needs to stay clear-minded and focused in life, and that mood-altering chemicals will knock her off those paths. If she asks whether or not you smoked marijuana or drank alcohol when you were her age, don't let her steer the conversation away from herself. Telling her what you did or didn't do isn't important. This is not a 'true confessions' moment.

3. Be careful not to judge your child – or your parenting skills. If she's using drugs, there are probably many reasons for this, only a few of which you might have control over.

4. Keep in mind that if your child is afraid of your reaction to her pot smoking, you are less likely to get the truth from her. Keep your emotions in check and don't focus on consequences. You'll have plenty of time to figure out appropriate consequences later. Let her feel safe enough to talk with you. Keep your focus on helping her with this situation, not on coming up with the proper consequence.

5. Understand that mood-altering chemicals feed the teenage brain’s limbic system. Research has lead scientists to better understand the brain’s unique stage of development during the teen years. Throughout adolescence, the limbic system is on alert and craves novelty. Engaging in new experiences feeds the limbic system’s high need for spontaneity during the teen years. After reading any of the new research about adolescent brain development and its hyper-aware limbic system, it’s easy to see how smoking marijuana satisfies a strong need in the teen brain. Disciplining adolescents computes to the brain’s cortex or “thinking brain,” but the limbic system’s intense need for sensory stimulation often overrides the rational cortex. Understanding the adolescent brain doesn’t mean that moms and dads should let their adolescent “off the hook” for using mood-altering chemicals, but it does help them see how “what makes sense” to the adult brain doesn’t necessarily hold true for the teen brain.

6. Disciplining adolescents may make moms and dads feel better in the sense that they are “doing something” about an adolescent using a mood-altering substance or that an adolescent isn’t “getting away with” smoking marijuana. But disciplining adolescents only focuses on the symptoms of pot use and doesn’t address the real reasons that an adolescent is smoking marijuana. Effective adolescent discipline requires an understanding of the behavior combined with strategies that teach adolescents alternative methods to get their needs met. Some adolescents say they want to experiment and find out what effect that pot has. Others say they like to be part of the group. And still others say they think using drugs makes them less shy, less boring, freer, faster, sexier, and happier.

7. Seek out drug programs in your area, as well as a talented therapist who deals with teenagers your child’s age who have had drug problems. Don't jump to the conclusion that your child is a drug addict and needs to put into an institution. Treat your discovery of her marijuana smoking as a call to you as a parent to seek the help of professionals, trusted family friends whom your child likes and respects, and any other adults who have had a positive influence in her life. The goal here is to understand why she's doing this and getting her the help that she needs to stop.

8. When you have evidence that your child is using, or you suspect she's using, share that with her. Often we think it's our duty to trick our kids into telling us the truth, when in fact we're simply setting them up to lie to us. For example, if you were to approach your child and say, "Have you been smoking pot lately?" …there is a strong likelihood that she will say no – even if you have evidence that she has been using it. A much better way to handle the situation is to tell your child everything you know – and then be quiet. In this case you would say, "When I was cleaning your room today, I found marijuana in the pocket of your pants." That's it. That is all you say. Simply wait for her reply. Most adolescents have a need to argue with parents in an attempt to take them off topic. Don't fall for that trap. She might reply, "What were you doing in my room and going through my stuff? You have no right to be there." Parents should acknowledge that, and then get right back to the topic (e.g., "Perhaps you're right. I shouldn’t have been looking in your pants pocket. I'm sorry for invading your privacy. Now please tell me about the marijuana.").

9. Using mood-altering chemicals may be an efficient method for adolescents to fit in among a peer group. If adolescents are smoking marijuana to be part of a group, adolescent discipline strategies (e.g., grounding or restriction) won’t take away an adolescent’s need to fit in. Feeling a sense of belonging among peers is an extremely important goal for the developing teen brain. As well, disciplining adolescents doesn’t help them seek new and different strategies to belong to a peer group. A study at the University of Iowa points to an “image is everything” belief among adolescents. Although moms and dads may have well prepared an adolescent to “lead instead of follow,” the need to fit in is monumental for the teen brain. Many adolescents will sacrifice loftier goals and use the tool of smoking marijuana in order to gain peer acceptance. Effective adolescent discipline includes teaching friendship skills, coping skills and healthy methods to fit in to their peer group.

10. Your end result should be to find a consequence that will help her to make better choices the next time she's faced with the situation of using mood-altering chemicals. Include her in that process. If you threaten to take the car away or some other consequence, how do you know that will be effective? She may be already thinking of other forms of transportation. Or maybe taking the car away will actually get in the way of helping her get to her job and thus completing her required work to get her diploma. So think this through. Don't focus on consequences. Focus on helping her.


  1. Awesome advice....used everything on this page...

  2. Education is always better than punishment. If I ever had a teen who was experimenting with marijuana, I wouldn't get mad - I'd merely want to teach them about what they're dealing with so they can hopefully make a better decision (to not use marijuana).

    - Racky

  3. What about the old addage "actions speak louder than words". If I got disobeying house rules or doing drugs it's not words that scared me it was the corresponding actions from my parents. I grew up not doing drugs. Did I disobey my parents time to time? Sure, but there was always consequences. I soon learned that these consequences outweighed my disobedience. So all this talk to your kid BS is why kids are the way they are today. Fragile entitled people that can't cope when things don't go their way. We are in big big trouble in the future. It all started with "everyone gets a participation award" movement. What a joke. Because little Johnny has his feelings upset that he didn't win, we give everyone an award. Pathetic.

    1. Agreed. I think a combo of punishment AND figuring out (and treating) the core problem is the answer.

    2. I agree whole heartedly! Making your kid comfortable to continue to use drugs by coddling is what this sounds like. There's a lot of things as a teen I did not do because I knew my mother would knock my head off.

  4. Anonymous23:24

    What about the liability of your kid bringing it into your home??

  5. Actually, I'm going through this with my 17 yr old. I found a bong he made out of a water bottle that someone probably taught him how to make. We spoked about it and he was using it in my home, mostly the bathroom cause I can smell it. I'm hoping that I got through to him regarding this but I think he's still using. You see so much of smoking weed in movies, music videos and he thinks it's cool. He graduated this year and he says he's stressed about school, I'm worried about when he does finish how more stressful he will be in college. I really need some help to steer him in the right path.

  6. I was caught smoking pot by my mom, and the consequences I am facing are very far fetched. I was smoking pot with friends on weekends usually just to relax and have a good time. I know that cannibis can alter your mood and chemicals in your body so i steered clear of it on weekdays that I had school. My mom doesn't understand that if she just talked to me I would stop, and not do it again. If she asked me about my experience when I was high I would describe it as euphoric, my friends and I were super relaxed and just having a good time. My biggest fear about being caught was the consequence, so parents I recommend talking to your kids if you find out that they smoke, ask them why they do it, and how it makes them feel. If you are comfortable with your kid smoking on a weekend with friends why not let them continue there are far less side affects and risks of it than other drugs. If you are not comfortable with your kid smoking then simply talk to them about it. My parents grounded me for 6 months, and took all my devices away except my computer. If the simply talk to me I would understand. I am 15 years old and i plan on smoking cannibis when I am 21 years and older.

  7. Definitely have to have consequences. If you don't they just think it's okay. Your their parent not just a friend.

  8. I just found a search in my 16 year old son's browsing history that said 'eyes red day after smoking weed' this was after going through his pictures and seeing a picture of his bloodshot eye. This picture was taken on October 18, last Thursday. This has taken me somewhat by surprise. I had taken his ipod that he was using to talk to his friends last night. I started looking through it since it's been quite some time since I last looked through it.

    Just before I searched his photos, I saw a message to his friend that he was with that night telling him that his mom almost saw his juul. He was caught last summer vaping and he had a vape that he bought from our neighbor's 19 year old son who worked at a vape shop. When I took his juul from him last night, he said 'it gives me clout'. Basically he just wants to fit in with his friends.

    I haven't gotten to talk to my husband about it yet. I don't know what to do about it. I can't ground him forever but he can't get off with no consequences. I kind of look at it like teenagers are going to do these things. I can't keep him locked up in his room until he graduates. He's not fazed by taking things away such as his drum practice pads and sticks that he loves to use, he misses them but he finds something else to do. I'm not taking his car away from him because he has a job. I'm not making him quit his job because he has 2 tickets to pay for. I'm not taking his phone away from him because his job has to communicate with him. I can restrict his use of it by taking it when he's home and giving it back when he leaves for school. I'm at a loss on consequences.

  9. A follow up on my 16 year old son...I talked to him last night,Friday 10/26. He said it was his first time to smoke. He bought a blunt from a kid at school for $10. He and his friend and maybe the other kid went 'in the neighborhood to an overpass, in a tunnel, in the woods', I don't know where this could be. They smoked about half of it and threw the other half out. (I believe this to be a lie because he originally said he smoked it by himself then after I told him not to lie to me he said he couldn't tell me who was with him because he didn't want to bring them into it.) He smoked it with Brooks and told me not to say anything to him about it. I asked him how it made him feel. He said he liked it but he was very paranoid he was going to be caught. He said he would not smoke anymore as long as he is living at home but he would smoke after he moves out and it is legal. He said he feels it is not as bad as being drunk. He said he wants to fit in with everyone and that's why he wanted to try it. He said he plans to go to Colorado or California sometime after he graduates so it's legal. I told him to never smoke it again as long as he is in our house and don't vape either. If he gets caught doing either thing again, he will be in extreme trouble.

  10. My boyfriends 16 year old daughter smokes pot. Her mom said she can smoke it but she has to follow our rules at our house. My rules are no driving until passing a drug test and no smoking pot in our house. Well I guess his daughter hates us now because she cant smoke at our house but she can at her moms. She said we are punishing her to the max and she feels unwanted at our house. My boyfriend barely has a backbone when it comes to the daughter or the mother. I told him these are the rules because I have a professional life and my daughters room is right next door to hers. I can lose my job if I get pulled of with her having drugs on her and I can lose my kids if their dad finds out. My boyfriend says Brandy has to much to lose which makes her hate me and feel like I'm the bad guy. I feel like my boyfriend is going to hate me because his kid doesn't want to come over anymore. I'm sorry but its illegal and when my boyfriend states its not a bad drug and my response is its illegal and not gonna happen.


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