Q&A: How Do I Punish My Teen for Sneaking Out?

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman on how parents should react when their child has deceived them.

Q. Last night I discovered that my 15-year-old son had put pillows underneath his covers and left our house. (After driving around, my husband found him.) Now what?

A. Beyond letting him know how angry you are about the deception, you need him to understand how scary it is not knowing where he is or if he's in danger. It's important for kids to learn empathy for their parents and others, so explain in detail the panic you and his father felt. Then give him his punishment (losing a privilege and extra chores for a while) and make sure he understands that there is no possibility for parole for good behavior. Even if he's being charming and compliant two weeks into a month-long sentence, stick to your plan so he'll know that sneaking out isn't worth the risk.

Originally published in the December 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.