When your child grows older into a teenager, your role as a parent is likely to shift. You may find yourself being more of a guide rather than an enforcer. As a guide, your role is to let them make some choices of their own but make sure you are guiding and leading them to the right one. And when your child makes bad choices or chooses to disobey, they need consequences for their actions.
Making the right decisions
While consequences are necessary for a teen’s upbringing, this is a phase where parents have to tread very carefully. Strict discipline, harsh punishments, and other dire consequences can make a teenage become even more reserved and distant from the people who love them the most. We don’t want a teenage to cut themselves off from a safe and caring home, which is why it’s important to teach them about consequences in a way that they will remember instead of resisting.
Understanding Teen Behavior
Teens like testing the limits of their independence. Since they have grown to depend less and less on their parents, they often do things that might seem reckless. They may go behind their parents back to do what they want.
The teenage phase is also that point in life when a person is more likely to listen to what their friends have to say instead of what their parents want for them. They will be valuing their opinion, fashion statements, and life goals of their peers.
This happens because the teenage brain is not yet fully developed, especially the part of the brain that deals with rational thought and consequences. Generally, teens are not that good at putting the brakes on their behaviors and planning for the future. But they are good at escalating situations by thinking with their emotions.
Adults are not going with the same extremes children might, and parents don’t have time or energy for power struggles. Teens and kids are more motivated to drag out a battle until their parents become exhausted and give up. As a parent, it helps to play to your strengths, including the ability to manage your emotions and the ability to wait.
Adolescence is a hard time for teens because they are changing emotionally, physically, and socially. They are learning to become adult-like in some areas in their lives while still holding on to some child-like ways in other areas.
Their relationships with friends and romantic partners become increasingly important, and they want to spend more time with them. It means less interest in family time. Teens will also want more privacy – they want their texts to be private and their social media conversations to not be seen by their parents. They may also spend more time in their room with the door closed. Though it might be concerning and unnerving, these changes are a normal part of growing up. However, it’s essential to keep an eye out for mental health issues, eating disorders, and drug use.
Common Problems Parents Have with Teenagers
As a parent, it can be tricky to strike a balance between giving your child freedom while still guiding them. Most teens want more freedom than they can handle. They may insist on a later curfew or try to get you to agree to them going to a certain party.
The most common complaint parents have towards their teens is that they refuse to do chores because they’re too hooked on technology. The first impulse is to immediately punish the child, but the trouble with this is you result in a reactionary mode while your anger level is high. As a result, the teen will either stop responding or lash out and escalate the situation.
Talking back is another common cause of friction between parents and teens. They go through phases where they insist they know what’s right for them and that you know nothing about what it’s like to be a teenager.
It’s common for teens to lie so they can get out of trouble. They may deny doing something or claim they have no idea why there’s a dent in the car or why the dishwasher got broken.
Your teen may also assert their independence by insisting that they do things at their own pace. When you ask them to do the dishes or mow the lawn now, they will likely complain, make excuses, or tell you that they’ll do it later.
When they become distraught over friend issues, relationship troubles, and school-related problems, the teen may have a short temper and tend to lash out at the family. They also tend to experiment with different personas too. They may be into pop music and trendy fashion one week but get interested in heavy metal music and goth fashion in the next. They change the way they dress, the music they listen to, the things they are interested in, in an attempt to look for new ways to express themselves.
Discipline Strategies that can Work
Sending your kid into their room as a punishment is no longer effective for teens – most of them would actually be happy for that. This is why disciplining teens and giving them practical consequences can be tricky. But it’s essential to give them consequences that will teach them life lessons. Here are some consequences teens will remember:
Try a non-confrontational approach
Having a heated argument with your teen about him or her not doing her chores will not do both of you any good. To better change your teen’s negative behavior, a non-confrontational approach that will teach your kid, the consequences of his action can be more effective. With respect to the refusal to do chores, you need to remember that you have provided a wide array of services to your child for free, and you realize the value of no longer providing these services without a cost. Your child doesn’t do chores sometimes because they figure out that when they refuse to help, you would go on and do the chore anyway. You can change that so it will work better for both of you.
If your child refuses to do his own laundry, let him know it’s fine, but make sure you won’t do it for him. You can offer your guidance on how to do it, but do not rescue him from dealing with the problem when he runs out of clean clothes. If your teen refuses to mow the lawn, instead of arguing about it, let him know you have resolved it yourself by selling his Xbox or something valuable so you can pay for a lawn service. Your teen will immediately correct that behavior because he won’t like the consequences.
Also, keep in mind that the time you spent doing the household chore your teen must be doing is a time he or she owes you. So, if your chore-ditching teen asks you to drive her to the mall, you can say you can’t because you have no more time to do so since you used up all your spare time doing her chores. This way, you can give them consequences that are appropriate to the misbehavior, giving them an obvious link between their disobedience and the negative result it produces.
Another way might be to have a sort of reward system, with the rewards taken away if the teen doesn’t play their part. For instance, many parents have a system where their children do home chores in order to get their allowance. If the teen doesn’t do their chores on any given day, the parents might choose to dock the whole allowance or a part of it. This teaches the teens that there are consequences for lagging behind in the real world.
Restrict their access to technology
Another catch-all consequence that can be effective in dealing with a teenager’s negative behavior is removing their access to technology. Most likely, your teen is attached to their tablet or smartphone. You probably paid for the device as well as the Internet service, so it’s still yours, and you have a say in it. Maybe they bought it with their own money or savings from their allowance, but the device still lives in your house. If your child wants the device to stay with them, they will have to do the work to keep it. Simply enforcing the expectation that screen time comes after their homework or chore is done can motivate them.
Since technology is everywhere and is required for a lot of tasks, you may have to compromise here if the teen needs to do some schoolwork on a laptop or submit their assignment online. In such cases, the parent needs to be a bit vigilant and supervise the technology use so that the teen doesn’t veer off into non-study related subjects. To make things a little easier on yourself, you may ask your teen to bring their device—laptop, tablet, etc.—into a common space where you can keep an eye on them.
Tighten the rules
If your teen violates your own rules, tighten it. Give them an earlier curfew or reduce the allowed amount of time they spend using electronics. And be firm about it. Make sure you push through with the punishment or consequence whenever they break the rules, or else they won’t believe you.
Take time away from their friends
If your teen misbehaves due to their friends, take away their right to see them for a while. Ground them for days and cancel their weekend plans. Taking a break from their buddies may remind them to make better choices next time.
Allow them to face the consequences of their actions
Sometimes, natural consequences can be the best teacher for your teen. If they misbehave at school and are forced to go to the principal’s office, back off and don’t rescue them. Letting them experience natural punishment or the negative consequences for their action will teach them a life lesson.
Provide logical consequences
When your teen breaks something in the house, make them pay to fix it. If they were irresponsible with the car, take away their keys and don’t let them drive for a while. Make consequences that are directly related to the poor choices or mistakes your teen has made, and don’t just give any punishment just to spite them.
Give them extra responsibilities in the house
Take away some privileges until they complete the chores expected of them. When they show you they can be responsible; they can earn those privileges back.
Don’t reserve discipline for rule violations only
If your teenager sits in his room all day playing games, they may not be misbehaving, but they are not behaving responsibly. You still need to discipline them to help them socialize and be more productive. Give them a discipline that helps your child behave better, not just a punishment for wrongdoing.
How to Choose a Consequence
In choosing the right consequence, you have to remember that privilege is a motivator. The withdrawal or granting of a privilege should give your child motivation to follow the rules in your household, even if they disagree with it.
A practical consequence would be a privilege that your child is interested in. For some, video games are a powerful motivator, while some couldn’t care less about it. Taking away a phone for two hours works as punishment enough for some kids, while others would simply find another way to entertain themselves.
To know the right privilege to use as a consequence, you have to get to know your child and their interests. Think about what would impact them if they lost it for a short time. For some parents, taking away video games is not enough, as the child would rather turn to YouTube to distract themselves. The right privilege to be taken away as a consequence must be an activity that your child would actually miss.
If your child doesn’t seem to care what you take away, they might merely be acting out that they couldn’t care less to spite you. Some kids pretend that they didn’t want to do it anyway.
But you can look at it this way – would your child really want you to know that they do care about the consequences you give them? Would they really reveal their reaction to you and prove that you’re right. That would make it look like you really do have power over them, and teens won’t concede on that one. Give the consequence time to work, and your teen will eventually bend.
However, remember that your goal is not just to punish them but to create better behavior. The privilege and consequence must encourage that improvement by being time-specific. If you truly want your teen to improve their behavior, create an environment that allows them to succeed. The time span of the consequence you give must be long enough for your child to stretch their skills yet short enough to provide you with time to see if there’s a chance of improvement.
A consequence must be task-specific, short-term, and involves a privilege that is important for your child. The goal is to mold your child into a person who can meet responsibilities, respond to limits, and demonstrate age-appropriate behavior. If you’re dealing with an unruly child, learn more about creative consequences for kids.