Discipline is an essential foundation of parenting, from the toddler to teen years. Unfortunately, tactics like time-outs don’t work as well at 16 as they did at 6. Young adults crave independence, and many are testing boundaries — but they still need discipline.
At Compass Rose Academy, our discipline strategy is largely shaped by a concept best described as “Consequences 101,” based on the book “Boundaries with Teens,” by Dr. John Townsend.
Consequences help teens develop responsibility, allowing them to own their own problems, develop self-control and earn the freedom to make good, value-based decisions. By knowing what is important to your teen, you can choose a consequence most likely to have an impact on behavior.
Choosing the right consequences and sticking to them can be difficult for parents. But sometimes, it is as easy as simply not interfering with the natural consequences of your teen’s behavior or attitude. Examples of natural consequences include being kicked off of an athletics team for bad grades, losing a driver’s license, getting a speeding ticket, earning bad grades after not studying or oversleeping and missing the bus, resulting in a tardy. When there are no natural consequences to your child’s behavioral issues, make yours as close to natural as possible.
Removing the desirable is often the most effective consequence. Many young people today are highly scheduled and have limited free time, making it more precious and desired. Taking away TV or other leisure activities can be motivating. But adding the undesirable,such as additional household chores, is another good option.
It’s also important to have more than one type of consequence. Have some variety, and don’t be afraid to be somewhat unpredictable. One type of consequence alone leads to predictability — some teens weigh the cost and choose to break the rule anyway.
In the face of any disciplinary situation, it’s critical to differentiate between felonies and misdemeanors. If discipline is too strict, it can result in rebellion, alienation and discouragement. If it is too lenient, however, it can result in a lack of respect or desire to change.
In general, respond to your child’s behavior with the most lenient consequence that is effective. Doling out a punishment that is too harsh too quick often backfires. You have nowhere else to go — and the child has nothing to lose. The goal is to encourage accountability, responsibility and self-awareness in your teen.
Keep the positive in place. Activities such as sports, music, art, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, church or youth group help contribute to growth through discipline, cooperation, skill building and coaching. However, there are exceptions that preclude the privilege of participation in these activities, such as a teen who has to give up sports to attend addiction counseling or 12-step meetings.
Try to encourage your teen when she makes a positive step. Teens can feel vulnerable when they have to “give in” to their parents. Treat them like you’d want to be treated.
Finally, teach your teen one basic principle: No responsibility means no privileges. Teens value things and relationships. And privileges are earned!
To learn more about Consequences 101, or to speak with a licensed mental health counselor about your family’s discipline challenges, please contact us today.