As parents, it’s natural to want to help your child succeed. So, it can seem counterintuitive to learn that sometimes, the best thing parents can do is to let their teen fail.
Letting teens experience the natural consequences of their behaviors and choices is one way to teach accountability and other important life skills. Small failures can provide a valuable learning experience and ultimately help your teen avoid larger failures in the future.
However, it’s important for parents to know when and how to let their teen experience the natural consequences of their actions. If you receive a text from your teen asking you to deliver her math homework to school – again – consider letting her take the zero on the assignment. One failing score probably won’t have a devastating impact on her grade, and it will teach her that she’s responsible for her own work and that you won’t always be there to save her.
Similarly, if your teen has difficulty getting up for school in the morning, don’t serve as her personal alarm clock. A tardy or two might help motivate her to take more responsibility for her own wake-up routine. Or, if chronic lateness is the problem, don’t rescue her with last-minute rides to work or after-school activities. Let her face her boss or her coach and explain her actions – and accept the disciplinary consequences that might follow.
Natural consequences are typically not the result of a first mistake. Normally, the teen has showed a pattern of poor decisions or a repeated behavior – such as oversleeping – that she has been chastised for before. In all instances, this should first and foremost be a teachable moment for your teen. After she accepts the natural consequences of her actions, talk to her about what she can do differently in the future to avoid the same missteps. Perhaps more importantly, discuss any other problems that might be contributing to the issue. Her behavior may be a symptom of a larger problem.
Of course, there are times when failure is not an option. Parents should intercede in any situation that puts their child – or others – at risk. If your teen is driving recklessly, don’t wait for her to get into an accident to teach her a lesson. If you know your teen is using illegal substances or drinking, don’t allow alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. If your teen’s behavior could result in life-altering, legal ramifications, it’s your responsibility to intervene to the best of your ability.
Help your teen learn from her actions, and support her as she takes whatever punishment is meted out as a result. And remember: Failure is a normal part of adulthood. Teaching your teen to get up when she falls is one of the most important life lessons a parent can provide.
To learn more about how Compass Rose Academy can help you use natural consequences in your parenting, contact Compass Rose Academy today.