Your teenage child has broken a fundamental rule, and what they have done could have ended disastrously for them and others. You know that they need to face the consequences for misbehavior. They should understand how wrong they were and why they should never repeat this mistake. This is where the question of punishment arises.
Many parents allow their anger and frustration to get the better of them and impose punishments that hurt their teens. This could backfire. Your teen could turn more rebellious, and the relationship between you could deteriorate.
Read on as we tell you about appropriate punishments or consequences for a teen’s bad behavior and the dos and don’ts while handing out punishments to discipline your teen.
Are Punishments Good For Teens?
You should mete out age-appropriate punishments when your teen misbehaves to ensure they do not repeat it. Punishments work in some cases but backfire in others. If your parenting style is heavily reliant on severe punishment, it could deter the child from learning self-discipline. Also, a very heavy-handed punishment strategy could turn a teen rebellious and make them resort to lying or hide things from you.
Punishments are necessary, and they do work when they are designed in the right way and with the right approach. When your goal is to discipline your teen and ensure that they are empowered to make better choices or handle similar situations more effectively, the punishment you design will achieve its purpose. It is up to you to think of consequences that will benefit your teenager and guide them to display good behavior.
A good starting point is to get the teen’s active participation in setting up strong yet smooth house rules and impose appropriate punishments for breaking them. The teen’s involvement gives them control over the situation and encourages compliance.
How To Design Appropriate Consequences For Teens?
When designing consequences for bad behavior, keep the following points in mind:
- Consequence as a resolution to the act: Remember that your intent is to correct the teen, help them rectify their behavior, and understand the trouble they have caused. The best way to do this is to ensure that the consequence or punishment is aimed at resolving the problem. For example, a teen who breaks a neighbor’s window should apologize in person to the neighbor and get their window repaired out of their pocket money. While this may not always be possible, your aim should be to sync the consequence with the issue.
- Consequence in proportion to the misbehavior: Ensure the intensity of the consequence is in proportion to the problem or misbehavior. For example, the teen forgets to take out the garbage. Don’t overreact and ground them for a week. Instead, let them take the garbage out during the weekend.
However, if the teen resorts to violence in a tiff with peers, do not take it lightly and pass it off with a minor consequence. This needs a far stronger, more intense reaction and consequence proportionate to the gravity of the misbehavior.
- Consequence within the boundaries of self-respect: Never put down the teen or attack their self-confidence when meting out punishment. A consequence that is humiliating fails to teach the teen anything and only makes them rebellious.
Effective Punishment Strategies For Teens
As the parent, you know which punishments work best with your teen because you know their likes, dislikes, and preferences. Regardless, here are a few common and effective punishment strategies used by parents of teens.
- No access to electronics: If the teen ignores academics and remains glued to their cell phone for hours or if they present a very rude picture to guests during dinner by checking their social media updates constantly, a suitable punishment strategy is to get them to give up their phone privileges for a week.
This works well with all electronic gadgets, especially if the teen’s favorite go-to gadget is their phone or laptop. The ‘no electronics’ punishment works well whenever the teen ignores you and their allocated chores and chooses to remain immersed in their digital world.
- Limited friend time: If your teen has been displaying undesirable behavior with friends, a good consequence would be a time-out from buddies. A stronger message would be to cancel their weekend outings with friends for a while.
- Stricter house rules: A house rule violation could mean that the teen loses some more freedom. This is a great deterrent and keeps the teen eager to comply with the house rules agreed upon. For example, if the teen breaks curfew by half an hour, set a new curfew that is half an hour earlier than your original one.
- Reparation as punishment: If the teen has been responsible for someone sustaining a loss, get the teen to make amends by repairing or replacing what was damaged. If the damage is not something that can be resolved this way, make the teen come up with a way to reduce the impact of the loss. For example, if the teen crashes into an elderly neighbor who sustains a sprain, as a result, let the teen take the neighbor to the doctor’s and also get essentials for them for a few weeks. Make sure the consequence is directly related to the issue.
- Facing the music alone: Let the teen handle the natural consequences of their actions without you stepping in and softening the blow. This is a great way to prep them for adulthood, when they have to face the music alone. Let them handle the angry neighbor who demands to know why the teen destroyed their flower beds or the car owner down the street who wants to talk to the teen about the scratches on his new vehicle from the teen’s cycle.
Common Mistakes In Implementing Punishment
Parents can sometimes get frazzled and stressed with the teen’s latest escapade. This is when they tend to make mistakes when implementing a punishment or consequence. Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid.
- Using the wrong words: Saying things such as “I knew you would mess up,” “You are just like your useless uncle,” “You can’t do anything right” does not encourage the teen to listen to you. Instead, these statements might make the teen believe they are incapable of doing better. That’s not what you want.
- Failing to follow through: You tell the teen they would have to go without their phone for a week, but midweek, you give them their cell phone back. This tells the teenager that you do not seriously intend the punishment, and they need not take it seriously.
- Failing to mention the exact problem: Your teen needs to know why they are being punished. Are they losing driving privileges for taking the car out or for overspeeding? Tell them exactly what the problem is, so they know what will get them in trouble the next time and avoid it. When you set rules, make sure they are crystal clear, and there is no scope for the teen to misunderstand them.
- Setting consequences that don’t affect them: For a teen who loves solitude, being sent to the room may be a reward, not punishment. Fashion your punishment around your teen’s personality and characteristics, not your own or that of other teens you know.
- Not communicating how to make amends: The teen may deeply regret their action and would be keen on regaining the trust they lost. Tell them how they can do that. Once they do what it takes, put the incident behind you and do not keep bringing it up to taunt them.
Apart from avoiding these mistakes, always let the teen know that everyone messes up at times but gets second chances if they genuinely regret the mistake. Help the teen figure out why they committed the mistake, how not to repeat it, and what to do to stay away from a similar trouble in the future. The key to this is to have open communication with them, preferably once they are done with the punishment. This gives them time to retrospect and also understand the full impact of their action.
How To Help A Teen Avoid Punishments?
Just as it is your responsibility as a parent to correct your teen by meting out punishment when necessary, it is also your job to help them avert situations that call for punishment. Here are a few points that will encourage your teen to follow the rules and avoid punishment:
- Maintain an open, friendly relationship with them: As a teenager, your child no longer depends on you for every task, but you can still play an important role in their life by taking an interest in their activities and doing things with them.
Activities that let you give them positive attention, such as playing a game they like or discussing a book or movie they love, can help set the stage for a sound relationship with them. When your teen shares a friendly, good relationship with you, the chances are they will discuss their problems with you without inhibitions.
- Be accessible: Let the teen know that if they need help or advice, they can reach out to you at any time. Be accessible enough so that the teen can quickly check in with you before taking up something important. You can always tell them specific hours when they cannot disturb you at work or ask them to message you if you are not reachable immediately. Make sure you respond as quickly as you can in such situations.
- Set a good precedent: Be a good role model for your teen. Take decisions that you want them to take in difficult situations and ensure they understand why you did something in a certain way. Involving them in the decision-making processes is a good idea because it gives them first-hand experience of how to factor in various aspects before taking action.
- Establish clear-cut rules: What you expect from your teen should be crystal clear, with no room for ambiguity. Write down the house rules if necessary, along with the consequences that you arrived upon along with the teen. For example, ‘Be home by ___ pm on weekdays and ___ pm on the weekends.’ When the teen knows what is expected of them, they are more likely to remember and comply.
- Avoid arguing: A little bit of flexibility can go a long way in helping your teen toe the line concerning house rules. Avoid being rigid about rules, especially when you know it can lead to an endless argument. Settle for a reasonable compromise instead. For example, instead of arguing with your teen about taking out the garbage right away, give them a more flexible deadline, say before bedtime. However, make it clear that the deadline is non-negotiable.
Creating a respectful, empathetic environment at home also works magic in making teens behave well. After all, if they like being treated with consideration and respect, they have to prove themselves worthy of it too.
The teenage years can be the most challenging ones for you to handle your child as a parent. The disciplining strategies that worked when they were younger no longer hold good, now that they are more independent and have more exposure to the world.
However, you can ensure your teens understand the importance of ground rules by structuring effective disciplinary measures backed by open communication. When handled right, mistakes committed in teenage years can become great learning opportunities for your teenager.