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"Why Don't Consequences Work for My Teen?  Here's Why...and How to Fix It"

If you’re having trouble giving effective consequences to your teen, know that you are not alone. If you’re the parent of an adolescent, you may have grounded your child, taken away their video games, or suspended their driving privileges for months on end. But as James Lehman says, you can’t punish kids into acceptable behavior—it just doesn’t work that way.

Rather, an effective consequence should encourage your child to change their behavior – whether that is abiding by the house rules, or treating people respectfully. So first, you need to identify the behavior you want to see changed. For example, if your child swears when they don’t get their way, you want them to behave more appropriately. Instead of grounding or punishing, or even reasoning with your child when he gets angry and lashes out, an effective consequence here would require your child to practice better behavior – and improve their self-control – for a period of time before their normal privileges are restored.

It’s important to understand that you can’t get your child to not feel angry, or not get frustrated. That’s just part of being human. But you can require that they change the way they deal with those feelings. You can expect them to practice some self-control. Your goal is to require that your child practice the better behavior for a certain amount of time before they get their privileges back. So practice—and behavioral improvement— equals the restoration of privileges.

If they yell about their consequence, or how unfair it is, you might say, “I understand that you’re angry. Yelling is not going to get you what you want. Once you’ve been able to deal with your anger appropriately for two hours, you will get your electronics back.” Do not continue to explain your consequences, or justify your decisions. He may mumble to himself, or text his friends about how awful his parents are, and it may take some time, but eventually your child will decide to practice those skills that earn back his electronics.

Remember, your goal is to create better behavior in your child, and the consequence/privilege needs to encourage that improvement by being time-specific. If you truly want your child to improve their behavior, you need to create an environment in which your child can succeed. The time span of your consequence is important – it should be long enough that your child has to stretch their skills, and short enough that you have a good chance of seeing improvement. To be effective, a consequence needs to be short-term, task specific, and involve a privilege your child values. Your goal here is to produce a child who can respond to limits, meet responsibilities, and demonstrate age-appropriate behavior. Your consequences and privileges help get them there.

One last word of advice: Parents often want to see their child’s behavior improve overnight. Don’t expect perfection immediately. Like any new skill, better behavior takes practice. When implementing a new consequence, you can expect some failure. You can expect that you may need to restart a couple of times. In the beginning, you may find that your child behaves inappropriately every day, and has their privileges removed often. That doesn’t mean you’ve chosen the wrong consequence. It simply means your child needs time to practice better skills. And they need you to keep them practicing.

The entire article written by Megan Devine, LCPC can be read at https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/why-dont-consequences-work-for-my-teen-heres-whyand-how-to-fix-it/

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The February newsletter, The Parental Involvement CONNECTION, is available in English and Spanish. This edition of the newsletter includes articles about Avoiding Spring Fever, FAFSA Facts, NCLB vs ESSA, and Nutrition and Exercise. view the newsletter

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