Many times we punish teens and we really don’t have to. Punishing teens means that we deliver our judgments in a harsh accusatory manner. For example, when our teens come home late we might immediately run to ground them.
“How dare you come home late? Do you know how worried I was? You are grounded forever!”
We don’t need to run to punish. We can say matter of factly:
“You are late. I was worried. I need to know the next time you go out that you will be on time.”
The next time he goes out you can say:
“Last time you were late. How can I be sure that this time you will be home at curfew? I need to know that I won’t have to worry tonight.”
If our teens continue to come home late you can deliver a consequence. This is similar to a punishment but different because you are not accusing, name calling or being punitive.
Instead of punishing:
“That is it! I trusted you and trusted you and you keep on breaking my trust. You will not be going out for the rest of the week. You are irresponsible and unreliable!”
We can be calm and rational. We can give a consequence:
“You will not be able to go out tonight. You have repeatedly broken curfew. You many not go out until I know that you can be relied upon to come home on time. Next week we will sit down and figure out some sort of plan. Right now, for this week, I want to make sure that I will have some good nights of sleep. “
(It would even be better to sit down after the first time your teen comes home late and figure out some ways that he can reassure you that he will be on time.)
This is hard for us parents to do. Why? Because somehow we think we need to shame our teens and make them feel bad in order for them to learn their lesson. We feel like that is what good parents do. The opposite is actually true. In order for punishment/consequences to work, teens need to think clearly about what they have done wrong. They can only do that if they are spoken to in a loving calm and rational manner, which is how a consequence is delivered.
To really improve our teen’s behavior and connect with our teens we need to forgo punishment and start giving consequences instead.
Adina Soclof MS. CCC-SLP