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Make Your Defiant Teenager Itch!

Hi Tom,

I’ve responded to your email in various places below. Please look for these arrows: >>>>>>>>>>

Mark, thanks for your e-book and quick responses. After reading your book I realize I have been an overindulgent parent, primarily the result of guilt over the divorce I sought when my son (now 15) was very young. He now has pretty high self-esteem, but low motivation and he is an underachiever in school (C+ despite being very bright).

Now that I have been fired as his manager I am changing my ways and your strategies are helping. He missed an assignment in school recently, which affected his grade. I told him if it happened again he would lose his computer and cell phone privileges for 3 days. Well, it happened again and I informed him of the consequence. Of course he threw a fit, but I kept my cool. By the second day he had calmed down and was fine. He got the privileges back at the end of the 3 days, but then the day after that, I found out he had missed two other assignments. Of course, I gave him the same consequence.

My question is, should you ever change or up the consequence for repeated offenses?

>>>>>>>>>> Actually, I would start with the least restrictive consequence first (e.g., no cell or computer + grounding for 1 day). Then for a repeat offense, go 2 - 3 days, but never more than 3.

>>>>>>>>> But we may have a larger issue here! In the case where (a) a teen has a history of poor academic performance and (b) this lack of effort is a major source of parent-teen conflict, I strongly recommend that parents get out of the business of playing teacher, dean, and vice-principal. I don’t know if this is the case with your son, but if it is, you’ll want to read my response to a parent who had this problem (in ‘Emails From Exasperated Parents’ – online version of the ebook). {If your son is making nothing lower than a “C”, then this recommendation I’m referring to may not apply in your case.}

Should I have taken other privileges away in addition to computer and cell phone? Or is it better to stick with what I originally told him?

What is the best approach here? No matter what consequence I choose, there are always other privileges he enjoys, or even loopholes. For example, I was specific in that he couldn't use the computer or cell phone during the 3 days; but he still has other privileges during those 3 days--like video games. Also, I didn't specifically ground him so he visited a friend in the neighborhood (where he probably used his friend's computer), and I specifically said he lost the use of his cell phone, so he used the house phone instead (although for shorter periods). I was uncomfortable with this, but I didn't say anything because I didn't want to alter the consequence mid-stream.

>>>>>>>>>> When implementing a 3-day discipline, it is best that the child have no privileges + grounding (i.e., no use of cell or land line, no use of computer, no use of video games, no leaving the house – and in the case where he enjoys hibernating in his room -- no access to his bedroom except to dress and sleep). Otherwise, it is not an “uncomfortable” consequence. We want the consequence to “feel uncomfortable” to the child.

>>>>>>>>>> If, for example, you put on an itchy sweater made of sheep’s wool and break out with a rash, you tend to take it off because it is uncomfortable – and you may never wear it again! If the child finds a consequence to be “itchy,” he may decide not to exhibit the behavior that initiated the consequence he’s allergic to.

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