Should You Make Your Defiant Teen "Earn" His Way Off Discipline?

Hi L.,

This is Mark, and I’ve responded where you see these arrows: >>>>>>>>>

Thanks for your answer Mark. I really appreciate how quickly you respond. You must get hundreds of emails every day from desperate parents!

Re the fighting: I understand what you are saying and I agree with your analysis. This is what we did for many years when E___ was very small. I never felt safe leaving the 2 kids alone. The last few days I have been successful in keeping my 'poker face' although i see that I have to work on being consistent and keeping to the said consequence.

Here is a scenario that just played out. My kids say I am being unfair. Could you please give me some feedback and any advice? This afternoon I was taking my kids B___ 11 yo (the intense one) and E___ 7 yo to the grocery store and said we would get an ice cream.

>>>>>>>>>> What did they do to earn this privilege (i.e., ice cream)?

As I stopped for gas they got into an argument and started hitting and punching each other. I have recently put into place a consequence of a half hour in their room for any throwing or physical violence. So I said that we would have to go home so they could have their time out.

>>>>>>>>> So far, so good.

After I finished paying I came back and they were calm and had 'made up' as they called it. (This is where I would usually back down and continue on our way.) I said that was nice but we were still going home which didn't go over well.

>>>>>>> I’m glad you didn’t fall for their con job again. They have discovered if they manipulate you into believing they are not mad at each other, then you withdraw the consequence.

They both started in on the verbal abuse (mostly B___) telling me how stupid and unreasonable I was, how they wished I was dead etc.

>>>>>>>>>> This is a great example of a time when the parent should have the thought “put on my poker face.”

I said if the disrespectful talk did not end they would be choosing to loose their privileges for the evening (computer time/movie night, boom box, trampoline and sprinkler). They did not stop so I said they had chosen to loose their privileges.

>>>>>>>>>> So far, so good.

They continued all the way home but I gave them no more consequences. They asked why I was being so strict, and I said things weren't working well before, I had not been consistent. When we got home they started hitting each other again so they got another half hour in their rooms. Should I have ignored that and left it at one half hour?

>>>>>>>>>>>> I think so. Parents often let their kids dig themselves in a hole they can never get out of. It doesn’t matter if they continued to fight – only give one consequence for that particular behavior.

Think of it this way. Watch how ridiculous the following scenario would be:

- You get pulled over by a cop for speeding
- He asks you how many miles you drove over the speed limit
- You say ‘about 5 miles’
- So he gives you 5 tickets – one for each mile.

Should I have just ignored the disrespectful talk (at home I could walk away or send Beckie for her time out but in the car I couldn't see how to do that) or just taken away one privilege?

>>>>>>>>>>> The disrespectful talk is a tactic to get you sidetracked from the original problem. Put it in the “deal with it later” file. More on this here ==> How Do You Eat An Elephant

Also, if my 11 yo loses privileges for 3 days, should it also be 3 for my 7 yo? I was thinking 1 day would be Ok for his age.

>>>>>>> If each one participates in the same negative behavior, then each should receive the same consequence.

I am also a bit confused about the 'earning your way off ground" in the book. You say to tell the child that they will be off the 3 day ground if they, for example "come home right after school every day this week" or takes the trash out every night. Do you mean just for the days they are grounded?

>>>>>>>>>> They earn their way off ground simply by not engaging in the identified negative behavior. So in your case you can say, “You will be ungrounded at 6:00 PM tomorrow evening if there is no more hitting or punching.” (NOTE: Their verbal attacks against each other should be ignored.)

One more question: Should I be getting strict for everything (i.e., hitting, leaving clothes on the floor, leaving the bathroom a mess, leaving their dishes out) or bring new rules in gradually?

>>>>>>>> Just go in the order that is laid out for you in the eBook:

WEEK #1: do session 1 & session 1 assignments
WEEK #2: do session 2 & session 2 assignments
WEEK #3: do session 3 & session 3 assignments
WEEK #4: do session 4 & session 4 assignments

Good luck. It sounds like you’re mostly on track.


==> Join Online Parent Support

Issuing Consequences: Effective Methods for Parents of Defiant Teenagers

Consequences can be used to discourage unacceptable behavior in defiant adolescents. Usually this will occur after other techniques have been tried unsuccessfully. In summary, consequences:
  • are given to help defiant adolescents establish boundaries
  • are more effective when discussed in a matter-of-fact manner from a caring and controlled point of view
  • help moms and dads present their adolescents with fundamental life lessons while helping adolescents recall what they learned from these disciplinary actions
  • should be applied consistently (i.e., the behavior disciplined today will again be disciplined  next week if needed)
  • should be clearly explained, related to the behavior, and completed as soon as possible
  • should never be given in anger
  • should not be confused with punishment

Also, behavior disciplined for one child will not be allowed for others. This consistency lowers anxiety by making the environment predictable.

"Discipline” means to teach, and positive discipline helps adolescents learn to effectively solve problems and manage conflicts. A parent who is angry with the child should calm down before deciding a consequence, and if applicable, should consult with the other parent before doing so. Moms and dads should regularly discuss the effectiveness of consequences for the specific child, and should always support each other in the positive discipline process of their defiant adolescents.

The Most Effective Ways to Issue Consequences for Defiant Teens—

1. Assigning Additional Chores: Your adolescent may dislike doing chores around the house because it takes her away from a video game or simply lazing in her room. If it is her duty to unload the dishwasher every Wednesday, and she neglects to do so, assign her the chore again on Monday and Wednesday of the following week. She not only has to do her regular chores on these days, but she also has the additional chores. This type of consequence is particularly effective if she and her siblings alternate chores. She sees her sibling able to do what he wants while she slaves away.

2. Choosing Their Own Punishment: Most adolescents believe that they are capable of making all their own decisions. If this is the case with your adolescent, try letting her choose the consequences for her irresponsibility. For example, if she forgets to pick up an item needed for dinner, she may choose to do the weekly grocery shopping for her parents. Of course, the consequence must fit the “crime,” and you should have the final say in its appropriateness. Allowing your adolescent to choose a fair penalty often results in increased self-esteem and satisfies her need for increasing autonomy.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

3. Community Service: While community service is often a voluntary effort, moms and dads can involve their kids in community-service work as a consequence for disrespectful behavior toward others or property. Community service teaches teens to think of others by offering helpfulness and showing compassion. Community service is also used as a punitive consequence by law-enforcement agencies, so this will teach your youngster what to expect if she ever engages in criminal activity.

4. Creating a Contract: There may be times where you decide to take away a privilege until your teenager can earn it back. If this is the case, make it clear what she needs to do in order to earn it back. A behavior contract ensures that both of you are clear on the expectations and how your adolescent can earn back privileges (e.g., if your adolescent throws a party when you’re not home and without your permission, create a contract that states what she must do in order to begin regaining trust and showing responsibility). A contract may include stipulations, such as she must complete her regular chores plus extra assigned chores, get all of her homework done on time, and must be honest in all situations for 2 full weeks. Once she is able to show these behaviors for 2 weeks, you can revisit instilling some more trust in her and allowing her to earn back privileges and spending time with peers.

5. Essay Writing: If your youngster chooses to disobey curfew or "borrows" your car without permission, you can instruct him to write an essay on expected behavior in the home. This consequence is an exercise that allows him to reflect on why his behavior was inappropriate, and to consider some of the natural consequences that could have resulted from noncompliance with house rules (e.g., getting into a car accident). Encouraging your youngster to write down these ideas can teach him to make better choices in the future.

6. Grounding: Grounding your adolescent from all social activities outside of the home can be an effective consequence. An adolescent generally places high value on socializing with peers. If the grounding prevents her from attending football games, church parties, or hanging out at her best friend’s house for the weekend, the consequence may jolt her into action the next time she is tempted to neglect her responsibilities.

7. Paying Restitution: There are times when it is important to have your adolescent pay restitution. For instance, if she vandalizes the neighbor’s fence, don’t simply take away her cell phone for the day. Make her pay to repair the fence. She can earn this money by doing extra chores. Also, there may be times that there isn’t a clear victim that your youngster needs to pay restitution to. For instance, if you discover that she’s been speeding when borrowing your car, make her do some community service activities before she can borrow the car again. Assign a certain number of hours she must do to show that she can be responsible with completing her community service before you’ll turn over your keys again.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

8. Practicing Tasks: Teens often try to get out of doing tasks by partially completing them. Moms and dads can teach their teens to complete tasks effectively - and in their entirety - by instructing them to practice washing dishes or vacuuming their rooms, for example, as often as possible. If your youngster is generally required to wash dishes once a day and has been doing a mediocre job just to spite you, offer her the opportunity to practice washing dishes appropriately twice a day for the duration of 1 week until she gets it right.

9. Removal of Privileges: In some cases, privacy is more of a privilege than a right. One teenager recalls when his mom and dad took his bedroom door off of the hinges because he slammed the door in their faces to express his anger. Such an act can remind your adolescent that he will have to use respectful words to express frustrations, especially if he has no door to slam.

10. Teaching Skills: Discipline needs to address not just behavior, but skill-deficits as well. For instance, if your 15-year-old prefers to sit in her bedroom and play video games by herself all the time, she may not be misbehaving – but she needs discipline. She may need to learn how to find new activities, develop friendships, and be responsible with chores. There are a lot of skills adolescents need in order to become healthy, responsible grown-ups. Moms and dads need to look for areas where their adolescent may be lacking and help her develop those skills so she can be successful when she lives independently.

In conclusion, consequences have to hurt to be effective. If you take away your youngster’s ability to watch TV, but she spends the evening watching Netflix movies on her iPhone, it isn’t an effective consequence. Choose a privilege that will really impact your adolescent, and help her to think twice before making the same mistake twice.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

“Parenting my angry rebellious teenage daughter is SO HARD!"

Hi S.,

I’ve responded to each of your points below. Please look for these arrows: >>>>>>>

Good Morning,
To begin, I just wanted to say that I joined your online program a few days ago and it has already been so helpful. There seems to be an ample supply of resources in my community for parenting young children, but haven't come across much for parenting the pre-teen and teen ages. I've been studying the materials and started implementing the strategies therein. Which has now brought about a couple of questions I could use some support on.

First, a few days ago I removed my daughter's computer privilege for the 3 day time frame. I didn't engage in the power struggle, simply explained the consequence, and stated I wasn't going to argue. The first day went surprisingly well. She did say my rules were dumb and asked for clarification about how long and when she would get computer time back. I told her if there were no more occurrences of the specific behavior she would have her computer time back on Saturday (3 days).

>>>>>>>>>>> You are doing a wonderful job. Go MOM!

The second day however, wasn't as smooth. She attempted to argue with me about it and I stated I wasn't going to argue. Then she tried to manipulate the issue and say she ONLY wanted to put music on her ipad and wouldn't use the computer for anything else. I said she could download her music on Saturday. I was on the phone with a friend at the time, and had already put the call on hold once to tell her I wasn't going to argue and restate the time frame. I went back to my phone call and she started mumbling unpleasentries and even throwing some things around the living room. I ignored, then she started yelling get off the phone and eventually, inappropriate things to my friend on the phone.

>>>>>>>>>> At this point, the parent should assert [with a poker face], “If you choose to continue to interrupt me while I’m on the phone, you will choose the consequence, which is the 3-day-discipline will re-start.” If she interrupts again, then follow through with the consequence.

I continued to talk in hopes that my friend wouldn't hear and did not end my telephone conversation immediately. That is absolutely inappropriate, but I was so lost as to what to do or how to address. On one hand if I got off the phone ... then, I allowed her to control the situation ... on the other hand, my friend should not be verbally attacked by my 13 year old daughter? What is your suggestion for an appropriate response in that situation. I know she needs attention and approval and I am making sure to spend time with her, ask about her day, give positive feedback for good things I notice, etc. I did nothing during or after that to address it. Do you go back and talk about it after the situation is calm? I'm confused ... I don’t want to engage in a power struggle, but there are certain boundaries she shouldn't cross isn't there? When I was off the phone, she then asked if I would download the music for her. I said yes, I could download the songs if she made a list (not sure if that was right).

>>>>>>>>>>> Unfortunately, this was a form of retracting your established consequence – you just got manipulated again!

She then decided she would wait until Saturday and do it herself. This is so confusing and hard because it seems that every situation perpetuates another?

>>>>>>>>>>If you find that “one problem is creating another,” you simply state that if she chooses to introduce a new problem, she will choose the consequence, which is the 3-day-discipline will be started over.

>>>>>>>>>>> Let’s use an example: Daughter has been issued a 3-day-discipline (i.e., no computer privileges) for getting on Facebook when she was warned not to. On day 2, daughter wants to get on the computer to download music. Mom says “no” (one time) …gives her reason for saying “no” (one time) …and tells her daughter that when the 3-day-discipline is completed, the privilege will be reinstated.

>>>>>>>>>>>The daughter begins to have an inappropriate temper tantrum as a result. Thus, mom states, “If you choose to continue to argue with me, you will choose the consequence, which is the 3 days starts over.” Daughter continues to argue. Mom now says, “Because you chose to continue to argue, you chose the consequence, which is the 3 days starts over -- as soon as you calm down.” When the daughter chooses to stop yelling/arguing, mom looks at her watch and re-starts the 3-day-discipline.

Also, I know I need to accept and validate her feelings about things ... how/when do you do that?

>>>>>>>>>> You do that when she is calm; when she is behaving appropriately. Validation is not part of the equation during the period of time you are issuing a consequence.

At the moment the situation occurs I'm not arguing about it or showing emotion or engaging in any power struggle. But, I also want to be careful not to totally disregard her. After a blow up do you go back and discuss what happened?

>>>>>>>>> This is optional. If the employment of “Fair Fighting” (see the section on Fair Fighting) works in her case, then yes, discuss and problem solve. Otherwise, just let the execution of the consequence be the teacher.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Oppositional, Defiant Teens 

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