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

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