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.


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