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Implementing Effective Consequences for Teenagers

Are you dealing with a disrespectful teenager? Don't let this behavior go unchecked, or you'll soon have a disaster on your hands. Teenagers need to know that their actions have consequences, but as a mother or father, you need to ensure that you enforce effective consequences for disrespectful behavior in teenagers – both at home and school.

As a former disrespectful teen, I remember all too well being on the opposite side of the fence. I hope the following tips for dealing with disrespectful teenagers will help you establish effective consequences:

1. Choosing effective consequences for your disrespectful adolescent shouldn't be difficult. You either give or you take away: You give additional chores or work assignments, and you take away personal entertainment access. You must decide on a time period for the effective consequence to take place. Does one smart remark earn one missed hour of video games? Does a detention at school mean one night being grounded?

2. Consequences should be closely related to your teen’s misbehavior (e.g., if your son comes in late for curfew on Friday night, set his curfew 30 minutes earlier the next weekend).

3. Continued misbehavior requires a warning of the consequence. Move closer to the teen than normal conversational distance and make direct and prolonged eye contact. Be very specific about your expectation and the time frame for compliance. Tell him exactly what the consequence of noncompliance will be. Walk away and give him the opportunity to comply. If the warning doesn't work, send the teen to another room while you both cool off. Ignore arguing and expressions of anger. After a few minutes, go back to your teen. Speak calmly and without emotion. Explain that the consequence is now in effect and how long it will last.

4. Dialogue with your adolescent about her disrespectful behavior. See if you can locate the source of your adolescent's disrespectful behavior by chatting candidly and frankly. Part of the battle in adolescence comes from being forced to transition between childhood and adulthood with a shaky balance until your adolescent has found her footing. Ease the transition and show your respect for your adolescent by talking to her as you would any other grown-up.

5. Don’t debate—it will only make things worse and result in a power struggle.

6. Don’t overreact or under–react. Moms and dads can often be too intense (e.g., make the consequence too long or difficult) or too permissive (neglect to follow through on giving a consequence).

7. Don't discount the teaching effect of natural consequences. For example, if your teen refuses to do homework, he'll get a bad grade. If he shoplifts and gets caught, he'll probably have legal problems. These are the logical consequences for the misbehavior. Let your teen experience them.

8. Don't keep a running tab of your teen's misbehavior. Implement consequences for misbehavior, and then let it go.

9. Evaluate your own actions. Actions always speak louder than words, so make sure that what you say matches up with what you do. Any discrepancies will be noted by your eagle-eyed disrespectful adolescent and may even be brought painfully to your attention. Telling an adolescent not to smoke when you've been a pack a day smoker since you were his age wouldn't accomplish anything.

10. Have patience. Though it may have seemed as if your well-behaved youngster transformed suddenly into a surly adolescent, the truth is that these patterns of disrespect in adolescents don't develop overnight. You won't be able to resolve the problem instantly, so don't expect that you can. By holding true to the effective consequences that you decide on for your adolescent, you must be consistent for at least thirty days before you can see any lasting effects.

11. If you find that the consequences you’ve given aren’t effective, there’s nothing wrong with going back to the drawing board. If you’ve assigned too harsh of a consequence, you may need to rethink what you’ve said and come back with something else. Also, you may need to change the consequence because your teen isn’t taking it seriously.

12. If you’re feeling frustrated or angry, you might say, “Let’s talk about this when we’re both calm. I’ll get back to you later in the day.”

13. If your adolescent is being disrespectful to others at school, schedule meetings with your adolescent's classroom teachers to discuss the problem. Many teachers have dealt with similar problems from similar adolescents and may be able to offer advice, support, and resources to help.

14. Make sure the consequence you give your teen makes him uncomfortable (e.g., it would be meaningless to take away a video game from a teen who doesn’t like them very much).

15. Once the child has been disciplined, resist the urge to keep reminding him of the past offense.

16. Remember that an effective consequence is (a) clear and specific, (b) logically related to the misbehavior, (c) time-limited, and (d) varied.

17. Remember, if you’re out of control, it reduces your authority.

18. Remind your adolescent that he is loved. It might sound a little too new age for your taste, but all human beings need to feel loved. Disrespectful behavior often comes as a result of nothing getting enough loving attention. By reinforcing your positive feelings about the adolescent, you let your child know that you care. Your adolescent might scoff at your open admission of love, but deep down, adolescents need to hear this message.

19. Take a deep breath. The old trick that tells you to count to ten and take a deep breath before scolding anyone is a great one to keep actively in mind during your son’s or daughter’s teen years. Adolescence is often a difficult transition for your youngster, so try to remember this. Take a couple of days to draft a list of effective consequences for your disrespectful adolescent.

20. Talk with a mental health professional is the behavior continues after you've steadily been enforcing effective consequences for disrespectful behavior. The problem may rest deeper than you are able to effectively manage. You might even consider parent-child counseling. 

21. The consequences you give should have a definite beginning and end. You don’t want to make them so long and drawn out that your teen can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. When consequences are too harsh or have no end, the teenager starts to feel hopeless and just gives up. They need to feel like they’re capable of following through on whatever the expectation is.

22. There are times when you need time to think about what consequence would be most effective. Often it’s useful for your teen to have time to think about what he’s done, as well. It’s uncomfortable for children to have to wait and hear what their mother or father is going to say—and taking that time will help you come up with a more effective consequence.

23. We often take our teen's behavior personally and see it as a reflection on us. But our job is to teach our kids about good behavior. How we teach is by managing their behavior and actions. In a sense, our parenting work is to "civilize" our kids so that they can be responsible, caring, loving grown-ups.

24. When you are caught up in the heat of the moment, you definitely need to take a timeout. When you do this, you don't have to let your teen know what you're doing. Just send him to his room and tell him you'll be back to talk with him later. It's okay for your teen to be anxious about what the consequence might be. Remember, that waiting period can be a useful period. This is also a perfect example of a time when parents need to be good actors. Try to keep your face and tone as neutral as possible when you speak to your teen, even if you're steaming mad inside.

25. When you notice non-compliance, first give a reminder. Remember to make direct eye contact. This simple strategy will work most of the time. Begin to think of an effective consequence if the reminder doesn't work.

26. When you see your teen behaving the way he should, take time to notice and then say something about it. The old adage of “catch your child in the act of being good” is true for a reason—it acknowledges good behavior and inspires him to keep trying.

27. When your teen misbehaves, you always want to ask him this question afterward: “What will you do differently next time?” Have him come up with some examples. If he can’t, you can help him with a few of your own.

28. When you're telling your teen what his consequence is after he's misbehaved, be as brief and clear as possible. It can completely undo the lesson you want him to learn if you repeat yourself or get in a long discussion about it. This is because it's easy for you as a parent to start negotiating or minimizing, or to get drawn into an argument with your teen.

29. Write a list of consequences and rewards that might be of value to your teenager. You can even ask him for his ideas for consequences and rewards.

30. Your teen needs to be capable of doing what you ask (e.g., if you say that his consequence is to patch and paint the hole he kicked in the wall, but he has no idea how to do that, you’ll both end up frustrated—and the bad behavior will probably escalate).

How To Put Your Child In “Time-Out”

Time-outs can be an effective method of discipline for kids ages 3 to 9. Getting the best results will require some work in the beginning, but things will get easier as time goes on.

This type of discipline, which involves isolating the youngster for a short period of time so he can think over his behavior, can help the mother or father feel less guilty for disciplining the youngster.

Tips for making time-outs an effective disciplinary method:

1. A time-out allows both the parent and the youngster to have a few minutes on their own before talking through the issue.

2. A time-out provides kids with an understanding that they are responsible for their own actions, and that there are consequences to negative behavior.

3. A time-out provides the tools necessary for parent and child to have a conversation about why the behavior is inappropriate and what can be done differently next time.

4. Choose a designated area or chair in a boring place. Make sure there is no television or other distractions close by. If you live in a small place, face the chair to a wall. Remember to discipline the youngster and not reward him by sitting him on a couch in front of a TV.

5. Decide which kinds of misbehaviors you will use the time-outs for. Common misbehaviors that require time-outs include:
  • back talk
  • biting
  • grabbing
  • hitting
  • kicking
  • name-calling
  • pushing
  • screaming
  • shoving
  • spitting
  • temper tantrums
  • yelling

Waking up in a bad mood or forgetting a chore wouldn't need to be disciplined by a time-out because these are not aggressive behaviors. Explain to the youngster ahead of time what a time-out is and how it will be used.

6. Discuss with the youngster the reason for the time-out when time is up.

7. For a time-out to be effective, your youngster has to understand the rules AND be able to connect inappropriate behavior with temporary loss of privileges. So, make sure your youngster understands the concept of consequences.

8. The time-out should be appropriate for the age and development of your youngster. If everyone is playing in the living room, and a 3-year-old needs a time-out, he doesn't have to be banished all the way to his room. It will make enough of an impact on him that he has to stop playing and sit quietly on the couch or in a time-out chair. For a school-age child, it may be more appropriate for him to go to his room (and may actually be less embarrassing for him).

9. Use a time-out immediately after the bad behavior. Don't carry on a conversation on the way.

10. Use age-appropriate time-outs. The general rule is one minute for each year of age. So a 3-year-old would sit for 3 minutes, while a 4-year-old would sit for 4 minutes, and so on. Even if it's difficult to make a youngster sit in a time-out for that amount of time, be firm and persistent. The best thing about this form of discipline is that as time goes on, it gets easier and easier to enforce. Persistence and not giving in are the keys. If it helps, a portable kitchen timer can be used to count down the minutes.

11. When used calmly and consistently, a time-out is an incredible helpful way to raise responsible and communicative kids.

12. The most important part of a time-out is when the time-out is over, but before the youngster has returned to his activity. This is where you have the opportunity to talk to him. The following points are the most crucial to make sure that the youngster understands why he was in a time-out, and what he can do to avoid one in the future. The conversation should be brief and age-appropriate. If you're dealing with a young child, you're going to do most of the talking, but with an older child, it can be more of a dialogue. Once the youngster has served his time, he has "paid his debt to society" and the incident should be considered over and done with.
  1. Review the situation (e.g., "You had a time-out because you were mad and hit your sister")
  2. Restate the rule and give an alternate behavior (e.g., "We don't hit when we're mad – we can use our words")
  3. Let the child resume his activity (e.g., "You did a good job in your time-out, so now you can say sorry to your sister and go play)" 

==> My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parents with Defiant Children

How To Raise Responsible Teens: Everything Parents Need To Know

The thought of raising adolescents often comes with fear and trembling accompanied by visions of raging hormones and slamming doors. In a world that often teaches us to "watch out for number one," it can be a challenge to raise responsible teenagers.

Below are THE BEST TIPS to follow that will help moms and dads provide opportunities for their teenagers to develop responsible behaviors:

1. Adolescence is a time when teens move quickly from being dependent where they look up to you and usually want to please, to becoming independent and wanting to make their own decisions and think for themselves. This path is not always smooth because the changes can be hard to cope with for both you and your adolescent. This is a time for moms and dads to gradually help adolescents to take responsibility for themselves. During adolescence your teens may seem to temporarily reject your values and it is easy to become frustrated and distressed and feel that you have lost your influence and control over your teens. Shouting, stubbornness, irrational behavior, sulkiness and crying can be expected from time to time as they 'test out the waters', try new ways of managing their lives, and deal with the ups and downs of teenage life. It can be a difficult time for everyone and requires consideration and patience on all sides.

2. Adolescents need some rules and limits. It works best if you can work these out together with your adolescent so that she feels she has some choice. This means there is more chance of her being responsible.

3. Adolescents usually have more than enough social outlets. They need boundaries and safe, secure situations in which to grow. You are the provider of both, and when you act like a friend, your adolescent will lose security. Adolescents who view their moms and dads as authority figures and providers are more likely to be close to them in adulthood. Despite what appearances might suggest, adolescents do not respect moms and dads who behave like adolescents. Relating to your adolescent, based on your own experiences, can be a successful method of working through challenging situations, but at no time should you lose your parental status.

4. Allow for some risk taking, but also keep your adolescent's safety in mind. You need to have some rules that protect your adolescent's safety away from home and some for how she behaves in the home.

5. Ask yourself how important it is to 'win' the battle. Focus on the important things and learn to overlook minor ones.

6. At times, you may feel like the enemy, and your adolescent might actually refer to you as such. No matter how hurt you may feel, it is important to remain the one person who consistently stands by your adolescent. Peers and educators will come and go. But you will always be the mother or father. By establishing rules and consequences, you’re the one person in your adolescent’s life that holds him accountable no matter what. Even if we don’t like authority figures in our lives, they typically establish order and security.

7. Authority and mutual respect are essential. You have to mean what you say and stick to your guns. If your adolescent is grounded for two weeks, then make sure he stays home the full two weeks. Without follow through, adolescents won’t get the message and will continue to test you.

8. Be generous in times of stress (e.g., exams or a romance break-up). It will be appreciated.

9. Be mindful that limits for 13-year-olds are not suitable for 16-year-olds and are far less suitable for 18-year-olds.

10. Before you jump in and react, look for the cause. Listen first to what your adolescent has to say.

11. Continually reminding your adolescent of past mistakes is not helpful. It is important to give your adolescent a chance to try again after a mistake. Mistakes are how we all learn.

12. Don't decide on rules in the middle of a crisis, especially if your adolescent is in trouble for doing something wrong.

13. Don't store up bad feelings from the last time your adolescent broke the rules.

14. Every teenager should feel some discomfort. Your adolescent should have to deal with whatever results from his behavior as long as it’s fair, reasonable, and directly related. At the same time, don’t set up rules and regulations that might put him in danger. For example, if his curfew is midnight, don’t require him to speed in order to make it home on time. As long as he calls ahead and doesn’t bend the curfew consistently, give him some leeway with the exact minute he has to be back.

15. Expect and insist on a fair share in helping with chores so that your adolescent learns to contribute, feels a part of the family and shares the load.

16. Gradually remove the limits as your adolescent takes over the reins of her own life.

17. If behavior seems to be getting out of control or there is violence, you need to get support.

18. It’s essential to make sure your adolescent knows that you love him despite anything he does. Even greater, you love him enough to not let him develop behaviors that may be harmful to him or anyone else. Direct your criticisms and comments at the behavior, not the adolescent. If your adolescent fails a course due to lack of effort, don’t use phrases like “You’re lazy” or “You’ll never do well because you don’t try.” While you may even feel that these thoughts are accurate at the time, they only condemn and don’t solve the real issue. Focus on the behavior that created the problem such as not studying or not asking for needed help. Be sure to express that you’re not only confident that the behavior can change, but you’re expecting it to change. Then work together on specific restrictions and actions that need to take place for the behavior to improve.

19. It’s not funny when your adolescent messes up, particularly when you’re left to clean up the mess. Losing your sense of humor won’t help. It may not seem funny at the time, but most challenging situations can eventually be viewed in a comical way. If your adolescent feels comfortable laughing and joking with you regularly, he’ll also be more likely to listen when you get serious.

20. Just because rules are broken does not mean there shouldn't be any rules. When rules are broken, there needs to be some consequence, but this has to be carefully thought about.

21. Look after yourself. Get support, talk to others and give yourself a 'break' without feeling guilty.

22. Moms and dads may feel that they put in a lot of effort with their adolescent and they are often hurt when even the most reasonable agreements are not kept. This is normal and part of your adolescent testing. It is wiser not to over-react.

23. Moms and dads want to be respected but don’t always return that respect by listening to their adolescent. Not listening to your adolescent expresses that you don’t feel he has anything valuable to say. Even when disagreeing, adolescents should be given time to express their feelings and thoughts. This shouldn’t give an adolescent the right to be ugly or behave inappropriately, of course. Modeling and developing guidelines for how argumentative ideas should be expressed is essential. If you want to be heard, learn to listen.

24. Most teens simply “shut down” when the parent gets “pissed” and starts yelling at them. Sometimes moms and dads only punish once they have reached the end of their patience. In reality, this allows adolescents to misbehave for a period of time before suffering any consequences. Not only is this confusing, it can also lead to abuse. Dealing with an adolescent emotionally often produces dramatic immediate effects, but ultimately it creates a communication wall in the relationship. Consistent parenting prevents punishing in anger and rage. Stepping away from the situation to recover emotionally also proves helpful.

25. Often you need to do things together on their terms. Listen to their ideas without trying to force your ideas on them. Take an interest in what is important to them and you will have a good baseline to work from.

26. Regarding chores, expect that you will often have to remind him and that in his eyes he is "the only one doing anything" and that he "has done heaps already!"

27. Remember even when you love your adolescents you can still get angry and dislike what they do at times.

28. Save grounding for the worst violations (e.g., staying out past curfew, hanging out in places you haven’t approved, harming others, doing something illegal, etc.). Restrict privileges (e.g., using the car or computer) for less serious offenses like neglecting schoolwork or not filling the gas tank. The most minor errors, such as letting dirty laundry pile up, may simply mean your adolescent won’t have clean clothes to wear.

29. Set consequences that can be quickly completed and then give your adolescent a chance to try again (e.g., "You came home very late after we agreed on a time, so tomorrow I will pick you up" or "Tomorrow you will have to stay home").

30. Show your adolescent how to earn freedom. Tell her: “You are responsible for what you choose to do and for what happens to you and others as a result of your decisions and actions.” It’s your adolescent’s choice. The more she proves to be responsible (i.e., dependable and honest), the more freedom you can give her. If she violates your trust by acting irresponsibly, you take away some of that freedom. For instance, if she gets a speeding ticket, take away her license until she rebuilds your trust. The two of you should collaborate on how she can begin to earn back your confidence. If moms and dads start from the assumption that their kids are honest and responsible, adolescents will want to live up to that trust. But don’t assume children will figure things out on their own.

31. Some of life’s greatest lessons result from failing. Moms and dads who micromanage their adolescents because they are afraid of their adolescent failing prevent their youngster from developing important life skills. As much as you don’t want to have to discipline your adolescent, letting him fail and living with the consequences can teach him more than your chosen discipline.

32. Some parents use a technique called “placing a guilt-trip.” Guilt may create an immediate response, but this style of discipline actually promotes internal emotional issues for adolescents that may not be dealt with until adulthood, if ever. Reasoning with an adolescent, providing a basis for your expectations and consequences, does not always evoke an immediate response, but the long-term results are typically more positive.

33. Trusting your adolescent is an important part of your relationship. Trust has to be earned by both of you. Remind yourself that your adolescent is struggling with lots of new feelings and his behavior could be showing genuine unhappiness which needs your concern.

34. Try to find out from other moms and dads what limits they are setting and remember that if you are too far away from what their friends' moms and dads are doing, you will have much more difficulty in getting your adolescent to cooperate with you.

35. Understand that what works for one teenager might not work for another.

36. What you say to yourself makes all the difference in how you cope with teenage problems. If you think, "Why should I have to put up with this behavior?" you are more likely to act in a way that drags out the battle, than if you think, "My son is struggling at the moment and I need to work out the best way to sort this out".

37. Whatever you decide in the way of disciplinary measures, know that your adolescent is likely to see it as punishment and be resentful – but if you don't take any action, you are making it more difficult for yourself next time.

38. Whenever possible, the discipline should be reflective of wrongdoing. For example, if an adolescent returns home after curfew, limiting his nights out temporarily would be appropriate. An adolescent that doesn’t complete school work might be required to miss a social event to complete the work. If the adolescent misses the social event as a consequence, but doesn’t actually do school work, the consequences don’t make sense and just seem spiteful.

39. While all kids need consistent discipline, it’s even more important for adolescents. They get frustrated when a behavior is acceptable one day and not acceptable the next. The established rules need specific consequences. Realistic and consistent consequences demonstrate a “real world” view for adolescents. Creating house rules with consequences, then responding appropriately, provides all kids with security and direction.

40. Work on your relationship with your teenager first, because no discipline will be successful unless this is the basis. Having a good relationship takes time.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: How To Effectively Discipline Unruly Teenagers

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