Following through with consequences for your child’s behavior is critical at all stages of development. But, as your child gets older, coming up with fair and effective consequences can become increasingly difficult. Things like a five-minute timeout or taking away dessert after mealtime just does not cut it. Tip the scales too far and suddenly those “tough” consequences simply become unfair and, frankly, ineffective. That is why, for a lot of parents of tweens and teenagers, deciding how to deal with bad behavior and poor decisions leads to “analysis paralysis”, which means you spend far too much time trying to come up with a consequence and too little time talking with your child and following through.
While there is no one-size-fits-all magic consequence for teenagers, there are intelligent approaches that can help you navigate this specific stage. Below are six effective consequences you can consider for your child. And, if none seem to be exactly what you are looking for, hopefully they will at least get you moving in the right direction.
Six Smart Consequence Strategies for Tweens and Teenager
Focus on Cooperation. While most teens and tweens will do their best to avoid harsh punishments, parents need to give them more credit when it comes to understanding the severity of their behavior. While parents should still have the ultimate authority when it comes to dishing out consequences, allowing older children to weigh in on what they think is fair can be a helpful way to create an effective consequence. And, as a bonus, it gets you both talking.
Explain Your Reasoning. No child likes being told what to do, and that is especially true with teens and tweens. Once you have determined the consequence, take time to discuss why you feel it is fair and necessary. To prevent this discussion from turning into an argument, give your child plenty of time to cool down. Not only will this breathing space help your child, but it will also give you time to calm down so that you can make a more intelligent (less passionate) decision.
Be Clear. One of the worst ways to deliver a consequence for your child is being vague. Conditions like “Until you’ve learned your lesson” or “Absolutely no communication with your friends” not only come across as unfair, but they leave too much gray area to be effective. Always make sure your consequences are clearly communicated and defined so that you and your child understand what is expected.
Create Concrete Expectations. In addition to being clear, it is important that consequences for older children are concrete, which means it’s easy for both of you to see if the consequence is being met. This means that consequences should always be related to a specific task, like getting home on-time for curfew or completing chores around the house.
Connect to Original Behavior. Some of the least effective consequences are those that have nothing to do with the behavior that is trying to be modified. Always remember that the consequence you deliver should directly relate to the behavior your teen exhibited. For example, taking away phone privileges for bad test grades will not encourage the behavior you want.
Offer Positive Consequences. While most teens and tweens associate consequences with punishment for bad behavior, it is important to teach them that there can also be positive consequences, or rewards, for good behavior. Reminding them of this can be a good motivator, especially if they are feeling disheartened or frustrated. Thinking about what excites or motivates your child, like getting to spend more time with their friends or having a later curfew, can help you find effective ways to offer encouragement. Doing this will also help your teen and tween see you as being fair and cooperative.