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Discussion Starter #1
Do you want your teen to:
-Share their thoughts, feelings, problems and worries with you in a real, meaningful conversation without attitude and sarcasm?
-Do chores and pitch in on family projects without being asked?
-Enjoy family activities and want to spend time with you?
-Be responsible and accountable to their studies and their jobs?
-Solve their problems by discussion rather than avoiding them by drinking, sex, gambling, and drugs?
-Care about your feelings, needs, and worries and modify their behaviour in response?


This is not utopia. Many families already enjoy this kind of relationship with their teens. However, the one factor that promotes this kind of parent-teen relationship is completely dropping all punishments.


Many parents wonder why their teens don’t talk to them even when they “try” the communication skills. The simple answer is that teens are not stupid. They simply don’t open up to parents who want an open relationship in terms of sharing, but then promote a closed relationship in terms of punishing their children. Parents can’t expect openness in one area when they hurt their child in another area.


While most parents don’t spank, many now use time-out as a discipline tool, which is essentially an emotional punishment. When children are older and too big to drag to a corner, they use the disguised punishment called “consequences.” It is a punishment designed to hurt the child and hopefully, teach a lesson.


Realistically, there are many consequences or outcomes to any choice. Most consequences that parents force on children are hurtful and negative in some way. Even when there are multiple outcomes that will solve a problem, parents will still choose the one outcome that will hurt a child in some way, thinking that it must hurt to make the lesson stick.


The problem is that it rarely teaches children to make better choices. Teens know that the parent is the one sticking it to them, and that they are not “choosing” the outcome, but the parent is imposing their outcome on them.


Parenting professionals who promote the use of consequences forget one simple fact that every parent of teens know: teens are humans. Teens have feelings, independent thought, and are in total control of the quality of their relationships that they choose to have, including close relationships with their parents.


What is the Outcome of “Consequences?”


Teens have the ability to push back. They can “leave” by shutting down communication, stop talking, and basically, shut the parent out. They can passively resist by using “attitude” and “snarkiness” or they can actively resist by engaging in behaviours which parents would rather they not engage in, like drinking, drugs, vandalism and school failure. Sometimes, teens “submit” to the consequences, but suffer from internalizing conditions, such as cutting, anxiety, eating disorders or depression.


Consequences have no place in any love relationship, whether between partners or parent-child. Imposing a hurtful consequence on another person is not respectful. If you want an open relationship with your teen, you have to earn their respect, by showing respect for their feelings and dignity, and expecting that respect from them in return.


If you wouldn’t give your partner, friend, neighbor, or sister-in-law a consequence, why would you give your child one? They are human beings with real needs and feelings. Respect is simply treating another human being as you would want yourself to be treated.


If you want to avoid teen rebellion, cancel the consequences.
What to do instead? Use the “adult” method of solving any conflict; problem-solving and negotiation. Teach teens a valuable skill in getting along with others – whether it’s their boyfriend, boss, co-worker, coach or teacher. Learn how to resolve normative family problems so that everyone wins and have their needs met. Then, teach your teen how to do it. Practice together.


How to Tell if Consequences are Punitive


If you threaten an outcome to get compliance, then it is being used as a punishment, which could invite a power struggle. If you come up with a “consequence” and insist on it, rather than getting input from your child on how to solve the problem, it’s probably a punishment. If your child thinks it’s a punishment, rather than a way to make amends or solve the problem, then it probably is a punishment! Ask your child for their opinion. Is the solution meant to hurt them or does it solve a problem?


The best outcomes focus on teaching restitution, making amends, and solving problems. If a child spills a drink because she was careless pouring, she wipes up the mess. No further “consequence” is needed. A child who hits another child needs to be separated, calmed down, and told the rule. The restitution part might be to offer the other child a toy, hug, or an apology.


If a child doesn’t do his homework, no amount of taking away the cellphone is going to make him study and appreciate learning. Problem-solving with him to figure out underlying issue, and uncover the true problem. Is it boring? Too hard? He doesn’t see the point in doing it? Work at solutions from the problem.

Be a "Submarine Parent" and look at the Child’s Need or Feelings under the Behaviour


Take riding a bike without a helmet, as an example. Your son rides his bike without a helmet – again. You’ve nagged, begged, pleaded, and informed him of the dangers of riding without. Next, you’ve issued “consequences!” You’ve taken the bike away and put it in the garage for a day, then a week, and then a whole month. You’ve done everything the parenting books say for a consequence to work. It’s reasonable. Anyone can live a day without a bike. It’s respectful. You’re not hitting or calling him names. And it’s related: no helmet, no bike. Simple to understand. But the problem is he is still riding a bike without a helmet! The situation could turn into a huge power struggle every time you take the bike away. Clearly, the consequence has not worked. Why not?


Consequences don’t work because the underlying need or feeling of the child is not addressed. A child who consistently refuses to wear a bike helmet, even after having the bike locked away several times may have a good reason for not wearing it. Perhaps, he is being teased because it looks babyish. Maybe, it’s prickly or doesn’t fit right. Active listening and mutual parent-child problem-solving are better tools used to uncover and address the underlying need.


Make sure outcomes are solution focused rather than pain focused. A common concern is, “Won’t my child ever learn the consequences of his actions if I don’t set up logical consequences? The more unpleasant the better?” Of course, he will. The rest of the world will be happy to teach your child the consequences of his actions. Sometimes, it will be painful and inconvenient for him, but only you, the parent, can provide the safe haven of your loving relationship to teach him how to solve problems, make restitution, and amends. That’s the harder job. The outside world is too busy to teach him those. You can! And the bonus is you’ll enjoy less power struggles and more connection in your relationship.


Think of it this way. You are in the final third of parenting when you have a teen in the house. This is your last chance to teach your child a useful adult skill: problem-solving.


Benefits of Teaching Your Teen Problem-Solving:
-Uses the wisdom and experience of the teen, as well as of the parent.
-Only the process needs consistency, not the outcomes. Outcomes are flexible enough to meet everyone’s needs.
-When everyone participates in making rules, the rules are more likely to be respected.
-Parent’s and child’s needs are deemed equally important, and both are met.
-Everyone feels listened to, loved, and respected.
-Teens and adults get practice in problem-solving, brainstorming, and creative thinking skills.
-The method strengthens relationships by facilitating growth, good feelings and intimacy.
-The method allows parents and child to deal with conflict rather than avoid it.
-Doesn’t require the use of power, bribes, or punishment.
-Not a compromise, which is still half-win, half lose. Both parent and child would have to give something up to get needs half met. Problem-solving allows both parent and child to have needs fully met by focusing on needs and not positions.
-The child learns self-discipline and responsibility.
-Problem-solving enables children to work out their conflicts respectfully with siblings and friends which is great training ground for all future relationships.


So drop the consequences and treat your teen like the adult they almost are. Problem-solve any conflicts and begin to enjoy an adult relationship with your soon-to-be best friend!


Excerpted from Parenting With Patience: Turn Frustration into Connection with 3 Easy Steps, by Judy Arnall


Want more parenting tips? Check out www.professionalparenting.ca to sign-up for notifications of free monthly parenting webinars!
 

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My son and I wrote an agreement after we talked about what I/We needed done around the house including him doing his homework. He then told me what he wanted when those things were done.

It went something like this:
Chores done every day - put dry dishes away, put dirty clothes in the hamper and keep room clean
Do your homework when you get home from school
Turn your homework in every day
No going into mommy's room for any reason without asking unless it is an emergancy like a fire
Obey us when we ask you to do something

He wanted either Playstation or Xbox for 1 hour each night if the agreement was met.

The problem is that it always breaks down because he will break into our room to get the game systems, skip school (without us knowing of course) and fail to turn in his homework.

What am I supposed to do if he doesn't hold up to his end of the deal especially with the breaking/entering my room to get the games and then skipping school? It seems to do no good to take the games away for the rest of the night...who cares...he had them all day while he skipped school.

Suggestions please
 

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My son and I wrote an agreement after we talked about what I/We needed done around the house including him doing his homework. He then told me what he wanted when those things were done.

It went something like this:
Chores done every day - put dry dishes away, put dirty clothes in the hamper and keep room clean
Do your homework when you get home from school
Turn your homework in every day
No going into mommy's room for any reason without asking unless it is an emergancy like a fire
Obey us when we ask you to do something

He wanted either Playstation or Xbox for 1 hour each night if the agreement was met.

The problem is that it always breaks down because he will break into our room to get the game systems, skip school (without us knowing of course) and fail to turn in his homework.

What am I supposed to do if he doesn't hold up to his end of the deal especially with the breaking/entering my room to get the games and then skipping school? It seems to do no good to take the games away for the rest of the night...who cares...he had them all day while he skipped school.

Suggestions please
The problem, as I see it, is that you made him equal to you. Did you actually let him tell you what reward he wanted for doing chores?! No. The reward for doing dishes is having clean plates to eat your food off of. The reward for cleaning your room is that you don't trip over things in the dark and bust the piss out of your shins.

I must be getting old or something. I am a gentle parent but my kids do things Because I Said So. The idea of removing consequences is ludicrous to me. Sure, talk, seek to understand... but the second you abdicate your authority over your child in order to be their "partner" you have lost all right to complain about the situation. Man up and get rid of the game consoles if need be. And rip up that contract for goodness sakes!
 

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I agree. Clearly this kid is not ready for the responsibility of being in charge of himself. Skipping school and "sneaking" into your room (that your room is so completely off limits does not sit well with me, but that's a different issue) to steal back his games are issues that are not going to be resolved by taking away one hour of game time at night.
 

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My son and I wrote an agreement after we talked about what I/We needed done around the house including him doing his homework. He then told me what he wanted when those things were done.

It went something like this:
Chores done every day - put dry dishes away, put dirty clothes in the hamper and keep room clean
Do your homework when you get home from school
Turn your homework in every day
No going into mommy's room for any reason without asking unless it is an emergancy like a fire
Obey us when we ask you to do something

He wanted either Playstation or Xbox for 1 hour each night if the agreement was met.

The problem is that it always breaks down because he will break into our room to get the game systems, skip school (without us knowing of course) and fail to turn in his homework.

What am I supposed to do if he doesn't hold up to his end of the deal especially with the breaking/entering my room to get the games and then skipping school? It seems to do no good to take the games away for the rest of the night...who cares...he had them all day while he skipped school.

Suggestions please
The problem that I see is not that you ‘made him your equal’ it’s that you actually didn’t. You are giving him the false impression that he’s in charge of himself, that he gets a say in things, but you’re still attempting to exert control over him. And it’s not working. The problem with contingency plans is A – that they generally only work for a short time B – they only work when there is no other option to get what you want and C – they don’t address the underlying issue.
The agreement is a fair idea, I'd suggest making a new one but have him give you a list of things you need to do as well, and chose a reward for yourself for successful completion. This’ll may make a better impression.
For the chores, I wouldn’t insist on his keeping his room clean, or putting his clothes in the hamper. If he can’t do it, he has no clothes. That’s the natural consequence of failing to do your laundry. Don’t push it. Let him learn.
For homework, is he struggling? Do you make time to do it with him? Importantly, is he allowed time to decompress and just relax or is he expected to come straight in from 6-7 hours at school and immediately do more work? Try giving him a few hours to himself when he comes in and then tackling homework. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to come straight in from work and have someone sit you down and make you do more work.
I know this thread is a bit old but I hope that helps in some way J
 

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Discussion Starter #6
My son and I wrote an agreement after we talked about what I/We needed done around the house including him doing his homework. He then told me what he wanted when those things were done.

It went something like this:
Chores done every day - put dry dishes away, put dirty clothes in the hamper and keep room clean
Do your homework when you get home from school
Turn your homework in every day
No going into mommy's room for any reason without asking unless it is an emergancy like a fire
Obey us when we ask you to do something

He wanted either Playstation or Xbox for 1 hour each night if the agreement was met.

The problem is that it always breaks down because he will break into our room to get the game systems, skip school (without us knowing of course) and fail to turn in his homework.

What am I supposed to do if he doesn't hold up to his end of the deal especially with the breaking/entering my room to get the games and then skipping school? It seems to do no good to take the games away for the rest of the night...who cares...he had them all day while he skipped school.

Suggestions please
That's a textbook example of why consequences don't work. They don't address underlying problems. What is so bad about school that he is skipping? Is there a need that is not being met? What is it about chores that he is not doing? When kids (or partners) for that matter, renege on problem solving, it usually means that the problem-solving session solutions only worked for one of the parties and not the other. Time to get back to the problem-solving. Don't let it go. Work on it. Make sure your needs are met (to have chores done) and his needs are met (boredom at school), or hates doing particular chores....
May I ask how old your son is?
If he is old enough to be skipping school, like 14, homework and going to school should be his responsibility between him and the teacher, not you. Chores, are your issue, so problem-solve which chores he likes and which he doesn't. Give him greater control over these things and the less you are managing them, the more it sends the message that it is his responsibility. This all depends on age of course, and hence, brain development.
Warmly, Judy
 
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