Dealing with Teenagers
My response is always twofold, firstly you deal with them with tenderness and understanding and secondly, what specifically is the problem?
Common answers to that second question include “they won’t do their school homework”, “they refuse to help with household chores” (or agree but subsequently fail to make good on their promises), “they never clean/clear up after themselves”, “they are messy or untidy”, “they play their music at full blast or late at night”, “they are on their Playstation until the early hours, then do not want to get up for school”; the list goes on…..
Which leads me to my 3rd question, what have you tried to do to change this?
Invariably the answer is some form of punishment…
Logical Consequences Vs Punishment
Unfortunately, Punishment teaches nothing except resentment. Furthermore, sufficient resentment lays the groundwork for outright rebellion.
Logical consequences however are how we all learn naturally, humans, mammals, and all living creatures.
So what do I mean by Logical Consequences?
Simply, a logical consequence is a direct result of and connected to the undesirable behaviour.
Confiscating the child’s mobile phone is NOT related to or connected to leaving there dirty underwear lying all around the house. Grounding them is NOT connected to not doing a chore. Therefore at a fundamental level, it is not seen as a result of what they chose to do or not do and is simply a punishment, which leads to resentment. If they cannot connect it, they cannot make sense of it.
A logical consequence, however, is a direct result of the unacceptable behaviour.
Perhaps an example will best demonstrate my point...
Some years ago, I had a lady come to see me in deep distress because she was at her wit's end with her 15-year-old daughter. The lady had a large family, a husband and 6 children with ages ranging from 17 to 6. Both she and her husband worked long hours. Being a large family, and therefore a challenging household to run, everyone had an (age-appropriate) appointed task or chore to do in order to help the family. All of them willingly contributed, except her 15-year-old daughter, whose task was to wash up the dishes after the evening meal (actually this involved just putting everything into the dishwasher). Her mother had tried everything to get her to do this, shouting at her, grounding her, confiscating her phone, stopping her pocket money, all the usual’s. Nothing was working.
Somewhat to her astonishment, I stated I was not surprised, because all she was doing was punishing her daughter and all that teaches is resentment.
The obvious retort came back “well what should I do then”.
I advised that she enforced logical consequences instead, meaning that tonight after the evening meal, she politely asked her daughter to help the family by completing her allocated task and that if she refused to simply state that she respected her daughter’s choice.
I continued that she should then place separately her daughter’s plate, cutlery, drinks cup, etc to one side and leave them dirty so that the following evening she could serve her daughter's meal on said dirty plate, with used cutlery and cup. I pointed out that her daughter would no doubt protest and that when she did, again to very politely point out that she respected her daughter's choice but that other members of the family could not be expected to clean these items for her when she had chosen not to assist the family. I further advised the mother not to be drawn into an argument over it but if necessary, simply to keep repeating the previous statement (affectionately known as “broken record” – we know how effective that is when children use it – just so happens it’s as effective for adults also). After 2 further evening meals, the 15-year-old cracked and has completed her allocated task ever since.
That is the power of logical consequences!
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