She’ll Get So Mad!

One day a mom asked me for a good consequence for misbehavior.  When I suggested confiscating her daughter’s cell phone, her eyes widened as she said, “I could never do that!  She’d get so mad!”

The same thing has happened when I’ve suggested hiding the power cord to a son’s XBox.  “I don’t think I could,” was the parental response.  “He’d be so mad there’d be no living with him.”

Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart.  They can smell fear, and they will take full advantage of it.  If they know you’re afraid of their anger and their tantrums, you’re in for it.  Angry teens are no fun to deal with, but imagine a world where parents never made their teens mad.  This would mean they’d never say no, never require chores, never insist on homework, never expect a clean bedroom, and hand over money and the car keys whenever asked.  Not likely to happen.

Sometimes you have to make them mad, but that shouldn’t actually be your goal.  The purpose of a consequence is discipline, not punishment.  The difference is that the root word of discipline is disciplina, which means “to instruct.”  The root word of punish is punir, which is related to inflicting pain.  You should never have the attitude of “She made me mad, so I’m going to make her suffer!”  There isn’t much point to that, other than to prove you have all the power (which you shouldn’t have to prove anyway).   Consequences handed down when you’re mad are more likely to be for the purpose of punishing.

Wait until you’re both calm (in my workshops I call this being “in the blue zone”), and then issue a consequence with an explanation:  “Respect is something we value in this family.  You haven’t been respectful to me lately, so I’m going to take away your phone/XBox/car keys for a week.”  When he argues that you can’t do that, or she says that you’ll ruin her life, reply with, “I know it’s hard, and I’m sorry you’ll be so miserable, but I want you to see how important it is for you to treat people with respect.”

Guess what?  This is going to make your teen mad.  Really, really mad.  She’ll do all she can to pick a fight, or hurt your feelings, or deflect your attention away from the real issue, or all of the above.  You have to be the adult and stay calm.  Repeat that you’re sorry, but that’s the way it is.  Don’t yell, retaliate, lecture, or resort to sarcasm.  Repeat “One week,” and then leave the room with the confiscated item in your hand.

Chances are good that doors will slam and music will blare, but that’s okay.  Let him have his tantrum as long as he’s not hurting anyone.  Stay firm, and stay calm.

It’ll be easier next time.  Or if not the next time, then the time after that.  Okay, it will get easier eventually.



  1. Sue, you are so right! It sure ain’t easy being a parent, tis it? The parent has to parent, be the adult, be in charge. There is such a difference between want and need, and the earlier children learn that the easier and happier their lives will be. The need for respect comes before a want for the phone, XBox, or car keys.

    I’m grateful our boys learned when they were young “We do what has to be done, whether we like it or not.” It has served them well all of their lives. It is so much easier to accept when you are four than fourteen.

    Thanks, Sue, for all the insight and encouragement you give us.

  2. It’s sad but true that so many parents are afraid of getting their kid angry; they’re not doing them any favors by not disciplining them. These are the same parents who are bewildered when their kid is drinking/doing drugs/failing in school. Thanks for this!

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