No Need to Up the Stakes

I could see the frustration in the 8th grade mom’s face:  “I tried taking away her phone like you said, but she didn’t care.  She just shrugged, said, ‘Okay, fine,’ and handed it over.  I guess next time I’ll have to think of something worse!”

I assured her she wouldn’t have to do that if she just kept taking the phone away whenever the undesired behavior (or attitude, in this case) occurred.  Parents forget that the purpose of a consequence is to curb behavior; they aren’t trying to make the teen mad.  Of course this will happen (often), but it shouldn’t be the goal.

It’s like a driver who receives 3 or 4 speeding tickets in the same neighborhood, or on the same stretch of freeway.  Eventually he’ll get tired of paying the fines and slow down as he approaches that area.  The consequence doesn’t have to change; it just has to happen consistently.

Besides, some teens will use their non-anger as a power ploy, refusing to give their parents the satisfaction of making them miserable – at least on the surface.  Rest assured, however, that if the consequence is appropriate, the teen will be upset enough to want to avoid it happening again.

In the above situation, I heard about it at school every day. “I’d text you, but I don’t have a phone!”  “Only 10 more days until I get my phone back!”   “I’d better not, or my mom won’t ever give me back my phone!”

I’d say that consequence was painful enough!