Loving Your Teenager (In Spite of Themselves) - Part 6 of 7 - Firm Yet Gentle - Holding Them Accountable
by © Judith Tramayne-Barth
Be Firm Yet Gentle
Every now and again even the best teen makes a wrong choice. They did not think past A and B and arrive at C. For instance:
Your teen goes to a party, tries to be cool by drinking a couple of beers and gets caught. Your first inclination is to ground your teen for life. Understandable but not necessary. Tell your teen to go to bed and you will discuss their punishment in the morning. This will do two things. Allow you to cool down and more importantly, your teen will spend all night worrying what punishment will be forthcoming. The next morning when your teen wakes up, tell them you are still too angry to discuss the matter or even speak with them. Then send them back to their room. Give your teen a couple of more hours to sweat.
Finally, sit your teen down, look them directly in the eye and say, "I've thought long and hard about your punishment. I could ground you for the next six months but I've decided everyone is entitled to one mistake and you've just had yours. So, there will be no punishment this time.
When your words finally sink in and you see their look of relief, say emphatically, "I don't expect this to ever happen again while you are under my roof and believe me if it does, I will come down on you like a ton of bricks." Then get up and walk away.
What you've just done is give them "a get out of jail free" card. This will confuse the heck out of them. You didn't react in the expected way and they will give a lot of thought to why you didn't. They also know if they do this ever again, their punishment will be ten times worse because you warned them. Now they will have to think from A to B and come up with a different C. One that is acceptable.
This works for any type of unacceptable behavior. Allow one mistake and that's all. A teen can't help but test you, that is the nature of the beast. It's your job as a parent to care enough to be firm.
Being firm can be hard. It's so much easier to let a teen get away with stuff just because you've worked a 40 hour week and don't want to be bothered. Don't fall into this trap. It will come back and bite you big time.
Part of raising a child is to teach them to become responsible adults. They must be held accountable and acknowledge they are responsible for certain chores. Become lax in your requirements and your teen will take full advantage. It's annoying and downright inconsiderate when you are put in the position of nagging but teens sometimes have the attention span of a knat, especially when it concerns cleaning up after themselves. Don't let them get away with this. Sure, it's easier for you to just go ahead and do it but in the long run, it's a disservice to your teen.
Make a list and post it or better yet, write up a contract and have them sign it. Make sure the contract is specific and tells them what happens if the chores are not done in a timely manner. Should your teen drop the ball which is highly likely, make sure you follow through on the consequences. Think of this as preparing your teen for the real world. An employer is going to expect things to be done on time and in the manner agreed upon. By instilling similar expectations into your teen before they go out and seek work, they won't be in for a culture shock.
By being consistent and repetitious in your approach to your teen's minor infractions, they will have little doubt what will happen when a major infraction occurs. Make sure you and your spouse agree on this issue. Don't fall into the trap of one parent being the good guy and one the bad guy. Your teen will divide and conquer unless you are united.
Hold Your Teen Accountable
Under no circumstances allow your teen to pass the blame. They must learn at an early age the only one responsible for their decisions is them. If you constantly give your teen an easy out, they'll take it and soon, it becomes a habit. Responsibility means:
Responding With Ability
It's what every parent should strive to do, teach their children how to respond with ability. When you do and your teen comes upon a situation which requires them to make the right decision, they should be able to do it without thinking. It should come as naturally as breathing. The teens who know how to accept blame, also know how to think from A to B to accepting the consequences. In other words, C.
These are the teens who can't be influenced by their peers. They have a mind of their own and use it to influence others. Be proud, you have raised a leader not a follower. A comforting thought in our less than perfect world.