Structuring Appropriate "Logical" Consequences

"How do I know if I'm being too strict - or too lenient - with my rebellious teenage daughter?"

The purpose of disciplining irresponsible behavior is to teach teens about the real world. There are basically two ways to discipline: naturally and logically. Natural consequences occur as a natural result of behavior and choices without parental intervention (e.g., the teen parks he car in a ‘no parking’ zone – she gets a ticket and has to pay it with her allowance money). However, there are times when allowing natural consequences to occur is much too dangerous (e.g., the teen experiments with drugs – she gets addicted). When natural consequences are too dangerous, it’s time to create logical consequences. In general, these involve some loss of privileges as a result of inappropriate behavior.

Here’s how to structure appropriate logical consequences:

1. The consequence should be delivered assertively. “It’s almost midnight! Where the hell have you been? You know you’re supposed to be home by 9:30!! Get your ass in that bedroom right now!!!” is not assertive. “Since you chose to violate curfew, you’ve also chosen to be grounded tomorrow evening” is assertive.

2. The consequence should be issued immediately. Parents and teens differ in their perception of time. As parents, if we are told a project is due in two weeks, we know we need to get moving right now. For many teenagers, two weeks is an eternity, which equals no motivation. For discipline to be effective, it needs to be closely “linked in time” to the inappropriate behavior. For teens, not being able to go on a trip 2 weeks from now for flunking a test last week is ineffective. Having to spend extra time during the next 3 days studying and therefore losing the privilege of afternoon free time is both immediate and effective.

3. The consequence should be reasonable. “That’s it! You’re grounded until you bring home a report card without and F’s” is unreasonable. ”Your behavior and choices have caused you to lose the privilege of going over to your friend’s house today” is reasonable.

4. The consequence should be related to the “crime” (i.e., the “bad” behavior). For example, if the teenager violates curfew, making her do extra homework or mow the lawn is not related. The temporary loss of the privilege of going out is related.

5. The consequence should be respectful. The disciplinary process should avoid two things: (1) humiliating the teen, and (2) inconveniencing the parent.

6. The length of the consequence should be commensurate with (i.e., equal to) the severity of the crime. For logical consequences to be effective, they need to be relatively short-term for small infractions and medium-term (i.e., no more than 7 days) for larger infractions. Again, this goes back to the issue of time. In a teenager’s mind, 7 days is an eternity (plenty of time to get the message across without creating a situation where the teen simply runs away because she feels like she is grounded for life). For most teens, anything lasting longer than 7 days becomes ineffective. Anything longer breeds resentment, contempt and revenge. Also, anything much over 7 days negates any lessons about life that might have been taught because, by the 8th or 9th day, the teen has forgotten why she is even being punished.

The purpose of disciplining teens is to prepare them for life on their own. Using the tips above will help parents to be in charge while teaching valuable “life lessons.”

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

What To Do When Your Defiant Teen Plays “Let’s Make A Deal”

As many parents of defiant teens have discovered, "Let's Make A Deal" is a popular game that teens play to manipulate parents. The prize for winning this game: the teenager gets to have his/her choice in important matters.

The parent says, “You need to finish your homework before you leave to go to your friend’s house.” The teenager responds, “If you let me go now, I’ll do my homework as soon as I get back. I have to go now!”

If the parent persists, the teenager will continue to try to “make a deal” (e.g., “I’ll do half of my homework now… I’ll only be over at my friend’s for ½ hour, and then I’ll come back and finish my homework”).

Defiant teens who are trying to make deals with parents are really saying, “I want to feel like I have control over what I’m doing and when I’m doing it.” If the parent interprets that sentiment out loud and points out that they do have control, teens often will comply.

For example, the parent can say, “You want to feel like you have control about the ‘what’ and ‘when’ of your choices? You do have control! No one can make you do anything you don’t want to – including homework. It’s your choice. You don’t want to do your homework? Fine. Then you don’t go to your friend’s house. You DO your homework – then you can leave. It’s totally up to you. You choose!”

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

How Can I Get My Defiant Teenager Into Counseling?

So you think your teen needs counseling ...but he/she refuses to go. What can you do?

Counseling adolescents can be tricky business. Often times, when a therapist receives a call for help to counsel an adolescent, it is from an exasperated mother or father who no longer can tolerate the behavior of their teenager. The adolescent is presented as being “out of control.” There may be concerns of drugs/alcohol, poor school performance, or the influence of the peer group. The adolescent may be described as depressed, anxious, angry – or even suicidal.

The parent usually wants the counselor to “talk some sense into their child.” The hope is that the counselor can wag an even bigger finger in front of the adolescent for an effect more profound than that of the parent – or miraculously get the adolescent to open up. But unfortunately, wagging fingers doesn’t work. If the adolescent isn’t talking to her mother or father, then dragging her off to a counselor as an agent of the parent likely won’t work either.

If the adolescent does meet first with the counselor and does talk, what is often heard is a litany of complaints about the mom and/or dad. The counselor is next in the middle between parents and adolescent playing “he said - she said”. So what is a parent to do?

Both parents (if still married) are advised to meet with the counselor together, ahead of their teenager. This achieves several objectives:

1. Moms and dads can provide a detailed description of their concern and the history of the problems. The counselor then has a broader perspective to understand the issues than what the adolescent would likely provide.

2. Moms and dads must understand that the counselor doesn’t live with the adolescent. The parents do. Even though the focus of what brought the adolescent into counseling may begin with his behavior and problems, at some point the counseling must take focus on a positive direction and look for solutions with parents as partners. The solutions should include not only what NOT to do, but include clear direction for what TO do. Dwelling on the problems will leave everyone immersed in the negative and living in the past. Re-focusing and developing positive strategies for improving relationships and behavior can redirect both parents and adolescent to positive ends.

3. Some adolescents (like grown-ups) view counseling as stigmatizing. The counselor may be able to avoid this by arriving at a clinical diagnosis of the problem. This means that on the basis of the parents’ description, the counselor may come to an understanding of the problem and can direct the parents accordingly. If the counselor can offer meaningful direction without even seeing the adolescent, then the adolescent may be spared feeling stigmatized. If need be though, the counselor can still meet with the adolescent directly.

4. The mother and/or father will have had the opportunity to check out the counselor and determine if they are comfortable trusting their teen’s care to this person. Not all counselors are alike, and parents may prefer the approach or values of one counselor to another.

So, if you are looking for counseling for your adolescent, consider the following:

1. Determine if your adolescent needs to be seen in discussion with the counselor at the first meeting. If not, only the parents should attend the first counseling session.

2. If your adolescent does attend counseling, your participation remains crucial.

3. After determining and addressing the problems, the focus must shift to positive working solutions that are “future-oriented” and facilitate parent-teen relationships.

4. Remember the goal: Relief from distress and well-adjusted adolescents.

5. Remember: The counselor doesn’t live with your adolescent. Counseling may be directed to help parents guide, manage or influence their adolescent – even if the teen never attends a counseling session.

Counselors who have experience and training with managing oppositional defiant behavior – and who understand the thinking that underlies this behavior – is the best option. Family therapy often assumes that the family is the problem, but it is usually the case that the family is the arena for change – it’s where change has to take place, and parents are agents of that change. This is why much can be accomplished when the counselor only works with the parents.

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

Dealing With Teens Who Abuse Cell Phone Privileges

The mobile phone has become the favored communication toy for the majority of American adolescents. Cell-phone texting has become the preferred method of basic communication between adolescents and their peers, with cell calling a close second.

Some 75% of 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones. Some 72% of all adolescents -- or 88% of adolescent cell phone users -- are text-messagers. More than half of adolescents (54%) are daily texters. Among all adolescents, their frequency of use of texting has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their peers. Among these adolescent texters:
  • 14-17 year-old texters typically send and receive 60 text messages a day
  • 15% of adolescents who are texters send more than 200 texts a day, or more than 6,000 texts a month
  • Males typically send and receive 30 texts a day; females typically send and receive 80 messages per day
  • Half of adolescents send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month, and one in three send more than 100 texts a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month
  • Older females who text are the most active, with 14-17 year-old females typically sending 100 or more messages a day or more than 3,000 texts a month
  • Adolescent texters ages 12-13 typically send and receive 20 texts a day

Cell Phone Abuse—

One major cost incurred with a cell phone bill is downloading music and ringtones. This uses megabytes and access to websites, which adds up over time. In fact, depending on the cell phone service you have, one or two downloads and you can be looking at an additional $20 a month on your bill. Aside from cell phones, an adolescent's next love is music. If she can combine the two, she won't give that additional cost a second thought.

Nearly 60 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 text while driving. This poses quite a danger on America's roads. If it distracts you from giving your full attention to the road, it increases your risk of having a motor vehicle collision. And if a teenager has a wreck, who picks up the tab? Usually the parent!

For moms and dads who have their adolescents on their cell phone plans with a specified number of minutes per month, going over those minutes results in an excessive bill to pay. An adolescent may not think about the monthly minute restriction when that all-important call from her BFF comes in about the boy who has a possible crush on her.

A large problem today has been the use of cell phones in school. Many adolescents are easily distracted in class as their friends send them a text message and they attempt to reply under their desks. This can’t only lead to trouble in school, but a decline in grades and overall performance.

If your teen is abusing cell phone privileges, here are some things you can do:

1. Buy your youngster a prepaid cell phone and make him buy his own minutes.

2. Have your teenager go over the bill with you when it comes in. Adolescents need to see things in order to know that they are "real". Make them a part of the cell phone bill process! This is a valuable learning tool for the future anyway!

3. If you insist on keeping your teenager on your plan to avoid early-cancellation fees, call the company and have it place blocks on her phone. This will disable her from downloading anything and only allow her to place calls or text at certain times of the day.

4. Make your youngster responsible for helping out with the bill. This doesn't necessarily mean that they have to pay the entire bill, but make them responsible in some way (e.g., paying for the texting, paying for half, doing things around the house in exchange for the phone bill, etc).

5. Talk together as a family about when it is - or isn't - appropriate to use the cell phone (e.g., no cell phone after 9pm; no cell phone until your homework is completed; no cell phone during class time, etc.).

6. Check your teenager’s book bag in the morning to ensure that she isn't taking her phone to school with her (if she isn’t supposed to be taking it).

7. Have your teenager pay for any extra charges she has incurred on your cell phone bill.

8. As a last resort to remedy cell phone abuse, take the phone away until she proves herself more responsible.

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course