If taking away your teen’s cell phone or car no longer seems to work as a punishment, it is time to explore alternatives. Your teen might focus only on his anger at being punished rather than what he needs to learn from the disciplinary tactic. With some creative thinking, you can help your teen understand the reason behind your punishment and learn not to repeat the mistake.
Enduring the Punishment
According to child psychologist James Lehman (1946-2010) on the Empowering Parent website, long-term punishments are ineffectual with teens because they just focus on “doing the time” rather than grasping the reasoning behind the discipline. That's why it is important to search for alternative disciplinary tactics that drive your message home.
Punishments That Fit the Crime
If your teenager throws his plate of food because he is angry, think of creative ways to teach him his actions are wrong. Spend time with him by volunteering at a soup kitchen so he can see homeless people who are not guaranteed food each day. Another option is to walk with him through your neighborhood to collect canned food and nonperishables for a food bank. These alternatives provide time together to strengthen your relationship. It also allows him to see he is lucky to have food at each meal and that it is inappropriate to waste it.
Letting the Teen Decide the Punishment
Teenagers often misbehave because they are striving for freedom from parental control. This is a typical part of growing up and becoming independent. Surprise your adolescent by inviting him to determine his own punishment, as suggested by the Aware Parenting website. Explain that the punishment must match the severity of the inappropriate behavior in order for him to negotiate a deal successfully. He might surprise you by coming up with a harsher punishment than you would have, simply to impress you with his maturity and logic. If the punishment is not suitable, explain your reasons and ask him to come up with another solution.
If your adolescent refuses to study for a test or get his school project done on time, let him suffer the natural consequences, according to the Aha! Parenting website. Remind him once what needs to be done and then tell him that this will be his only reminder. Explain that you will not be there to ensure his projects are done on time when he is an adult with a full-time job. If this means he fails the test or gets a zero on the project, even though he normally receives excellent grades, he is the one that will have to struggle later in the semester to raise his scores. Sometimes hard lessons are the ones we learn the best.