July, 23 2017

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Giving Consequences that Count

Sometimes parents feel that no matter what they try, the consequences they give are not effective. It is important to remember that change takes time. A consequence may not change a behavior the first time it is used. You need to be patient and look for small improvements, giving the consequence time to work.

If you wonder why teenagers behave irresponsibly, well, it’s because they are irresponsible. And, they will not become responsible or mature, or wise, until they engage in the process of dealing with the consequences of their choices and behavior. It is a cycle that needs to happen over and over before a teen comes to full maturity.

Practice makes perfect - especially in music. We parents hear a child practice, make mistakes, practice more, make some more mistakes. But eventually, with enough practice, they get it right, and we jump for joy. The same is true for decision-making. With enough practice, your child can learn to become a good decision-maker, and to become mature, responsible, and trustworthy.

It is a good idea for you and your spouse to establish some positive and negative consequences in advance. This way, your tolerance levels are the same and your teen will know what to expect if he or she behaves in a certain way.

Difference Between Natural and Logical Consequences

Natural consequences occur naturally, hence the name. They are not controlled or manipulated by anyone. When you plant a flower in your garden and take care of it, it grows. That is a positive example of natural consequences. When you put your finger in an electric socket, you get a shock. That is an example of negative natural consequences.

Logical consequences are situations engineered by the person in authority and they are logically connected to the wrong. It is logical because it "fits" the offense. For example, if your teen breaks curfew, he/she isn’t allowed out the next night. If he/she doesn’t eat dinner, he/she doesn’t get dessert. These are examples of negative logical consequences. Setting up a reward system for good grades and giving the reward when the grade is obtained is an example of a positive logical consequence.

When Delivering a Consequence


  • Be clear - Make sure that your teen knows
    what the consequence is and exactly what he or she
    did to earn it.


  • Be consistent - Do not give a big consequence
    for a behavior one time and then ignore the behavior
    the next time it occurs. Talk to your spouse about
    how to address behavior and provide similar consequences.


  • Be brief - Sometimes clear messages regarding
    behavior are lost if you lecture endlessly.


  • Follow through - If you tell your child he
    earned a negative or positive consequence, follow
    through with it. If your daughter talks you out of
    a negative consequence or if you fail to provide the
    promised reinforcer, there is little incentive for
    your daughter to engage in the appropriate behavior
    in the future.


  • Be as pleasant as possible - Research shows
    that teens are more likely to respond positively and
    learn more from adults who are calm and reasonable,
    even when the adult is giving negative consequences.



Over-control happens when otherwise loving parents protect their children from the consequences of their mistakes, or by having too-strict rules and limits (Example: Not wanting them to be with others for fear of them learning bad habits, getting hurt, etc.)

Over-controlled children are more likely (to become troubled teens) to have problems with peer dependence, relationship enmeshment conflicts and difficulty setting and keeping firm boundaries. They may also have problems taking risks and being creative.

The secret to helping your children, is in giving them freedom to make their own decisions within limits. Let them practice by always making decisions on thing that don't matter, then let them reap the consequences/rewards of their decisions. When appropriate talk with them about the decisions that they've made. Let them think through whether they were good or bad choices and make decisions on how they would approach the same situation again. Do not lecture, your teen will tune you out and you will destroy your teaching opportunity.

Teens need to be given the freedom to make mistakes while they are young and you can help them through the consequences. Start today by thinking of ways that you can encourage your teen to become more responsible through helping them manage their own money, getting a job, being paid for work they do beyond basics at home, school, friends, or any one of a number of different areas of their lives. Remember your teen is going to make mistakes, it is bound to happen. Do not save them from these mistakes when they happen, let them learn from them.


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