Ineffective Punishments and Why You Should Avoid Them

Sometimes temper goes in the way. And often, it’s your temper that is the problem and not your teen’s. When your teen does something that arouses the anger in you, remember that the anger will undermine your relationship and your subsequent discipline of your teen.

Correction, not Punishment

It seems that a teenager has that amazing knack of knowing which buttons to push – particularly one that guarantees you blowing off your top. At the height of your annoyance or anger, you may have issued an overly harsh punishment. And once the smoke clears, you realize that the punishment you meted out is simply ineffective.

In the long run, giving in to the momentary anger will result in your ineffectiveness in disciplining your child. The key is to realize that your desire is to correct the teen’s wrong behavior. It is not about punishment.

Here are some things you should consider:
– Punishment highlights power-tripping behavior. When you punish the child to “make him pay”, you may be inadvertently showing the child that power tripping and revenge seeking is the way to go. When the focus is on correction and discipline, corrective measures are implemented with the aim to train and develop the child’s character.
– It’s not about “winning”. When you let your child push your buttons so that you get into a “fight” with him, you are going down to his level. Remember, you are the parent, not your teen’s peer. You don’t need to “win” over the child. Even when you win the battle, you end up losing the war in terms of your child’s attitude towards you. An overly harsh punishment will engender bitterness and resentment towards you.
– Overly harsh punishments undermine your authority. “You are grounded ‘til kingdom come!” For one, “kingdom come” or even “the whole summer” is too impractical and unenforceable. Being unfair and unreasonable weakens your authority as you are forced to revise the penalty you meted out. Also, if you remove all the freedoms and privileges your teen has, you have nothing more to withhold during his next misbehavior.
– Your punishments may not lead to the desired behavior. When the punishment is unfair, you are breaking the connection between actions and consequences. As such, your teen does not learn the lesson about his positive behavior. You are also removing the choice to change.
– Focus on what you want your teen to learn. For one, your teen needs to realize the motives behind his behavior (and misbehavior). Secondly, your teen needs to learn to choose what is right, regardless of whether there are consequences or whether you are not present or not. With this focus, you need to learn effective correctional strategies, rather than unreasonable punishments.
– Calm down before you engage. Temper can lead to bad decisions. Thus, wait until you have calmed down before you talk to your teen. If your teen gets in way after the curfew, allow him to go to bed. Talk to him in the morning.
– Focus on your teen’s growth and self-esteem. When removing a privilege, do not take away something that builds his self-esteem. If your teen loves a particular activity or sport, disallowing him that activity that builds his growth will be counter-productive. Rather, look for a privilege to withhold that does not undermine his sense of self.
– Look for active correction rather than passive punishment. Grounding, even when it is long-term, is passive. It requires the teen to simply wait it out. Rather than giving this, why not require the child to do something by way of restitution. For instance, adding on work responsibilities or community service for a specified length of time can teach your child about restoration and restitution. You can even list down the tasks he may need to do the next time he breaks the rules.
– Consider a higher level of intervention. If the misbehavior is not simply about flouting your rules but something more serious, something that will endanger him as well as others, serious measures may need to be implemented. If you discover that your child is addicted to substances, has tried to run away or has started to get into trouble with the authorities, you can consider enrolling him into a troubled teen program. This is one way to effectively correct your child and guide him towards personal growth.

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