Thursday, December 11, 2014

How do you punish a teen?

So how does one go about punishing a teenager in our modern, enlightened age?

Yelling doesn't work.

And corporal punishment is out.

So what do you do when your now teenage kid acts up or breaks a rule? Do you give her a time out and send her to her room? 

Do you take away his computer and/or mobile phone and/or gaming console and/or TV privileges? What if he needs his computer to do homework -- and he needs his phone so he can text you or you him? What if you don't have a gaming console or your kid doesn't watch TV?

Can you ground kids if they are on a sports team or in a play or a concert? How does that work? 

How do you teach teens that breaking rules or promises or being irresponsible has consequences -- and punish them in a way that they won't be inclined to do whatever it is again? And to punish them in a way that hurts them more than it hurts you, without actually, you know, hurting them?

How do you drum it into their hormone-fueled, sleep-deprived brains that it's not okay to dis mom and/or dad or to blow shit off just because they don't feel like doing whatever or spaced?

And how many strikes do they get before you throw them out?

We are fortunate in that the teenager is a good kid, who, for the most part, is respectful and follows the rules. But she's still a teenager and slips up once in a while, sometimes because she just spaced. Sometimes just to zing it to mom. (And it's always mom, never dad.)

And, like many (most? all?) teenage girls, she thinks if she says she's sorry a dozen times, promises to never do whatever it was again, and, when all else fails, cries hysterically, that we will not punish her. And, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, the tactic often works, especially if her father is around.

But this morning, the teenager really scared me. Even though it was snowing and the twisty, hilly roads to school were icy, she still wanted to drive herself to school in the Mini Cooper. We let her, but only if she promised to text us the minute she got to school, to let us know she was okay.

She never texted.

I texted her a little after 8 a.m., long after she should have arrived. Nothing.

I texted her again at 8:30. No response. 

At 9 a.m., I called the school, and asked the office to page her or confirm that she had arrived at school. The woman was very sympathetic and sent someone to find the teenager. Five or six, maybe more, agonizing minutes later, she told me the teenager was in Math class. I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the woman.

Then I got mad. And I emailed the teenager that we needed to have a talk when she got home.

Two hours later, I finally received a text from the teenager, apologizing profusely. But she knew she was in big trouble, and asked if she was going to be punished, and if she promised to be on her best behavior could we not punish her this time.

I told her we wouldn't punish her this time, but that for the next week, through next Friday, every time she takes the car, she has to text or email or call me as soon as she gets to where she is going. She slips up once, she has to take the bus to and from school -- her worst nightmare -- and has her car privileges revoked for 24 hours. And do not even think of asking us to chauffeur her. She spaces a second time, that's another day of riding the bus. 

To me, that's not a big punishment, but to the teenager, it's death. (She loves driving more than anything, except cooking.) 

So, what are your thoughts on appropriate punishments for teenagers? Please let me know via a Comment.


Betty Cracker said...

Guilt is my go-to weapon. But yeah, you're right -- it's tough. Regarding the texting thing, I can totally understand how you felt, but I can also easily see how she'd forget when she arrived at school. Did you download that "Find My Phone" app? I can't tell you what a godsend that has been for me to calm my fears.

Anonymous said...

Been there and good to know I am not alone! Find my phone app is great... if your teen remembers to charge their phone and their back up battery pack!