Are you in an arms race with your kid?Mar 16, 2021
You know, the biggest mistake my clients make when dealing with older kids’ misbehavior is upping the ante with consequences. These kids are making bigger mistakes so the consequences should be bigger too, right?
This creates an escalating arms race. Your kiddo misses some assignments, so they lose TV for a day. They don’t make the work up, so they lose TV for a week. Now they have several missing assignments and you take away all screens for 2 weeks. Pretty soon they will be graduating before they get any privileges back, meanwhile, their behavior is getting worse, not better.
We all remember that one kid in school who was always grounded for life. (If you don’t remember that person, you probably WERE that person). That kid was on house arrest and usually snuck around, lied to their parents, and before they could ever get ‘ungrounded’, they’d get caught in another screwup and their sentence was extended, and so they went, around and around with their parents, indefinitely.
Here’s the thing - big kids need wins to keep them invested. Everyone talks about how impulsive teens and tweens are, and that means sticking with something without a payoff is damn hard for them. If something feels impossible, far away, or extreme, most kids don’t even try. PLUS most kids this age are having some pretty big emotions about their value, self-concept, etc. This combo means that more intense consequences only lead to hopelessness and disengagement. Targeted, attainable goals delivered with lots of emotional intelligence are much more likely to work with teens and tweens.
Gross! That feels complicated and hard to figure out - can’t I just ground this kid? I get that feeling, big time! Luckily grownups have functional frontal lobes, which means we can be invested for the long haul, keep an ultimate vision in mind even when our kids don’t, and keep working until we figure out how to give our kids what they need.
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Thanks for reading,