Effective Vs. Counterproductive Methods Of Teen Punishment

By: Nicole Beasley

Updated February 04, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

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It is important for all parents to understand what works and what doesn't when it comes to helping your children. However, a clear understanding is often easier said than obtained. Teenagers are experiencing social, physical and emotional growth at rates that they haven't experienced since they were newborns. These changes can lead to anxiety and insecurity which is often misinterpreted by parents. This can lead to additional stress for parents, who have countless other responsibilities.

Despite the challenges of establishing appropriate boundaries for your soon-to-be young adults, this is not something to be avoided or taken lightly. If parents fail to properly and appropriately set limits with their teenagers, the latter can quickly find themselves on a difficult path. Conversely, if parents go overboard and enforce counterproductive or extreme methods of punishment, they run the risk of isolating their teenagers or breeding resentment or even outright loathing.

Effective: Natural Consequences

LiveStrong cites natural consequences as the "ideal form of punishment" for teenagers to learn, the experience truly, and understand the consequences of their behavior. As the name suggests, the allowance of natural consequences means letting your child face the inherent aftermath of their actions. While this method may appear somewhat passive, it is genuinely one of the most effective, impactful, and realistic methods of teaching your child about real world limits.

Permitting your teenagers to experience the natural consequences of their actions prepares them for the real world. For instance, if your teenager refuses to do his or her homework, allow them to experience the natural consequence of that choice, which is most likely a bad grade on the project. This may seem wrong to some parents who feel compelled to see their children do well in school. While these feelings are perfectly normal and even understandable, life has a way of teaching teens -and everyone else- what others might not be able to teach them.

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Perhaps if your teenagers' grades slip below a B- average, you could then revoke iPad privileges for a week or reduce their allotted TV time. Maybe your teen will then feel a stronger inclination to do their homework and maintain high marks in school.

The revocation of privileges may appear as an infringement of natural consequences, but in reality, it's not. For instance, if your teen's grades to fall below a certain grade point average as a university student, they could likely lose their scholarship or right to affiliate themselves with certain college teams or clubs. Pulling the appropriate privileges when your teenagers breach certain boundaries can be more helpful than you realize. As a parent you can often mimic natural consequences to guide behavior.

Ultimately, the enforcement of natural consequences gets your teen used to real-life consequences of their actions.

Counterproductive: Spanking

While spanking is often administered to younger children, some parents bring this method of punishment into adolescence and the teenage years. Psychology Today and many other outlets have affirmed that spanking is a highly counterproductive form of punishment and does more harm than good, in both the short term and long term.

The revelations above have existed for years, yet raised countless eyebrows. Many people have questioned these reports, often noting that they were spanked as children and "turned out fine." However, research and studies from licensed, qualified professionals maintain that spanking teenagers have devastating impacts that are more damaging than one might anticipate.

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First and foremost, spanking takes a toll on the mental health of the child or teenager on the receiving end. Young people who are spanked are more likely to exhibit aggression, criminal conduct, and a decreased trust in the parents or caregivers who administer the spankings. Furthermore, children who receive spankings are increasingly more likely to experience physical abuse in their lifetime.

Additionally, the statistics about children and teenagers who are spanked continues to worsen. Reports from Psychology Today state that spankings sabotage needed growth and worsen the IQs of young people. Spanking is a form of violence and promotes physical aggression later in life. Furthermore, a reduction in a grey matter within the brain is linked to spanking. Each person's grey matter impacts emotions, muscle, speech, memory abilities, and other physical senses.

Finally, the decision to spank children and teenagers sends a subconscious message that violence is an acceptable reaction to displeasure, annoyance, or irritation. Teenagers are very likely to apply what they learn at home in real life and with others. This explains the link between spanked children and increased delinquency.

Effective: Reparation

More often than not, when teenagers misbehave, parents are often inclined to engage in a method of punishment known as "deprivation." This involves restricting privileges or cutting back on access to their teens' enjoyable pastimes. While this form of discipline does have its time and place, it's polar opposite also can be equally as effective, if not more.

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Reparation involves adding tasks, as opposed to subtracting certain benefits. So when your teenager fails to come home on time, instead of grounding them for a week (deprivation), a reparative punishment would entail having them do more chores around the house or engaging in similar tasks. While derivative disciplinary actions take away something as a result of wrongdoing, reparative disciplinary actions add a task to your teen's obligations after their misconduct.

Reparative punishments often allow your teenager to remember what he or she did to land themselves in an undesirable situation. For instance, if they fail to wipe down the countertops after being told to do so multiple times, having your teen clean the countertops AND wash dishes serves as a physical reminder of which rule they broke. This will likely prove to be more effective than simply revoking a privilege.

Counterproductive: Doing Away With All Privileges

Parents faced with especially difficult or stubborn teenagers may be tempted to enact this form of punishment. In their minds, teenagers who lose all of their privileges will be heavily motivated to behave, thus earning back what they want. However, this mindset is the stark, polar opposite of what truly occurs when teenagers lose everything.

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Instead of feeling encouraged to do the right thing, this counterproductive form of punishment breeds resentment and further rebellion. Think of it like this: extremes on either side of the aisle rarely end well. In the majority of cases, a healthy middle ground is what breeds the most effectiveness.

Once a teen is faced with the loss of all their privileges, they no longer have anything to hold onto, and you lose all leverage. They may adopt the "what do I have to lose" attitude and demonstrate increasingly destructive behavior patterns. With nothing else to revoke, the parent has, in a sense, empowered their teenager's bad behavior.

Teen Discipline and More

Effectively parenting your teenager can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be. Remember that countless parents have been in your position. If you are struggling with patience in your home, reach out to older friends who have already raised their children. As your child reaches late adolescence, their social groups begin to have a larger influence on them. Preparing them for this change is important. As a parent, you will provide a safe "home base" for them to launch into the world.

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Sometimes, parents believe that taking consequences to the extremes can curb bad behavior and get their teenagers on the straight and narrow path. However, as previously stated, this is not the case. As parents are adapting to their teens, teens are also changing, learning, and growing in many aspects of their lives. Ultimately, as a parent, you have to trust in yourself. Trust that all the care, love, time, and energy that you've invested into your child will pay off. You may not see changes overnight, but eventually, the results will present themselves when the time is right.

A Final Word

Working with your teen is a journey in and of itself. Effectively communicating limits and consequences with them when necessary can also often challenging. If you ever feel overwhelmed or stressed, reaching out to family members and friends is always an advisable course of action. However, if you feel in need of professional help, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team of licensed, professionals here at BetterHelp.

BetterHelp is here to make care and counseling readily accessible to you. We recognize that dealing with teenagers on top of the other stressors and difficulties in life can be demanding. You are not alone. BetterHelp is only one click away. Our licensed, professional, and caring psychologists, social workers, counselors, and therapists want to help you in any way possible. BetterHelp always strives to provide the most accurate, up-to-date information, and assist people as they journey through life

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Whether you decide to reach out to us for help is ultimately up to you. However, if you are ever in need, we will always be available. You can start by clicking here.


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