Building blocks of success with using consequences

Consequences teach personal control because they act like a self-teacher or self-regulator of behavior.

According to Michigan State University Extension authored Building Strong Adolescent curriculum consequences teach personal control because they act like a self-teacher or self-regulator of behavior. Parents need to work to help kids learn and gain experience from consequences. How do parents do this? Experience also helps teens develop a sense of “personal power” because they realize that in one sense they control things that happen to them. Their behavior, in effect, creates future consequence.

Parents should make sure the response fits behavior. Set a consequence when you are calm (if not calm, wait – but deal with the teen within 24 hours.) Set consequences ahead of time when possible. Avoid “rubbing it in.” Empathize, but do not pity. Use the opportunity to focus on learning. When possible, teens should be asked to help come up with the penalty. This will give them the opportunity to learn to work with others to resolve problems. Also, when they agree they did wrong, they will often come up with stricter consequences than would the parents! It sometimes helps for reoccurring or significant problems if parents and teens write out a contract that details the problem, consequence, reason for the consequence, desired behavior, and time frame.

Consistency is essential or teens will not take a consequence seriously! For example, if parents sometimes – but not always – ground teens for coming home past curfew, teens are likely to test the parent’s resolve and continue the behavior. If two parents enforce consequences differently, teens know which one lets them off more easily.

When approaching a teen with a logical consequence, parents should state the problem clearly as well as express their feelings and thoughts. Teens should be given an opportunity to state their side of the problem, and should be asked how they think they should answer for their behavior. Once a clear consequence is determined, parents must enforce it. Parents should focus on the learning involved. Parents can also try to discuss the benefits of improved behavior. After the consequence is over, it is time to start fresh. Parents must give teens a “clean slate” and an opportunity to do well.

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