Teenagers need monitoring, and the discipline, that follows bad behaviors. To get a teenager ready for the real world, it is important to teach the rule of “natural consequences.” These kind of consequences arise from the nature of the behaviors, on the teenager’s part. For instance, if you teenager borrows your car, and returns too late, you do not lend your car to your teenager for a month. If your teenager refuses to help with any chores around the house, your teenager is not allowed to bring guests home, due to the condition of the house. If your teenager and friends come over, and eat up everything in the house, you do not stock up on a lot of food for awhile.
Teenagers learn from their mistakes, far more quickly, than they do from a parent’s lecture. For this reason, it is better to let them feel the effects of their mistakes, and realize the consequences of their behaviors. This is how life works, and you are preparing your teenager for the real world. If a parent looks the other way, or keeps making everything nice for their teenager, in spite of poor behaviors, the parent is not readying the teenager for the big step, out into the waiting world.
It takes energy. to be two steps in front of a teenager. A parent must play the dual role of disciplinarian, and safety officer. On the one hand, it is important to follow up with the teenager’s natural consequences, and it is also important, to make sure the teenager is making safe judgment calls. If, for instance, a teenager has gotten drunk for the fourth time in a month, it is not enough to take away the car. The teenager is screaming out for help. The teenager needs a substance abuse assessment, and follow-up counseling.
A parent’s job is to determine what the teenager needs, in order to get ready for the real world. If a teenager lacks motivation, and will not make a move toward goal-setting, or outside activities, the parent must use adult judgment to oversee the situation. Is the teenager lazy? Lazy teenagers are rare. Yes, teenagers hate chores, and will often entertain messiness in this phase of life, but they have lots of energy, to be with their friends and go places. If your teenager does not have friends, and is in bed a lot, something is wrong. Your teenager may be depressed. It is important to have your teenager assessed by a professional, and get follow-up care, if necessary.
If however, your teenager is a procrastinator, and is putting off the things that need to get done, like finding a job, applying for college, or finishing homework, this is where the parent needs to step in. A teenager, who cannot meet deadlines, must be helped to do so. The parent needs to remind the teenager of the deadlines, and follow up with natural consequences. If for instance, a teenager does not finish homework, he or she needs to be grounded, when the teacher calls. If the teenager fails to look for a job by the parent’s set deadline, all spending money must be stopped.
Sometimes, teenagers need encouragement and help, to do things for the first time. For instance, looking for a job, for the first time can be frightening. There are a lot of rejections along the way. There are several steps to be taken…getting a social security card, work permit, etc. A wise parent will walk a teenager through the process, allowing the teenager to do as much as possible, and praising the teenager for taking big steps.
There is a lot to teach teenagers, but remember, they learn best, from realizing the consequences of their actions. A good parent lectures less, and lets the consequences speak for themselves.