By Steven Griggs
Punishment and Teenagers-Part III
Please read the previous two articles before reading this one.
This one picks up where Part II leaves off…
For example, with teens, the most attention-getting threat is to
remove one or more electronic items. The usual appliances are
cell-phones or computers, but ipods or ipads, Playstations, TV’s or
other “things” will suffice.
The next most effective punishment is to remove activities.
Younger kids also respond to this, but the message is “You’re grounded.”
The next most effective punishment is to remove space. Not
only are they grounded but they also have to stay in their room
(until its clean, organized, until their homework is done, until their
good grades return, etc.). On a side note, if you “ground” your teen
to his or her room, make sure the electronics in the room have been
neutralized… We don’t want your teen to escape into cyberspace while
supposedly serving time for misbehaving.
The above are benign punishments; meaning, there is no noxious
stimulus applied after the faulty behavior. Rather, there already was
something good on their plate, which has now been removed. As the
parent, you deliver these messages right after the behavior(s) (immediacy),
every time (consistency) and in the same way (constancy). (These are the
three contingencies, which are introduced in the ebook on Teenager’s
Behavior, linked through the website, below.) While the more tangible
positive privileges usually can be “removed” to reduce negative behaviors;
that is not the point of this exercise. The idea is to increase positive
behaviors and have the negative ones disappear without the “negatives.”
To counteract the negativity of the punishment, immediately offer your
teenager the opportunity to re-earn the item, activity or space just removed.
S/he does this by behaving well; doing the very thing you want–doing it
rather quickly, as judged by you, not them. Teens and kids of all ages do
this quickly so they can earn back what was just lost. (For very sharp
readers, you could have just threatened to take away the items, activity or
spaces to increase your teenager’s conformity. When your teen becomes
manageable again, you say something like, “Good, you just avoided losing
the _____________.” This is negative reinforcement at work–increasing
positive behavior by escaping a punishment.)
Another example of appropriate punishment is the common time out.
This still works with even mature twelve year olds, but just barely.
Increasingly, it doesn’t work with thirteen year olds or older teens,
because they already want to separate from you, so going to their room and
being separate is actually a kind of reward for them. If a time out
is used, you have to pair it with a “something lost” experience.
This could be the loss of an electronic item, or it could be serving the
time out in an unfamiliar, hence less pleasant venue, e.g., the bathroom.
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