Action, not anger, key to dis­ci­plin­ing moody teens

The Covington News - - News -

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, what kind of dis­ci­pline do you use with a teenager who is ha­bit­u­ally mis­er­able to live with?

The gen­eral rule is to use action — not anger — to reach an un­der­stand­ing. Any time you can get teenagers to do what is nec­es­sary without be­com­ing fu­ri­ous at them, you are ahead of the game. Let me pro­vide a few ex­am­ples of how this might be ac­com­plished.

In Rus­sia, I’m told that teenagers who are con­victed of us­ing drugs are de­nied driver’s li­censes for years. It is a very ef­fec­tive ap­proach.

When my daugh­ter was a teenager, she used to slip into my bath­room and steal my ra­zor, my shav­ing cream, my tooth­paste or my comb. Of course, she never brought them back. Then af­ter she had gone to school, I would dis­cover the uten­sils miss­ing. There I was with wet hair or “fuzzy” teeth, try­ing to lo­cate the con­fis­cated items in her bath­room. It was no big deal, but it was ir­ri­tat­ing at the time. Can you iden­tify?

I asked Danae a dozen times not to do this, but to no avail. Thus, the phan­tom struck without warn­ing one cold morn­ing. I hid ev­ery­thing she needed to put on her “face,” and then left for the of­fice. My wife told me she had never heard such wails and moans as were ut­tered that day. Our daugh­ter plunged des­per­ately through bath­room draw­ers looking for her tooth­brush, comb and hair dryer. The prob­lem never resur­faced.

A fam­ily liv­ing in a house with a small hot-wa­ter tank was con­tin­u­ally frus­trated by their teenager’s end­less show­ers. Scream­ing at him did no good. Once he was locked be­hind the bath­room door, he stayed in the steamy stall un­til the last drop of warm wa­ter had been drained.

So­lu­tion? In mid-stream, Dad stopped the flow of hot wa­ter by turn­ing a valve at the tank. Cold wa­ter sud­denly poured from the noz­zle. Ju­nior popped out of the shower in sec­onds. Hence­forth, he tried to fin­ish bathing be­fore the faucet turned frigid.

A sin­gle mother couldn’t get her daugh­ter out of bed in the morn­ing un­til she an­nounced a new pol­icy: The hot wa­ter would be shut off promptly at 6:30 a.m. The girl could ei­ther get up on time or bathe in ice wa­ter.

An­other mother had trou­ble get­ting her eight-year-old out of bed each morn­ing. She then be­gan pour­ing bowls of frozen mar­bles un­der the cov­ers with him each morn­ing. They grav­i­tated to w h e r ev e r his body lay. The boy arose quite quickly.

In­stead of stand­ing in the park­ing lot and scream­ing at stu­dents who drive too fast, school of­fi­cials now put huge bumps in the road that jar the teeth of those who ig­nore them. It does the job quite nicely.

You as the par­ent have the car that a teenager needs, the money that he cov­ets, and the au­thor­ity to grant or with­hold priv­i­leges. If push comes to shove, th­ese chips can be ex­changed for com­mit­ments to live re­spon­si­bly, share the work­load at home, and stay off lit­tle brother’s back. This bar­gain­ing process works for younger kids, too. I like the “one to one” trade-off for tele­vi­sion view­ing time. It per­mits a child to watch one minute of tele­vi­sion for ev­ery minute spent read­ing.

The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less and they de­pend not at all on anger, threats and un­pleas­antries.

Our teenage daugh­ter has be­come ex­tremely mod­est in re­cent months, de­mand­ing that even her sis­ters leave her room when she’s dress­ing. I think this is silly, don’t you?

No, I would sug­gest that you honor her re­quests for pri­vacy. Her sen­si­tiv­ity is prob­a­bly caused by an aware­ness that her body is chang­ing, and she is em­bar­rassed by re­cent de­vel­op­ments (or the lack of them). This is likely to be a tem­po­rary phase and you should not op­pose her in it.

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