Monday, April 27, 2009

Consequences, Leading with Empathy and Problem Solving

Teens have better self esteem when they learn to be responsible for their actions. That means learning that they are responsible for the consequences of their own actions. Parents have a great deal to do with making sure teens can connect the dots between actions and consequences.

Parents who have learned to lead with empathy (rather then anger, lecture, or threats have also seen the dramatic difference this makes in who the teen focuses their attention upon. When a teen gets an empathetic response to a problem or situation, their energy goes into thinking about the situation. When a teen is met with anger, threats, or lectures, their energy goes into a defensive "fight or flight response" directed at the person who is angry at them rather then at the problem

The Angry Version

Teen: Dad, I used my cell phone at school today and it got taken away.

Dad: You know that's against the school rules. What were you thinking? Let's review what that cell phone is for and who pays for it - me! Do you know how many hours I have to work just to pay this family's cell phone bill? You're grounded mister!

Teen: (Stomps off in anger after dropping a few choice words in disrespect. His focus in on his angry parent.)

Leading with Empathy (followed by Problem Solving)

Teen: Dad I used my cell phone at school today and it got taken away.

Dad: Oh Man! I bet that was frustrating. What are you going to do about that?

Teen: A parent can pick it up. I was wondering if you could get it when you drop me off in the morning.

Dad: It's Tuesday today. I have a tight schedule in the mornings for the rest of the week. I've been working late too. The first time I can get in to the school office will probably be Monday.

Teen: But I need my phone. My friends will be texting me.

Parent: I know. That's going to be hard. I will definitely do my best to get in to pick it up on Monday.

Teen: (Focuses more anger on self for getting the phone taken away because anger is less focused the on parent.)

Note that no other consequence is applied. No anger is used. No threats. The father has already arranged for the phone to be out of his teen's hands for a week by not picking it up. He might also decide on the weekend to spring a surprise additional consequence (without any warnings in advance) such as, "I am so sorry. I know you want to go out with your friends but you don't have your cell phone and one of the reasons we want you to have a phone is so you can call us anytime if an emergency comes up. I would just worry too much knowing you were out there without it."

Natural consequences replace the need for other kinds. Consequences that are not immediate may actually have a greater effect.

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