Sanctions and Rewards

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For the third and final part of my blog on managing teen behaviour let’s look at sanctions and rewards. At this age talking to, reasoning with and discussing are paramount ingredients for good parenting. A lot of negative behaviour can be corrected eventually through this medium, particularly if the boundaries and guidelines are already in place.

There will be times when your young teen is not open to rational debate, and despite your talking to them at length, their negative behaviour persists. The bottom line is that the young person has to alter his or her behaviour and comply, and there will be a sanction if they don’t, so that they will remember and learn for the next time. Remember boundaries are another sign you care about the young person.

Sanctions for teens

Sanctions at this age will obviously be different from those used with younger children.  Stopping half an hour’s television for a teen is unlikely to be much of a sanction. You will know your child and know what sanctions that work best, but here are a few suggestions:

  • The young person is ‘grounded’, i.e. not allowed out when he or she would normally have expected to go. Make sure the grounding is reasonable, for example, stop one outing for rudeness or for coming in late not an entire month of outings.
  • The young person has to be in earlier than usual, for example after spending time with a friend.
  • The young person has to complete a household chore, for example tidying the shed, clearing out the cat litter tray, etc.
  • A treat is stopped, for example football club, pocket money, a sleepover.

Let your young teen feel your disapproval when necessary. Show it, as they show you theirs. After a negative incident, don’t be your usual chatty self, unless of course your child has apologised and cleared the air. A slight coolness in your manner, together with your explanation of what your young person has done wrong (it isn’t always obvious to them), will reinforce that he or she has overstepped the boundary; their behaviour is not acceptable, and you thoroughly disapprove.

Also it is not unreasonable to withhold some of your services. Postpone doing something for your young person that you had intended to do: for example, perhaps you were planning on rushing into the town straight after work to buy Tom new football boots. If Tom has just ‘kicked-off’ (excuse the pun), then postpone the trip – ‘I’m sorry, Tom, you have just spoken to me very rudely, I don’t feel like rushing into town right now. Perhaps tomorrow, when I feel happier.’ This gives Tom the clear message that his negative or rude behaviour is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated by you. Don’t feel bad about being cool towards him for a short period, or withdrawing your services for a short while. You wouldn’t put yourself out for an adult who had just given you a load of grief, unless you wanted to end up being treated like a doormat, which is what your young person will do if you don’t maintain his or her respect.

Rewards for teens

Don’t forget to praise your young person when they have done something positive; children (and adults) of all ages respond to verbal praise and encouragement. However, I would not give rewards (for example, extra pocket money) for positive behaviour at this age. It could result in your young person expecting it and reverting to negative behaviour if the reward is not forthcoming. By all means give extra pocket money for extra chores, for example, washing the car or mowing the grass, but by this age acceptable behaviour should be the assumed norm, the baseline from which you work, not something done as a favour or for the promise of a reward.

Obviously keep a record of the work you are doing with your young person and update your SSW and the child’s social worker.

Cathy Glass