When your preteen or teen is being disrespectful, acting out or simply taking things for granted, removing privileges is one of the oldest tricks in a parent's discipline arsenal. Unfortunately, if used improperly, this method of punishment can backfire or become completely ineffective for some families. If removing privileges will be your mode of punishment, make sure that you set the right ground rules so the discipline actually makes a difference.
Delineate Between Privilege and Right
Before you can remove privileges from your preteen or teen when he's misbehaved or acted out, you'll need to have a conversation about what is and isn't a privilege. After all, you might consider some things rights and those should never be taken away. Unconditional love, privacy and shelter could all constitute inalienable rights in your home while technology, a social life and free time could be privileges. Your child needs to know what is and isn't at risk for this form of discipline.
Lay the Ground Rules
Taking away privileges is ineffective without a consistent set of rules to play by. Try writing out a contract or having a conversation with your teen or preteen about what type of behavior leads to the removal of privileges. It could be when your child's privileges affect his grades at school, like too much computer time reducing his time to do homework. It could be when he abuses a privilege, such as staying out past curfew with your car. Regardless of your rules, you should both know the boundaries so your teen can't cry foul when you have to remove a privilege.
If you expect your teen to pay attention to your rules regarding privileges, that means you should respect the rules as well. Consistency is key in getting the results you want. Removing privileges that you hadn't discussed, removing rights and making up new rules simply because you're angry and disappointed means you're abusing this method of discipline. Your preteen or teen can't be expected to play by your rules if you don't offer him the same courtesy and respect.
Hopefully, if you successfully remove privileges based on the rules and boundaries that you've discussed, your teen will learn that certain things, events and experiences in his life are earned. If he does his homework, he can earn more social time. If he's in by curfew, you might be more willing to extend the time. On the flip side, he should learn that ignoring rules and pushing boundaries means that you can take away those things that are causing misbehavior. Until he's 18, he's at your mercy when it comes to privileges. As long as you use the punishment properly, it can help your teen understand actions and consequences more fully.
- Iowa State University: Managing Conflict with Teens
- Your Defiant Teen: 10 Steps to Resolve Conflict and Rebuild Your Relationship; Russell A. Barkley, et al.; p.148
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