“Why Don’t Consequences Work for My Teen?” Here’s Why…and How to Fix It


Teenager contemplating consequences

If you’re having trouble giving effective consequences to your teen, know that you are not alone. Many parents tell me that nothing seems to work and that coming up with the right thing for their child can seem like an impossible task.

If you’re the parent of an adolescent, you may have grounded your child, taken away their video games, or suspended their driving privileges for months on end. But as James Lehman says, you can’t punish kids into acceptable behavior—it just doesn’t work that way.

“You can’t punish kids into acceptable behavior.”

Rather, an effective consequence should encourage your child to change their behavior — whether that is abiding by the house rules or treating people respectfully. So first, you need to identify the behavior you want to change.

For example, if your child swears when they don’t get their way, you want them to behave more appropriately. Instead of grounding or punishing, or even reasoning with your child when they get angry and lash out, an effective consequence here would require your child to practice better behavior – and improve their self-control – for a period of time before their normal privileges are restored.

Let’s break this down according to The Total Transformation Program:

  • Effective consequences are connected to the original behavior and are both task- and time-specific.
  • “Connected to the original behavior” means that your consequence needs to be related to the behavior you want to see your child change or improve.
  • “Task-specific” means that there is something your child needs to accomplish or practice related to the original problem. This is a concrete behavior, like washing the dishes, meeting curfew, or not swearing.
  • “Time specific” means there is a specific amount of time in which they needs to demonstrate that behavior.

So, when your child swears, they might lose access to their electronics until they can go without swearing for two hours. The consequence is tied to the behavior. They swore, so they have to practice not swearing. This consequence is task-specific – it requires them to exercise the part of their brain that governs self-control. If they want their stuff back, they have to practice better behavior. And it’s time-specific – they need to demonstrate self-control for two hours. Only then are they free to have their privileges back.

Offer for FREE Empowering Parents Personal Parenting Plan

It’s important to understand that you can’t get your child not to feel angry or frustrated. That’s just part of being human. But you can require that they change the way they deal with those feelings. You can expect them to practice some self-control. Your goal is to require that your child practice the better behavior for a certain amount of time before they get their privileges back. So practice and behavioral improvement equals the restoration of privileges.

If they yell about their consequence, or how unfair it is, you can say:

“I understand that you’re angry. Yelling is not going to get you what you want. Once you’ve been able to deal with your anger appropriately for two hours, you will get your electronics back.”

Do not continue to explain your consequences or justify your decisions. They may mumble to themselves or text their friends about how awful you are, and it may take some time, but eventually, your child will decide to practice those skills that earn back their electronics.

How to Choose a Consequence

Think of it this way: a privilege is a motivator. The withdrawal or granting of a privilege should give your child an incentive to follow the rules of your house, even when they don’t agree with those rules.

An effective consequence is a privilege your child is interested in. For some kids, video games are a powerful motivator, while other kids could care less about them. Taking away a cell phone for two hours works for some kids while others would just find another way to communicate.

In order to choose the right privilege to use as a consequence, you have to know your child. What are their interests? What would really impact them if they lost it for a short period of time? Some parents tell us that using the blanket term “all electronics” works better than just saying “no video games,” which can make kids turn to YouTube as a distraction.

Remember, the right privilege should be an activity that your child will actually miss. Withhold that privilege until your child completes the task you’ve set for them.

James Lehman suggests that you sit down with your child and come up with a list of privileges and consequences together. The advantage here is that you are working as a team to solve the problem. It can help you identify things or activities your child truly values. It also clarifies what the consequences will be for certain infractions—for everyone involved. Not only will your child know what will happen if they break a certain rule, but the parents don’t have to spend time coming up with something in the heat of the moment.

What If Your Child Doesn’t Seem to Care What You Use as a Consequence?

Many parents call the Empowering Parents parent coaching team, saying that their kid doesn’t seem to care what they take away. One dad said to me in exasperation,

“Even though my daughter lives to text, she acts like she could care less when her phone is taken away. Nothing works with her!”

Some kids appear not to care what activity you restrict; they pretend they didn’t want to do it anyway.

But look at it this way: would your child really want you to know that they care about the consequence you’re giving them? Would they reveal their reaction to you and let you know you got to them? That would make it seem like you have power over them, and they aren’t about to concede on that one.

Advertisement for Empowering Parents Total Transformation Online Package

So some kids, like the teenage girl above, feign indifference when you remove a privilege. If you’ve watched your child and know that what you’re taking away really does impact them, don’t worry about whether or not they seem suitably upset at the loss of it. Give the consequence time to work.

What If the Consequences Still Aren’t Working?

So what if you know you’ve chosen a valuable privilege and your consequences still aren’t working? The key here is to take a look at the length of time privileges are removed. Is it too long? Does your child lose interest in what you’ve taken away (the “out of sight, out of mind” dilemma)? Is the time frame so long that your child can’t possibly be successful (no swearing for a whole month)?

Remember, your goal is to create better behavior in your child, and the consequence/privilege needs to encourage that improvement by being time-specific. If you truly want your child to improve their behavior, you need to create an environment in which your child can succeed. The time span of your consequence is important – it should be long enough that your child has to stretch their skills and short enough that you have a good chance of seeing improvement.

In summary, to be effective, a consequence needs to be short-term, task-specific, and involve a privilege your child values. Your goal here is to produce a child who can respond to limits, meet responsibilities, and demonstrate age-appropriate behavior. Your consequences and privileges help get them there.

Be Persistent and Consistent

One last word of advice: parents often want to see their child’s behavior improve overnight. If you are faced with a child who behaves inappropriately under stress, your consequences should require them to practice and get better. Don’t expect perfection immediately. Like any new skill, better behavior takes practice.

When implementing a new consequence, you can expect some failure. You can expect that you may need to restart a couple of times. In the beginning, you may find that your child behaves inappropriately every day and has their privileges removed often. That doesn’t mean you’ve chosen the wrong consequence. It simply means your child needs time to practice better skills. And they need you to be consistent and to keep them practicing.

Empowering Parents Podcast:
Apple, Spotify


Megan Devine is a licensed clinical therapist, former Empowering Parents Parent Coach, speaker and writer. She is also the bonus-parent to a successfully launched young man. You can find more of her work at refugeingrief.com, where she advocates for new ways to live with grief.

Comments (63)
  • Worried Mom
    My 17 1/2yr old daughter has always loved attention (especially from boys). She says and does things to get attention no matter the consequence and lies all the time. Over this past year she has also started stealing, from us at home as well as other outside the house. WeMore have grounded her several times but it doesn't seem to matter- the behavior remains. She continues to lie to people, sneak out to meet boys (one time an older boy she met on a tinder account that she had put an older age on to create), and steal. She has gotten more emotional as well and will lose her temper, going 0-60 and having a teen fit, throwing things, yelling and being just cruel. I don't know what to do. Her jr prom is this weekend and I just found things in her room :( I know if I ground her it's going to go down hill quick. Any advice?
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. We wouldn't recommend using Prom or other special events as a consequence, as Sarah Bean explains in this article: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/8-parental-rules-for-prom-night-should-you-ever-take-away-prom/. Taking away things like prom, birthday celebrations, or Christmas tends to cause a lot of resentment and very little behavior change. A more productive approach would be having her return the stolen merchandise and take accountability that way. For more information on effective consequences, you can check out these articles: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/parenting-strategies-techniques/consequences-rewards/

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • Leonie

    My son is 14,grade8, hehas the attitude of not caring, following no rules, never doing what I ask, unless I nagg continuously, he is a grade leader representative, but his marks are dismall, I have grounded, taken his games, now the phone because he is failing Maths, says he never has homework and rarely studies. I am a single Mom, after separating due to a very toxic marriage that I couldn't "fix", I am at the point of letting him go live with his Dad, who is an alcoholic or putting him in a boarding school,I don't know what to do, and it makes me feel that I am his problem.I suggested a councilor but he is not very open to that. I can let him go live with my brother, but that would make me feel even more like I failed as his Mom and protector. Pls help with any advice.

    He is very strong willed, intelligent and waisting away, my concern is, it is like he is oblivious to the effect it has on me emotionally and also our household, as he has a 7year old sister that is always caught in our arguments, I feel I am failing him, no matter what I do, it's not working.

    Any advice would be appreciated

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. 14 can be a tough age and the behaviors you describe are not uncommon for teens. Many parents I speak to as a parenting coach have shared similar stories, so you are not alone. It will be most productive to focus on just one or two behaviors at a time - trying to address too many things at once can be overwhelming, for both the parent and the child. You may find this article helpful when trying to decide what your next step will be:https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-childs-behavior-is-so-bad-where-do-i-begin-how-to-coach-your-child-forward/.

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.

  • Desperate

    We are having a on going issues with my 14 F step daughter stealing from especially me, but it is also he younger brother and dad. Everyone has there own personal belongings, even bathroom products. The stealing has gotten so bad I have a closet with all my items locked up we don't want her to take. My husband thought he closed the door open this morning to the closet, but he is not sure or she took my keys and opened it not sure ( which she done in the past), but she was in it. She took hair ties, if it is unlocked

    she can't help herself. It doesn't matter what we do, we have ground her for it, made her do chores to pay it back & ( ground her), striped her room down to bare essentials for two weeks. What she takes is anywhere from hair products to toothbrush mainly, occasions clothes, and underwear. We supply her with her own personal bathroom products so instead of asking for new shampoo because she is low, she just takes mine. Takes toothbrush and puts them back. This has been going on for about two years, we have tired counselors, nothing seems to work. Her brother doesn't behave this way, either he is fairly respectful of other people things.

  • Amy R.
    My 15 yrs old daughter has been breaking our rules for months. It seems to only be getting worse. The only punishment that ever held any value to her was taking her phone away but she doesn't even care about that anymore. We had to stop her from seeing aMore toxic boyfriend that was influencing drinking and smoking pot. We also had to stop her from hanging around with her childhood best friend for the same reasons. My daughter is vaping and using in school, she is sneaking to talk the people we want her to stay away from, sneaking alcohol in her room and sneaking out. She never wants to sit and have a conversation about what can we all do to change the situation. She wants to do just do what shatter she wants and wants us to let her start hanging around with the friends/bf we pulled her away from. When we ground her we usually start with a week but then talk her if she messes up during punishment that the groundation will just go longer. I'm at my breaking point because she just doesn't care anymore. Please help!
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching to Empowering Parents and sharing your story. I can hear how distressed you are with your teen daughter's behavior and choices. It can be tough to know how to hold your child accountable when it seems like they don't care about anything and their behavior keeps getting worse. Janet Lehman wrote an excellent article about how to get control back in these types of situations. You can find that article here: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/scared-of-your-defiant-child-learn-how-to-get-back-your-parental-control/. Another article you may find helpful is https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/kids-who-ignore-consequences-10-ways-to-make-them-stick/.

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.

  • Nunya

    My son is 13 years old and resides in My Home primarily, but I spend time at his other parents house on a regular basis. He spends the night there every Thursday & also on alternating weekends (Thursday after school thru Monday drop off at school).

    Both households have very different expectations and rules - and, the other parent refuses to communicate about anything whatsoever.

    He rarely touches his homework while he is at his other parent’s house, and spends most of his time, playing video games and messing around online. When he returns home, he constantly has a ton of make up work and it negatively impacts our whole household because he is constantly doing homework here. He plays the Xbox, watches, YouTube, and messes around online pretty much the entire time he is there, and neglects the things that he knows he needs to do.

    How do I hold him accountable? The other challenge is that when a punishment is necessary that the other parent will not enforce anything at the other home. So if we take away the Xbox or Internet privileges, I don’t think it really bothers him when he knows he gets to go spend several days away doing what he would like to do online.

    Do you have any advice on how to implement effective consequences for his behavior that cannot be undermined by the reprieves that he spends away? Quite frankly, I feel like I am being punished for him not behaving over there because he’s constantly doing everything to make up here and it’s just unpleasant.

    If I didn’t bother helping him to catch up when he returns home after each visit, he’s likely be failing all of his classes. I want to teach him that it’s important to finish the tasks that he is assigned, regardless of who’s house he is at, & that he’s capable of doing what he knows he should. Do you have any advice?

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Thank you for reaching out. This is a common issue for two household families. We have several articles that focus specifically on how to parent effectively when the other parent has different rules and expectations at their home: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/non-traditional-families/divorced-parents/. We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. BeMore sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
  • CoCo

    My daughter is doing things like stealing my car, sneaking out in the middle of the night, having sex, has d’s and f’s on her report card, lying, manipulating, fighting with family members constantly, it is just always something with her. i just planned a beach trip for just she and i because i have other kids and don’t get much one on one time with her that she craves so we went. while there, she was constantly disrespecting my 75 year old grandmother and grandfather, my cousin and the friend. i decided leaving was best so that everyone’s vacation wouldn’t be ruined and instead of just packing and getting in the car, she damaged the hotel, starting screaming and throwing things and took off running screaming at the top of her lungs to call the police and acted like i was abusing her. the police came and almost took me to jail(i was in handcuffs in the cop car) until they got the story from everyone and realized that this is a repeat thing she does to try and get her way.

    when we got home i took all electronics like phone, ipad, mac book, apple watch/pencil, etc. only to find out she found where i hid them & got her phone back herself. she has no respect for anyone!!!

    what do i do?

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. It sounds like you have a lot going on with your daughter right now. I can understand both your concern and your frustration. It will be most productive to focus on one behavior or area of concern at a time. Because it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what behavior to start with, I often suggest parents make a list of all the behaviors they are seeing and focus on the most difficult behavior first. Carole Banks discusses this in her article, "My Child's Behavior Is So Bad, Where Do I Begin?" How To Coach Your Child Forward as well. This will help you to start developing a culture of accountability in your home.

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents Community. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • M.E
    I have a very similar situation with my daughter who has slight developmental delays. Would love to hear some advice on how to handle her.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Thank you for reaching out. We have had many parents of children with developmental delays use the tools and techniques found in our articles and programs with much success. We are not experts in developmental delays and we don't know your child, so we're not able to give any specificMore recommendations. We recommend working closely with your child's treatment team when deciding what tools to use when addressing behaviors. We appreciate you being part of the Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
  • NH

    Our 21 year old lives with us at home, and he makes promises and does not keep them. He needed to send his resume to us and some other paperwork and promises to do it but doesn't follow through.

    We have talked to him and nothing changes, he has social anxiety and it takes him a while to adjust to new situations. We don't understand how to help him? Please advise.

  • Lauren
    What if you have a child that refuses to accept a punishment? My daughter stole money from me and bought herself a new cell phone. I found the phone she hit me and took it back. I told her the natural consequence of her actions would be that she wouldMore lose the cell phone. She refuses to give it to me and says she will accept any other punishment. I can’t take the phone back forcefully or she’ll definitely get physical again. What’s a person to do in that situation?
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Thank you for reaching out. I agree that getting into a physical power struggle with your daughter trying to take the phone is not an effective approach because it could lead to a serious safety issue. Instead, you could have her pay back the money she stole as a wayMore of making amends, as recommended by Carole Banks in this article: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/kids-stealing-from-parents-what-you-need-to-know-now/. If she doesn't have money of her own, you may need to take it from money you would use to purchase things like new clothes, birthday gifts, or other non-necessities. Another article you may find helpful is https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/child-stealing-can-advice-parents-kids-stealing-shoplifting/. We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. Take care.
  • CUL4
    Thank you , all for sharing. I have a Teenager daughter who nothing works for. She won't attend school, therapy and punishment of any kind doesn't work.she just leaves. I block her path and she jumps out the window. Nothing works.. but reading your questions helps me not feelMore alone. Thank you
  • MA
    I caught my 17 year old daughter after having snuck out. I previously had a conversation with her 2 days prior and had asked her if she had been ( I was suspicious). I took the car from her and she is allowed to only use it to go toMore work or school. The issue is she wanted to go to friends house and spend the night. Said that if I did not allow her to do that that she was unwilling to follow the loss of privileges. I also said no socializing with friends for 1 week (no extra recreational outings and no sleepovers her or somewhere else). Now she just texted me and said she wants to go to lunch with her friend and can I put money in her bank account. Any advice on how to deal with this?
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I can understand your frustration. We hear from many parents asking how to give effective consequences. From what you've shared, it sounds like you have been clear with your daughter what she will need to do to earn those privileges back. Now it is just a matter of following throughMore and not allowing her to renegotiate. You may find this article helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/kids-who-ignore-consequences-10-ways-to-make-them-stick/. Thank you for reaching out. Take care.
  • H.M

    My 11 years old daughter has anger issue lately. when she can't get what she wants especially electronics talks loud and with too much pressure.

    i also don't know what activity to substitute if I limit the electronic time. She is not interested in reading books, playing her instrument ....

    please advise me


    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Thank you for reaching out. Many parents wonder what types of consequences and rewards they can use for their child. We have a great article that has downloadable charts of age appropriate consequences and rewards that may help: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/consequence-give-child-list/. We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. TakeMore care.
  • TM
    My 17 year old son and his 10 year old brother lost their dad to leukemia 3 months ago. Since that time, both have failed all of their classes and they fight with me frequently. They barely clean up after themselves and leave the house a mess. BothMore have lied about doing schoolwork. The older one had a girl over when I was at work last week and made his brother promise not to tell. This 16 year old girl took an Uber by herself at night and I am sure her mother was not aware. I noticed a small hickey on my son the next day, which he blamed on a cat. He finally admitted she came over. This is a girl he broke up with because she was making poor choices such as drinking, smoking and hanging out with multiple people outside her household in a pandemic. No one else in the house has socialized outside of our household, we didn't even have a public funeral for their father. His reckless decision could have put us all in danger, as well as put her into a compromising position by traveling in an Uber alone late at night. I am now struggling with an appropriate consequence. He has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression & PTSD and I don't want to make it worse. He already doesn't come out of his room for anything and I don't want to drive him further into his depressed state. Both kids are in therapy and the older one is on meds for anxiety and depression. Any advice is welcome! Thanks
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      I am so sorry for your loss. I can understand how upsetting your son's behaviors are and can hear how distressing it is for you. I'm glad to hear both of your children are in therapy. Loss of a parent can be be especially hard on adolescents and teens, even if their outward behavior may not show that. I encourage you to check in with your son's therapist about this and follow his recommendations on consequences.

      Thank you for checking on and sharing your story.

  • Mother of a teenage boy
    My 15yr old son in the last 3 months has done some concerning things such as take my mother’s car to the shop (no license), and got caught bunking school and also vaping. I’m at a loss what to do I have taken his phone from him and the nextMore thing is touch rugby which he loves. My question is touch rugby has given him confidence will I be making the situation worse if I take it away from him ?
  • Helena

    It's just not possible for a parent to take a cellphone or laptop or computer from a child, who is taller/bigger than parent. I was following the advice in this article (several times) and we always end up "wrestling". A teen kid will not just hand you his cellphone, he will not let you easily pick up his laptop, etc. What to do then?

    How to make them do their schoolwork/homework also not clear to me, because they just will not do it.I tried to convince him, I tried to offer extra time on computer,I was promissing to buy something,etc ,he still will not do it. Please advise.

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      You bring up an excellent point. WE would not recommend getting into any sort of physical power struggle with your child trying to make them hand over the device. You might instead turn off service to the device or turn off the Wi-Fi. You may find this article on fail proof consequences helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/odd-kids-consequences-that-work-on-oppositional-defiant-rebellious-children/

      Thank you for reaching out.

  • Tammy

    Consequences-You day to take something away for a short time and have them work towards it.


    My son is the size of a man.

    My son has gone into depression and laid on his bed for days without anything.

    My son has ran away for days at a time.

    My son would prefer to be kicked out of school.

    I have called the police about my son. They have done NOTHING and the advice given was get into therapy and a parenting program.

    My son won’t attend therapy.

    Parenting programs say “have consequences, follow through, take things away!”


    Help please.

  • Deb W.
    I try taking away phones, videos game, tv etc for my not listening or being angry nothing seems to help. they don't care about things being taken away from them. Do you have another consequence I can try? I try sending them to their rooms. It did nothing.More I try making them sitting on timeout chair nothing seems to bother them. Help!
  • Lisa
    my Daughter when she is very upset and we take away something sometimes she physically trys to keep that object(usually some type of electronics) like making us grab for it; or just flat out refusing to hand it over? I have found myself wrestling with her(to her outward amusement) forMore the device..how do I proceed here?
  • Feeling Helpless

    Our son was a straight A child. Never had trouble in school. Seemed effortless. He started 6 grade middle school in August, he almost failed 3 classes. The rest are A’s. At first I thought he was just overwhelmed with all of the teachers and assignments. Having to be accountable but now I feel like no matter how much we try to help, and how much we take away. He just zones out, like it’s no big deal that he is failing. He isn’t doing his homework. We ask him right after school daily, he looks you’d traight in the eyes and says “no homework”

    So we can actually see 2 of his class assignments online but the rest you can’t. So we got 2 of the grades up but he isn’t taking notes and again, his work isn’t getting done. I have tried so many things. I feel lost and helpless. Any ideas?

    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I hear you. It can be so frustrating when your child is not only suddenly struggling in school, but he also doesn’t appear to be affected by the change in his grades. As outlined in the article above, simply taking things away from your son is not likelyMore to change his academic habits, because you cannot punish kids into better behavior. This is because poor behavior is often due to faulty problem-solving skills. In order for your son to develop more effective study habits, he needs to learn new skills to handle the increased workload in middle school. You might find some helpful tips to get you started in another article by Megan Devine, End the Nightly Homework Struggle: 5 Homework Strategies That Work for Kids. You’re not alone in facing this struggle. I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • Passedmylimit
    I have 18 year old daughter.very good hearted goes to school with good grades and works. Downfall..even though she was warned she sneaks out the house takes grandpa's car ..thinks she can come and go as she pleases and smokes pot..she doesn't even deny it or try to cover upMore the smell.after the last warning of curfew I was out at 4 am looking for her ..argumnents with my husband over this behavior when she finally answered her phone I made her return home pack her belongings and find a place to live where she can do what she wanted. She found a friend that came and got her and has been out since.i feel so awful and empty for this but she was warned multiple times that this would happen. I have taken her off our phone plan and she will be paying that herself. She was not paying rent and chores where done half way. I also have an 11 year old that sees this.i will not have her believe that this behavior is ok. Did i do the right thing? Or did I do more damage.please help!
  • CvP

    That you don't want to punish your child.

    But apply consequences from a power point of view by withholding things that they prefer sounds to me liking punishing.

    Sitting together to think about working consequences doesn't seems to sounds to me liking working like a team.

    If your child doesn't come up or agree with a consequence what do you do than.

    Let it go our use your hierarchical advances to force them in choosing.

    I think for testing if your way of parenting is reasonable you can do the following. If your team lead at work will do the same things to do as you do to your child would you like that, would you agree, would you stay or would you do differently. If you say you would to differently then you may need to rethink your parenting style at home.

  • Jens
    My wife does exactly what you recommend with our teenage son, who has been diagnosed with both ADHD and autism, and the only result is escalation, threats of violence, or violent behavior. As a stepfather, my wife does not allow me to interfere.
  • Cs
    I'd love to believe that you can help parents of troubled kids but I can't beleive you can. You say take away their techno device as punishment for bad mouthing but I hate to tell you what if they fight you over taking their devices away physically by hittingMore and kicking you what then when you're not strong enough?
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      Thank you for your question. This is a common scenario we hear from many parents, so you are not alone in experiencing this. We do not recommend trying to physically wrestle away devices from kids, mainly because it causes things to escalate even more and increases the chancesMore that someone might get hurt as you described. Instead, it tends to be more effective to set a clear limit (such as, “Your phone needs to be on the kitchen table in 2 minutes. If not, there will be additional consequences”), and walk away to allow things to cool down. If your child refuses to hand over electronics, it’s going to be more effective to focus on where you have control, which is over yourself and your own responses. Sara Bean outlines some options in her article, 4 Steps to Managing Your Child’s Screen Time. Please be sure to let us know if you have additional questions. Take care.
  • Mel
    My son is 12 years old. His disrespect started in school about 4th grade. Not wanting to listen and being disruptive. He's now in 6th grade and it seems to be an everyday problem. Not only at school but now at home, pretty much anywhere he goes. No consequencesMore seem to bother him and he has a "don't care" attitude. He doesn't take any responsibility for any of his actions. What kinda advice could you give me??
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m sorry to hear about the challenges you have faced with your son, and I’m glad that you are here reaching out for support. Many parents feel frustrated with their child’s attitude, so you are not alone. The truth is, trying to make your son “care” or improveMore his attitude is likely to be frustrating, because he is ultimately the one in charge of how he feels about a given situation. It’s going to be more effective to focus on meeting his responsibilities and following the rules, regardless of how he might feel about a given situation. In addition, I recommend starting with one concrete behavior, such as following directions the first time, rather than a broad concept like respect. You can find more information and tips in “My Child’s Behavior Is So Bad, Where Do I Begin?” How to Coach Your Child Forward. I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your son. Take care.
  • Peggy
    Needs help with my 12 year old niece, dresses provocatively, lies, steals, fights in school and blames the other kids. What can we do?
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story. I hear how concerned you are about your niece’s behavior. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can give to those outsideMore of a direct parenting role. It may be helpful to look into local resources to help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues. The 211 National Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services available in your area such as counselors, support groups, kinship services as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222. We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
  • Suzie Perth

    RebeccaW_ParentalSupport Suzie Perth It's been months since my last post. 

    Our 16 year old daughter's life has been turned upside down since she left home in September last year. She is now staying with the older boyfriend and his father. (both the boy and his father have a mental illness). They have isolated her from her family. 

    The school had believed what my daughter had told them and that's why they helped her, however as soon as she was supposedly classified as an independent adult and started receiving benefits from the government (Up to $650 a fortnight), she stopped going to school. The school refused to tell us anything. Whether she was attending school. How she was doing. This drove our family into despair. Once the school psychologist came back from long service leave, he straightened everything out with the school staff as we had been in contact with him for years and knew how we were struggling with her. Then we learnt that she hadn't been attending school so we tried getting her to go back. My husband went around to where she was staying and she promised to go back and she never did. He was going there almost daily as she doesn't want to give us her mobile phone number. 

    We've tried stopping the payments she is receiving because she does not qualify to receive the payments. You need to be attending school or working in order to receive the payments, however the government youth worker decided not to stop the payments which we felt is not teaching our daughter to be honest and it certainly wont encourage her to go back to school. She did badly in the last exams. 

    She admitted before she left home that her friends were drinking and taking drugs. The father of the boy wont answer our calls as he said he's not responsible for her. He did advertise to the school and other people that she had lost her virginity in his home. We have limited contact with her via skype. 

    She has been an aggressive person and asked us if she had always been like that at home as other people are telling her she is aggressive. Yes, we had to put up with a lot. Our 11 year old twins are much happier now that she is gone and are reluctant to have her back home as she was always mean to them. 

    Last week we found some very suggestive photos she placed on the internet and I asked her immediately to remove them as she is not allowed to post that on the internet due to child protection laws. She hasn't removed them. She has gone right down and lost all self respect. She sees me as being the person to blame for everything that's gone wrong in her life as she cannot accept responsibility for what she has done. The rudeness we get from her has just slowly pushed us all away from her as she has nothing nice to say. We were told by many people and professionals to stop all contact, as it is not of any benefit. We were having 1 skype message every week sometimes every 2 weeks. We are to wait till she hits rock bottom and she asks for help. 

    We NEVER realised that parenting would be as emotionally challenging and as difficult as this as my husband and I were not rebellious. 

    On a good note, our 11 year old twins are learning from this and said they will not behave as she has, when they get to that age. We have to focus on our twins and try and move on, which is not easy as I think of her ALL the time, which is wrong as I should be more focused on our children at home.. Our marriage is stronger than before, as we've worked together on trying to parent our troubled daughter. She will hopefully learn from her mistakes and we know it's going to take a very long time to mend our relationship with her. Unfortunately things will never go back to what they were before mixing with the wrong group of people. The desire for her to be accepted by her peers outweighed the values she once had.

    It has been good reading and knowing, we are not alone and that so many people are having problems with their children. We have felt really embarrassed, ashamed, very hurt, by what our daughter has done but we've had  to put that behind us and move on or else we'll always be unhappy. This is just a point in ones life and this is our turning point, to move on and let her get on with her life knowing that we've done the best we could.

  • Jamid1
    This has been a huge help for me. I read the suggested article along with some others on this website. I have learned to be firm but not argumentative with my son. I try to give him a minute to spout out all his frustrations verbally without interrupting and whenMore hes done simply remind him that I asked him to do whatever discipline and that's it. If he continues to be combative I simply tell him to go to his room and cool off and then I walk away. I also had a candid conversation with him after the above incident. I told him that I would not hesitate to call the police in order to protect myself as well as protect him from doing something he would regret. Though he was initially very upset that I would "call the cops" I think it helped him realize how unruly his behavior really was. We agreed that we would both try to be less combative and that if I asked him to go to his room he would simply do so to take a few minutes to cool off before we continue our conversation. Thank you so much!
  • Poppy234
    ADHD parent I try saying OK its your choice, you can give up your phone now for 15 minutes or when you are asleep I will take it and you lose it for 2 hours tomorrow. Or similar. They still get mad though. Also when you have the phone forMore 2 hours, they can shorten that time by doing chores. I have to keep stressing that it is HER choice not mine, it is within her power to get her phone back more quickly. She may still have kept the phone on this occasion but eventually may make the choice to give it up as its less hassle in the long run.
  • Poppy234
    @Family With our daughter more sleep helps so much with temper outbursts. Try tracking how cross he is and matching with how much sleep he has. So we lie with her and rub her back, it helps to make sure she gets to sleep not too late.
  • Frustrated mom2017
    My daughter had an opportunity to do math test corrections to bring her math test grade from an F to a C. When I asked her if she received them she said no. Then on Monday I reminded her to get them from her teacher. On Monday she said sheMore received them and said that she finished them with her math tutor. The next day her teacher emailed me and told me that she threw away her math test. I was so upset that she lied to me. She never even do her math test corrections. I took away having her take her iPod to school for two weeks. Then I wrote to her teacher seeing if they could sign off each day her homework and I would sign off when she did it. The next day I found out that she texted her friend that she threw them away because she didn't want to do the corrections. What would be a good consequence for this behavior?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Frustrated mom2017 I hear you.  It can be so frustrating when your child not only refuses to follow directions, but also lies about it.  Although it’s normal to feel angry and upset upon discovering this, I encourage you to do your besthttps://www.empoweringparents.com/article/disrespectful-child-behavior-dont-take-it-personally/.  Chances are that her choices are not directedMore at you, but are instead a reflection of poor problem-solving skills.  It sounds like your daughter is already receiving a natural consequence at school of a poor grades for the performance on her math test, as well as refusing to do the corrections.  It could be useful at this point to have a conversation with her about what happened, and what she will do differently moving forward in her math class as outlined in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/why-you-should-let-your-child-fail-the-benefits-of-natural-consequences/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.
    • Poppy234
      Frustrated mom2017 This is hard. So there is the maths grade and the lying. I would ask her why she didn't want to do the corrections. Is she struggling? Does she need extra help outside school? Can you sit with her while she does them? If she is being lazy,More then either try keeping the iPod only until she does the corrections. If she is overworked forget punishment but take her out somewhere after she does them, perhaps she thinks she works too hard, perhaps she is stressed and has too much on her plate. The lying I would be concerned about and would make sure I had time with her each night to chat. See what worries her. Rub her feet or whatever she likes to get close to her. Find out what annoys her about you and don't stand up for yourself. Try a conversation journal where you talk to each other, nothing negative in it from you, ask her questions in it. I think all kids lie from time to time and we need to minimise it by staying close.
  • Preteen mom

    My daughter is 9 (so pre-teen) but I still need help with a consequence. Around 5:15am this morning she took my Iphone off my nightstand and brought it in her room to look at her friend's parent's profile pages on my Facebook app. She broke multiple rules by doing this! According to this article what would a good consequence be? No tv or electronics (which she does care about) until she learns not to steal or invade my privacy? I need help. Something more specific. Thanks to all

    -preteen mom

    • Poppy234
      Preteen mom In addition to consequences I would put a password on the phone or fingerprint ID, it could be too big a temptation for her ongoing and it would be kinder to take it off the agenda.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Preteen mom Many parents struggle with effective consequences, regardless of the age of their child, so you are not alone.  I’m glad that you’re here, reaching out for support.  Part of addressing this with your daughter will be discussing what happened, and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior-i-cant-solve-problems/about what she could have done differently insteadMore of taking your phone without permission.  Instead of taking away TV or electronics until she learns to respect boundaries or refrain from stealing, it could be more effective in this situation to talk about how she can make it up to you, and “right the wrong” she committed by not respecting your boundaries.  You can suspend electronics until this amends is complete.  Janet Lehman offers more tips in her article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/i-caught-my-child-lying-how-to-manage-sneaky-behavior-in-kids/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your daughter.  Take care.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
    Krist4711 We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story.  I’m sorry to hear about the struggles you and your family are facing with your niece. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestionsMore we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. It may be helpful to look into local resources to help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues.  The http://www.211.org is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services available in your area such as counselors, support groups as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222. We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
  • SLParker
    @Stephan  We all want what's best for our kids and as adults we have the life experience and wisdom to know what we could or should have done different. At 17 its time to start picking and choosing your battles with the understanding that your son has to fail fromMore time to time to learn the lesson for himself. His test scores can not be more important to you than they are him that is a recipe for disaster. If two hours is all he wants to contribute to his future well being then explain to him what comes along with that choice. Let him make the choice its time.
  • Jessy
    I have a 15, almost 16 year old daughter who ran away from home 5 days ago this last Wednesday. The whole scenario that led up to this was when my boyfriend found her going through our stuff and stealing things from us. She has already been grounded because aMore month ago she was caught sending naked pictures of herself to other guys.  Since she is already grounded for that we decided to take away all her video games and phone. She had this whole attitude on Tuesday night like "thats fine with me I'll just run away." She had run away before and the next day she ran away and didn't come home from school. She is a missing person and I hope she comes home. One thing I am scared of is if she will come home on her own but this is not what I want to know. My goal in writing this is to understand how I can parent her better so she will start behaving. Nothing I do seems to work. I'm not sure what punishments I should use since we always just have grounded her and taken away her stuff. I am not sure what else I can do to improve her behavior. How am I supposed to parent this child!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      I’m so sorry to hear about the situation with your daughter, and I hope

      that she returns home safely soon.We

      hear from many parents who describe similar frustration that, despite punishing

      a child over and over again, the child’s behavior does not improve, or might

      even get worse. You are not alone in this situation.Something to keep in mind is that

      consequences by themselves do not change behavior, because continuing to take

      things away from your daughter is not teaching her what to do differently.You might find some alternate strategies in

      our article series https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/why-consequences-arent-enough-part-1-how-to-coach-your-child-to-better-behavior/

      and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/why-consequences-arent-enough-part-2-making-child-behavior-changes-that-last/.Please be sure to write back and let us know

      how things are going for you and your family.Take care.

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


    It’s not uncommon for parents and teens to disagree on the appropriate

    amount of studying and preparation required to do well, so you are not

    alone.I also want to point out that

    learning how to negotiate and advocate for himself appropriately are valuable

    life skills for your son to possess, and it’s normal at this stage in his

    development to desire more autonomy and independence when making decisions like

    this.As pointed out in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/parenting-rules-and-expectations-but-everyone-else-is-doing-it/, it might be more

    effective at this point to help your son learn how to manage his time more

    independently.Please be sure to write

    back and let us know how things are going with you and your son.Take care.

  • Poppy234

    Thank you for the article. Taking my daughters phone off her for a day when she misbehaves has not been working at all, it makes her even more angry, but I think your ideas make perfect sense and a day is too long. I am going to try this later as there are bound to be insults or pushing about of poor Mum later today! Plenty of scope for trial and error!!! 

    It seems to me that as children get older they want to be listened to and loved but not to be given any advice on anything unless specifically asked! And some children don't half dish it out. Even quiet chewing with my mouth closed drives my daughter to distraction. I'm bored with the negativity.

  • cuddles84
    tryed all that the way you said  still does not work.
  • ExasperatedSingleMum
    Great article Megan... What you have written about worked really well for my son and I up until he was 16. Then he went on school camp for a week at a brand new school and has returned as an absolute monster. For the past 6 months there isMore not a consequence in the world that he will accept or respect. I haven't tried the full force of the law yet but wish to avoid this if possible. I am almost resigned to the fact that consequences are a thing of the past. My son has simply learnt to say no to absolutely everything including handing over devices. Is there an article available which deals with the next phase ie when consequences no longer work? When anyone challenges his behaviour he becomes so abusive and disrespectful (verbally) that it has now turned my elderly parents away from attending Christmas with us..... :-(
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      You bring up an excellent question, what can a parent do

      when a child refuses to comply with consequences? I think it can help to know

      that it’s not uncommon for kids, especially teens, to push back when given a

      consequence. They can refuse to hand over devices, go out with friends even

      when they’ve been grounded, and  refuse to do extra chores. For that

      reason, it’s important to make sure that the consequences you use are fail

      proof consequences – consequences you can follow through with even when

      your child refuses to comply. Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner discuss

      how to give fail proof consequences in their article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/parenting-odd-children-and-teens-how-to-make-consequences-work/. I hope

      you find this article helpful. Be sure to check back if you have any further

      questions. Take care.

  • rebelliouskids
    I was Informed by my 13 year old son that my 18 year old daughter was smoking pot in her room while I was home! She was also coerced by my ex husband to steal property from my home to give to him. She seems to have no respect forMore me and my rules at all. I feel like she only wants to be around me when she wants me to do something or buy something for her. After I found my property missing and confronted her, she admitted to taking it, I cancelled her birthday party. She hasn't come home or talked to me since. Her father is happy that he has driven this wedge between us and have been told by my son that they bash me. Christmas is in 5 days and it doesn't seem like I'm going to see or hear from her. She told my son that I OWE HER AN APOLOGY. Her dad is a narcissist and is turning her into one of his minions. He had me in his grip for years and now that he can't control me any longer, he is controlling her and alienating her from me and my entire family. Not sure where to go from here.....
    • still learningmom

      I have been through something simular on and off for years. After serious soul seaching and time. I found I had to let go. It was painful, but instead of trying to control my kids,and ex I focused on what is in my control and my response. I used techniques from the "secret". I used my time differently when I am with my kids and they always know what they mean to me. We have a much better relationship and I get all the hard and personal issues they are afriad to share with anyone else.

      I would support what your 13 year old wants, but let them know bashing is not ok and you refuse to lower yourself to thst level. than have a great time with your young one, but invite your older child when possible. Even if your oldest never joins you she will know the door is not closed and she has the choice.

      Kids know what is going on and they see all the crap, and odds are they will come around especially if. They know they are loved and forgiven. Maturity has had a huge impact.

      You establish your boundries and stick to them. She is 18.... welcome to being an adult. She will grow up and learn she has a strong mum that wont take her disrespect.

      God bless.

      • Poppy234
        still learningmom I think you give really good advice. It seems to me that a lot of parenting of a particularly control adverse child consists of letting go of control. Sometimes boundaries come down to what is legal and safe. Smoking pot and stealing would not be allowed therefore, butMore perhaps getting her to abstain from smoking in your house until the birthday party would have been an option. Or getting her to replace missing items before the party? Goodness it's a hard line to walk, we need enormous patience. I would go the line of apologising but when a quiet moment arrives ask her to talk about it, asking her many questions about the situation and refraining from adding much opinion at all.
    • Dee
      The same thing happened to me , me ex was also a total narcissist in the clinical sense. I took him to court, representing myself & made a clear plea to the judge to let him know what was going on. He gave me everything I asked for. Good luck
Advertisement for Empowering Parents Total Transformation Online Package
Like What You're Reading?
Sign up for our newsletter and get immediate access to a FREE eBook, 5 Ways to Fix Disrespectful Behavior Now
We will not share your information with anyone. Terms of Use