That’s what ‘Dave’ explained to me, asking me for advice about what to do with his daughter. (See yesterday’s post, PART I)
Dave’s not alone. Young people today love their cell phones; but as handy as these digital Swiss-army-knives are… they can also be vehicles of distraction in our kids’ lives.
So how should we respond when our kids break our rules and veer from the guardrails we’ve set?
Dave’s daughter seems to be one of the many teenagers that keeps getting lured into inappropriate conversations on their mobile devices. The same problems that teens and tweens have experienced for years in chat rooms and on social networking sites have now become mobile.
Dave’s daughter hasn’t been sending naughty pictures or engaging in phone sex, she’s just been showing poor decision-making with the guys that she choose to share her number with. Then she gets into lengthy conversations that any dad would immediately recognize as a predator stalking his prey.
This is all too common with young girls today. With self-esteem at an all time low, girls often seek praise wherever they can get it.
SIDE NOTE: Dad’s and granddads, this is where you really need to up your game. Are your daughters hearing you tell them how beautiful they are? Are you hugging them, providing some of the only positive touch they might experience?
Young girls and boys alike often find themselves in compromising positions, even though they are miles away from each other. Here’s where some good guidelines (much like the ones discussed yesterday), and some good parent/teen conversation (also talked about yesterday) can really help.
When They Break the Rules
When our kids bust through the guardrails, consequences are necessary. Here are some tips for enforcing consequences when our kids push the limits and break the rules.
1. Delay Punishment
This is some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received. When our kids break a rule, don’t punish them that very second. Make them wait!
This brilliant move achieves two desired results:
A. It gives parents a time to cool off! I know I need that.
B. It drives our kids crazy! This “delay” is punishment in itself. Instead of just getting it over with, tell them, “Well, I really don’t know what I’m going to do with you. Just leave your cell phone right there on my dresser, and we’ll talk in a few hours about what is going to happen!” They hate this, and it forces them to think about it for a couple of hours.
But eventually you have to come up with a consequence. So when you do…
2. Make the Consequence Match the Violation
Let’s say your daughter is supposed to ask you before she delete’s texts, but deletes them anyway. Ban texting for a week. You could say it like this:
“I’m not going to take away your phone this time. You simply can’t send any texts for 1 week. After 1 week, I’ll jump online and see if you sent any texts (Most mobile carriers allow you to see how many texts were sent and received). If you sent any, then you lose your phone for a month. If you didn’t send any, you can start sending again. But next time you violate this rule, you lose your phone a month.”
Or let’s say your son browses racy web sites. First, talk with him about it, but don’t make him feel dirty or perverted. Let him know that these desires are normal, using this as an opportunity to tell him the explicit truth about sex. After the conversation, ask him what he thinks would be a fair consequence to help him learn to respect the guardrails you set… which leads me to my next tip…
3. Ask Them to Set Their Own Consequences
When our kids violate a guardrail, ask them what they think an appropriate punishment would be.
I’ve done this at times because I honestly couldn’t think of anything. Then my daughter came up with something really good. I just put on my best poker face and agreed, “Excellent thinking Ashley. What do you think this consequence will teach you?” This often gives our kids a chance to dialogue with us about what they learned.
Which leads me to my next tip…
4. Look for Teaching Moments
Far more important than any punishment is the conversation you have about the punishment. Yes, this is living out Deuteronomy 6, as mentioned yesterday… Talk as you Walk.
Sometimes our kids won’t even realize the danger they’re flirting with on their cell phones. Whenever you encounter a story in the paper about a kid making poor decisions, bring up the story at dinner, and– don’t lecture– just ask questions. “Why do you think this girl got into this situation?” “How could she have avoided this in the first place?” Parents can do the same with a pause button on their remote control when they see one of these teachable moments while watching TV or a movie.
There have been times where my kids have messed up pretty bad and brought natural consequences upon themselves. At times like this, I often just say, “It seems like you’re already facing some pretty nasty natural consequences. I probably don’t need to add any into the mix, do you think?” I can’t remember my kids ever disagreeing with this. So I propose, “Just tell me what you’ve learned from this situation and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.” After discussing this for a while, I sometimes add, “What can I do to help you from getting into this situation again?”
All of these tips are good, but this final tip is essential…
5. Demonstrate Unmistakable Love
The key word here is “unmistakable.” Don’t just assume they know that you love them while you’re yelling at them and taking their phone away for a year! Make it so “unmistakably” obvious that you love them, and your punishment is only to help them avoid veering off course from a path they believe in.
Sometimes we need to really demonstrate a bold-selflessness to model this kind of love. It’s an interesting balance. It’s bold because, we aren’t going to wimp out and let them do whatever they want. But it’s selfless, because we’re willing to invest time and money to help them succeed. This might mean giving up on some of our own activities to hang out with them when they’re grounded. I can remember some great father/son time when my son was grounded from his video games and he hung out with me because there was nothing else to do.
Parents don’t earn popularity points when they punish their kids, but this isn’t about popularity. This is about loving them enough to follow through, and caring about them enough to be there to lift them up when they’re down.
Parenting isn’t easy. Sometimes our kids will continue to push the limits, compelling us to continue enforcing consequences. Don’t give up. Consistency is important. And no matter what, don’t forget #5. If we practice the first four, but have not love, we’re a gong or a clanging symbol (a loose interpretation of I Cor 13).
Lucky for us, the process doesn’t start at “enforcing consequences.” The process starts when our kids are young and we’re helping them choose which road to embark on. All these consequences and guardrails are only as good as the road.
What about You?
What are some methods you’ve used of enforcing consequences with your kids?
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