The Adulting Parent

If discipline means to teach, what does punishment mean? Meaning: The infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offence. We don’t speed because we don’t want to get a ticket, so a penalty can make sense. The greater reason is not wanting to be a danger to ourselves or others. It comes from a deep sense of responsibility and care.

Punishment, when accompanied by parental anger, is no longer a penalty, it is a violation by the parent. Disrespecting our kid’s boundaries by snatching their phones out of their hands or calling them names such as rude or thoughtless is aggressive and rarely turns out well, especially with a teen. Can you imagine your partner coming home late from golf and taking away his or her golf clubs? “That’s it, no golf for you for two weeks, and if you lip me back, it will be another week!” So what makes us think that this should be effective with kids of any age? It is simply immature, poor behaviour of the parent.

When it comes to teens, arguing and coming out with consequences in the heat of the moment can escalate into aggressive or violent situations. Taking an adult position with your teen means that you are in control of your impulses and reactions. Recognizing when you are flooded with anger is a signal to step back. You can’t be effective from this position, and if you think that this teaches kids a lesson, you are right, it does. It teaches them that you aren’t safe, and you won’t get respect; you’ll get fear.

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True caring comes from the connection that people have with each other. Respect means regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others. True respect comes from a place of being understood and understanding. As an adult, your position is to give understanding to your child first. It doesn’t mean you agree with their perspective; it means completely hearing both their feelings and their story until they know you understand. Then, and only then is it your turn to talk about your feelings of concern and address an issue. When you move forward to resolving the issue, remain open and caring, and you might find that things go a little more smoothly. This is being an adult. Now go about nurturing your teen, they still need this from you. Show rather than tell them what respect is all about.

Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees is a parent educator, counsellor and coach at LIFE Seminars (Living in Families Effectively).