Creative Consequences for Teen Behavior: More Independence
Well, you can bet that when I don’t write for over a week that I must have a pretty good excuse. And I sure wish it was a glamorous one like “I was at the Grammys” or “I got invited to the White House”. It’s not even a dramatic reason like, “I was in the hospital all week.” Nope, usually when you don’t hear from me it’s because I’m wiped out from dealing with kid problems, and that is a mild way to describe what we’ve been going through.
I can never usually write about things in as few words as possible but I’m going to try really hard—maybe if I start by summarizing things in list form it will help:
1.) Oldest teen gave all sorts of attitude and sass to Mom while riding home from school one day.
2.) Mom tells teen if that kind of attitude happens again on the ride home tomorrow, teen can get their own transportation back to school at 6 for the school production teen was in (just a background part, by the way, and several of these dancers have had to miss at least one show so if she'd missed it, the world wouldn't have come to an end).
3.) Teen sasses Mom big time on the way home from school the next day, before the car is even out of the parking lot.
4.) Mom takes teen home and says she’s not taking teen to school for the show and goes for a walk, but makes sure that the aravan is behind the “teen car” so teen can’t stupidly try to drive that car because she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet. She could call friends for a ride, walk, or ride her bike.
5.) When Mom (and Dad) return, they discover teen has miraculously backed the car out of the garage, around the aravan and has driven it to school. (Later they learn she also went through the Whataburger drive-thru before she got to school.) After retrieving the car from the school parking lot and bringing it home, Mom and Dad discover that the front end of the car is damaged, the back end, as well as the side of their backyard fence, and that other things have been damaged in daughter’s haste to back out the car, items that were “in the way”.
While it ran through our heads to have the school security guard yank her offstage, Andy chose to be waiting for her in the lobby at the end of the show to deliver the news of her consequences. Many people thought we should have called the police and had them “pull her over”, but we chose not to go that route. We chose to make it as close to a jail at home as we possibly could. In-room grounding (even meals eaten in room), cell phone service cut off, iPod taken away, computer on lockdown. Driving class suspended indefinitely, at least a month, and the online part of the course is about to expire so she’ll have to pay to reinstate it. Volunteer work in the community and extra jobs around the house; once getting her license, she’ll have to have paid for the damages to the car (and fence) or she won’t be driving it.
And how do you think she took these consequences? Contritely, with head down and profuse apologies? Remember, we have a defiant kid here, and things have not been pretty. So as a result, we pulled a couple extracurriculars, and things got worse. “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!!” has been the mantra coming from her. She doesn’t think what she did was that much of a “big deal”.
Just when we were about to give up and throw our hands up in the air from all the turmoil, I had an “ah-hah” moment. It suddenly occurred to me that if this kid is “bucking the system” so hard, she must want some independence. So let’s give it to her, I told Andy. “You don’t like it when we take your extracurriculars away?” we asked her. “Okay, you can have all of them back. But anything that’s not required for a grade or any part of an activity not required, we’re not going to support, not financially or with transportation. You get to own them from now on. You have that freedom now.”
Andy felt like we’d still given up, that she was getting everything handed to her on a plate, but I said, just wait. If we stick to this, she’ll either get more responsible or get even angrier, and I’m ready for either one.
So far, we’ve seen a mixture of both. She’s still mad because she’s still not going to be able to enter an upcoming solo and duet dance competition, and she still doesn’t see that what she did was that big of a deal. But I heard her make a phone call on THE LAND LINE for I think the first time ever the other day, as she arranged for transportation to the Sunday performance of the school show. She stopped demanding that I go buy her supplies to add to her stage makeup because she knew I wouldn’t do it. She packed her own sack dinner because I refused to “make a special trip to bring takeout dinner to her dressing room "like all the other parents do”. And for the first time, yesterday she got herself up early enough to actually come in and wake us up, as Andy had told her she needed to do if she wanted a ride to school.
I may be a fool, but I’m not foolish enough to think this new parenting stance is instantly going to make things better. But at least it is giving us hope. And it sure feels good to unburden ourselves of some tasks and give them to her, which probably should have been done a long time ago.