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My tween son doesn’t care about consequences. How do I make them effective?


When I give my preteen son a consequence for negative behavior, he doesn’t seem to care and usually just gets angry. So his negative behaviors continue and we fight all the time. What can I do to make consequences more effective?


Tween Consequences

The first part of having your son earn consequences when he misbehaves involves making sure the consequences you use are meaningful to him. That means identifying privileges that are important to him and chores he doesn't like to do. If you take away those privileges or add those chores in response to his negative behaviors, he eventually should be motivated to reduce or stop his negative behaviors in order to avoid those consequences. In other words, going without those privileges and doing those extra chores becomes too painful for him and his only option is to change his behavior.

Also, the size and length of the consequence you use should match the severity of his negative behaviors. For example, taking away the privilege of playing video games for one day when your son refuses to follow an instruction would be reasonable. But having him do everyone's laundry for a week would be too much and probably would make him feel that you're not being fair in your discipline.

Some other things to consider are how you deliver a consequence and how you follow up. Let's say your son gets mad and calls you a name. If you immediately respond by shouting, "You are grounded from your soccer game tonight!", it's very likely he'll respond by getting angrier. A better approach might be using some empathy and giving him some time to calm down before you address the behavior. You could say, "I can see you are really upset right now. Please go to your room and calm down for a few minutes. Then we'll talk." After he calms down, explain what he did (called you a name), tell him what consequence he earned for using that behavior (he must apologize to you and help you with a chore) and teach and practice a different behavior he can use in the future (walk away and take a few deep breaths or go to his room when he starts feeling angry). 

One more thing:  Make sure you use praise and positive consequences to reward your son when he uses positive behaviors. If you give him only negative consequences, he'll feel like you only notice his negative behaviors and he won't have any motivation to use positive behaviors.

It's natural for kids to not like getting a consequence when they misbehave. But by constantly using meaningful, fair consequences and teaching alternative positive behaviors, you'll help your son understand the connection between how he behaves and what happens to him as a result of his behaviors.