Natural consequences aren’t easy, but who said parenting was supposed to be easy? Having a one-size-fits-all consequence doesn’t achieve the same effect as natural consequences can. Teens don’t need someone to bail them out of the problems they’ve caused themselves; they need to feel the heat.
Maybe your teen gets a certain amount of money per month to pay for school lunches. And
they lost it. Or spent it all on junk food the first week. Will it be more effective to ground them for a weekend and give them only weekly allotments from then on, or to require them to figure out a way to earn money for the rest of the month and then expect them to make the next month’s allotment last?
Enduring the natural consequences from such a minor financial mistake will be far less damaging than accruing mounds of credit card debt. The experience will probably be more memorable than a typical punishment, and hopefully it will be remembered in the future. It may seem cruel now, but it’s actually gracious to allow our teens to face the consequence of poor choices, right now.
Instead of pleading with your child’s teacher to allow for a re-test or extension on a project, why not let them fail? I know, I know, it would be embarrassing for them to get kicked off the team or have to repeat the class. Or miss out on honors or the opportunity for a scholarship. But what will they learn if you bail them out?
Taking a step back even further, instead of nagging your child about studying or working on a project, you can remind them of the consequences of failure: being kicked off sports teams, grounded until grades get back up, etc.
But if your teen knows you’ll intervene and find a way for them to make it up, they’re actually learning the opposite of what you want — and what will motivate them to work hard in the future. Let them fail, and they’ll learn to take ownership for their actions.
There’s definitely a time when parents need to step in here, but I’m afraid we usually step in too soon, or too often. If others don’t want to include our kids in social activities because of their unkind, selfish, or just plain strange behavior, we need to explain how friendships work. But if they don’t treat others well and have to endure the consequences of not getting invited or included, that’s just how it goes.
As adults, you won’t be able to force others to like your kids, so why not start now by helping them realize the way people operate. Sometimes peers are insensitive or just plain mean, but that’s life, too. You can help your teen learn how to make new friends and treat them well instead of looking to certain kids for approval.
As you try to keep yourself from reaching in and rescuing your kids from hardship, just remember the kind of self-confidence and discipline they’ll reap later on.