How talk so teens… Chapter 3: To punish or not to punish

The punishment… Subject of controversy.
To differentiate between punishment and consequence, for some, it’s only semantics. But when you look a bit more into it, you realize it really isn’t.
We’ve already discussed this question How to talk so kids… in Chapter 3 on punishment.

This time, we’re talking specifically of the teenager, but the principle is the same.


The message is not « I have all powers over you. » (Message sent when you punish, especially a teenager), but: « I’m on your side, let’s raise the bar. »
A different communication, to pass the responsibility onto the child. A stronger message to avoid the situation coming back, without sending the message that he’s a bad person. Always remain respectful.
It is more difficult than to punish the child, but better to force him to assume responsibility. Because by punishing, we enable him to ignore what hes done, and focus on his resentment against us. In fact, it deprives him of his work of taking responsibility.
Thus, by punishing, we may stop the behavior, but we dont allow children to self-correct.

Why is it so hard to change our punishments in consequences? Because there are situations for which there is no consequence. So the parent is frustrated at no being able to really react…
But is it necessary to react? Only seeing the result of his actions is sometimes enough.
In any case, the important steps are:
Express feelings
Express your expectations
Indicate a way to repair
Give a choice
Take action

And if that’s not enough, or if the situation repeats, move to the next phase of conflict resolution (already addressed in How to talk so kids… but thoroughly detailed in this one, in the  next chapter.)

An article to go further on the difference between punishment and consequence:

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