Monday, January 18, 2010

Writing Instead of Grounding

Once children are tweens or teens, many parents ground their children as a generic consequence to misbehavior. The hope is that by requiring teens to stay at home and not be with friends, teens will learn to make better choices. However, teens are probably more likely to spend their time thinking about how to not get caught in the future!

An approach which is more likely to encourage teens to learn from a poor choice is to ask them to write about it. One dad explained how he used this technique with his son, Tim. Tim had gone to the movie theater with friends but when they got there the movie was sold out so they decided to walk to a nearby park and hang out instead. The dad was upset because Tim had failed to update him on his plans and he was worried when Tim didn’t come home after the movie.

Instead of grounding him, the dad asked Tim to write about the situation answering questions like:
  • What was the sequence of events that happened?
  • What influenced your actions?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What type of amends do you think you should make for this situation?
The dad explained that he would decide on any further consequences based on Tim’s reflection.

Struggling to write down the answers to these types of tough questions can help teens learn from their poor choices. While they may be tempted to blame others for their actions, the goal of this exercise is for them to realize their own role in the situation and take responsibility for the results of their actions.

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