Parenting Teenagers, Part 2: Effective Consequences

Gavel iStock PicAnother best practice we stumbled upon in the teenage years revolved around appropriate punishments. We found the most effective consequences tended to be those that “fit” the offense.

Let me just throw out a scenario. I have a friend whose son decided it would be fun to sneak out with some buddies while at their church’s student camp. The leaders got wind of the plan and sat down with the boys, had a chat, and asked them to reconsider. The boys agreed that they wouldn’t sneak out. However, as soon as the leaders fell asleep, the boys headed out. After a Waffle House meal down the street, they walked out of the restaurant, and guess who was waiting? The student pastor—and he was not happy!

Not only had the boys broken the rules; they had put a big chink in the trust their small group leaders had in them.

Now, the parents of this young man had a decision to make. What was the best way to handle the situation so that maximum learning would take place? How could the heart of the boy be impacted in such a way that he would desire to make better choices, not out of fear, but out of changed thinking. What could contribute to a growing desire to honor God, others, and the future he’d like to have?

Obviously, one set of consequences wouldn’t accomplish all of that, but what consequence for that offense would at least move the needle in that direction? In this case, the decision was made for the young man to take each of his small group leaders to a Saturday morning breakfast, pick up the tab, and begin rebuilding the trust and the relationships.

Taking car keys for a couple weeks, or “grounding” could certainly have been options for punishment, but would have been far less effective. For a 16-year-old boy, giving up a couple of free Saturday mornings, spending some hard-earned minimum-wage money, and humbling himself were far more effective. An added benefit was the one-on-one time when his small group leaders could pour some of their wisdom and influence into his life.

As you’re navigating parenting in the teen years, take time to carefully consider the best consequences for a particular offense. Even if you have to tell your teen that you need some time to think it through before communicating your decision, take the time. Prayerfully ask God to lead you to the consequence that doesn’t just punish, but causes your son or daughter to take a step toward changed thinking and better decision making.


  1. says

    I LOVE this series. Please keep writing it (and then write the book!). I have a twelve year old and we are dipping are toes into the water of a new approach to parenting. My self-imposed pressure of feeling like I’m going to drop the ball and allow her to become entitled or hover and suffocate or be to harsh and crush her spirit – is maddening. I keep coming back to the principles in Future Family and wanting to be sure that someday she will want to come home and still have a tight bond when she is an adult is my primary aim. In the day to day practical working out of that between sibling fights and navigating electronics, it can be easy to forget that aim. Such a tightrope. I appreciate your encouragement!

  2. says

    I love the wisdom, patience and love that is communicated through this. Taking the car keys would be far easier but instead, investing time and effort is really what is needed. My three are babies right now (4, 20 months and 4 months) so I hope you will keep writing and I can keep soaking all of this up and storing it til the appropriate time! 🙂

  3. Tifani Thompson says

    We are soaking this all in!! What a sweet story about the 16yr old having to take his leaders out for breakfast. Such a successful and wonderful way to mend the relationships, with also leaders being able to pour more wisdom into the boy’s heart. So neat! Love it! Our prayer will always be to creatively discipline in this awesome sweet way,,,,as we also have the more helpful examples from you:):) Our nine year old prays your wisdom courage prayer every-night, and she ends it with “we will be praying this prayer our whole life Jesus”. Makes me just smile! We Love in ‘Future You’ how Pastor Andy kept sharing with all the hundreds of high-schoolers how they have the chance to get it right the first time. We want that instilled in our girl’s hearts! God has awesome plans for all His children!!:):) The ‘Future You’ message will also be a huge part of our girl’s lives and our home:):) We love it!!! Thank you for this ‘Part 2’ posting.

  4. Karen says

    LOVE this. Our “men” are now grown, but we were always looking for ways to creatively guide them.

    My hubby blogged for a while at The posts are still up and the principles still applicable for parents!

  5. says

    Sandra, yes, please keep writing! I’m going to print these to keep. I have a 21 month old and would love advice on how to parent through the toddler/preschool years to lay a firm foundation. Also, how do you limit things they’re exposed to in our culture without restricting them so much that all they want to do when they get older is exactly what you’ve restricted them from? i.e. – TV, movies, dress, music. I’d love it if you wrote a book too! Thank you!! 🙂

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