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.