Have you ever heard about creative discipline? It is really an excellent way to handle problems with a teenager. Oh sure, we have all heard about the usual punishments (extra chores, removal of privileges or things, making the child write an essay …). But a lot of times this earns you nothing more than resentment and makes a rebellious teenager become more secretive.
So, now it’s time to grab the bull by the horns and find a creative way to deal with a situation. The best way for you to understand what I am talking about is to give you two creative discipline examples—from personal experience.
When our teenage daughter began attending high school functions and dances, I simply asked her to tell us when the function ended and then we would decide when I should pick her up near the end of the event. But despite our caring efforts to assure her freedom, while still staying in control, we repeatedly failed. The outcome usually consisted of me sitting in the car, waiting for her to emerge from the building. Since these functions often stretched in to the night, I was obviously upset, when I had to spend a long time sitting out in the car, while our daughter was inside having fun, totally ignoring our agreed meet-up time. However, stern discussions and warnings fell upon deaf ears, and the scenario repeated itself several more times, leaving me frustrated.
It was the spring dance at the local high school and our teenage daughter was excited to attend. As usual, we had set a reasonable curfew, despite the fact that the dance lasted an hour past the agreed time. I arrived at the school a few minutes later then agreed, so as to give her enough time to leave the dance and walk out to the parking lot. Nonetheless, more than twenty minutes passed as I was sitting in the car. Since it was late in the evening, I had already changed into my night gown, robe and slippers, and had put a few rollers in to my hair, just as during all the other times when I had to pick her up that late at night. Our home was only a ten-minute drive from the high school. So, for a quick trip, I really did not want to get dressed again and fix my hair. After all, it was dark and our truck had tinted windows. Even if another parent were to see me, I was sure they would understand. After all, I was not out to impress anybody.
When ten additional minutes had passed, it finally came to me. The solution that was sure to get my point across. So I marched right in to the school and headed for the lunch room, where the dance was in full swing. The lunch room had been transformed in to a magical dance hall, with a disco ball, blinking lights and decorations. I took a deep breath and pushed open the door to enter the dance. The music was loud and the room was filled with happy dancing and chatting students. A quick glance around did not reveal the whereabouts of our daughter. This now forced me to cross the crowded room, in my robe, slippers and curlers in my hair. Instead of feeling self-conscious, I began to call for our daughter, as I passed shocked and giggling teenagers, many of whom knew me as well as our daughter. (I had worked as a substitute teacher on several occasions.) Shortly after I began calling her first and last name, I located her on the other side of the room, flirting with a handsome young man. The young man spotted me before she did and had a horrified expression on his face. And then, my daughter noticed me.
By now, a small circle of curious onlookers had formed around us, no doubt wanting to see me blow up and scold her. But I simply said, “It seems you have overlooked the time, Silly. Let’s go.” Even as her mother, I never knew that my daughter was capable of turning that particular shade of red. Our daughter never failed to be on time for agreed pickups, after that. It was no longer necessary to dole out punishment for curfew violations. Mom had won the battle.
Now, on to my next example of creative punishment. Our teenage son had begun his rebellious stage of life. He was quick to argue and blow up when he did not get his way. Despite numerous punishments of lost privileges and groundings, he had no problem mouthing off to me in public. And thus the following incident took place.
On a busy Saturday at Walmart, our teenage son begged me to purchase a video game that he claimed his friends already owned. Since it was on sale, I allowed him to bring it up to me at the electronics counter. Before I had a chance to further examine the game, the cashier informed me that the game was rated R-17. Thanking him for that information, I asked him why the game had such a rating? The man kindly informed me that this particular game featured extreme violence. Since we also had two very young children at home, I decided not to purchase the game before speaking with my husband. I explained this to our son.
However, our teenage son became enraged, and in front of the cashier and dozens of customers blew up at me, shouting, ranting and raving, before storming off. Needless to say, I was embarrassed and hurt. Inside I was fuming with anger, but tried to calm down while continuing my shopping.
It was not ten minutes later that I found him flirting with two young lady classmates. I could tell that he was trying to act cool, so as to impress the ladies. Then it came to me in a flash. I was about to give him a taste of his own medicine. In my shopping cart were two packs of boy’s underwear that I was actually buying for our four-year-old son. Since our son had his back turned to me, I was able to sneak up to him, and then loudly asked him “Son, do you want the Superman underwear again, or do you want me to get the Ninja Turtle ones this time, as they will match the bedsheets?” He actually no longer owned Ninja Turtle bed sheets, but how would he explain this to the two young ladies.
The two young ladies busted out laughing while our son stood in front of me with a horrified expression. While the two young ladies walked off, our son just slithered behind me and remained there quietly until we got to the car.
On the way home he explained to me that what I had done was truly embarrassing to him. “So,” I said, “Just like you embarrassed me in front of all those customers— by blowing up?” He sank his head and softly added, “Okay mom, you made your point and I got it. I’m sorry. But please don’t do stuff like that again, you are going to make me look like a geek.” I agreed with him and added “Son, you made me look like a bad parent, a reputation far worse than looking like a geek at school.” It was a great way to teach him a little more respect, and it really worked.
Once again I had triumphed while also teaching a valuable lesson. There is a great difference between punishment and effective discipline. As adults, we need to find more intelligent ways to teach our lessons then just grounding our children or removing privileges. Those are temporary inconvenience for our children, but do they really learn from such punishment. Let’s make the punishment a lesson and not just a temporary inconvenience. Hail effective parenting.
Oh, and I should mention that the high school dance situation made me a parental legend. A while back, I ran into a former classmate of our (now grown up and married) daughter. He greeted me with “Mrs. Everitt, I almost didn’t recognize you without your robe and bunny slippers.”