Letting Her Face Consequences
The whole point of punishment and discipline is helping to keep our children safe and teaching them to be good human beings. But what if they keep pushing back? Is there a time when you have to just let them face the sometimes-ugly results of their actions? This can be difficult for a parent, who wants the best for their child, to accept.
You nag and nag and nag and yet, she does not do all her schoolwork. You take away the Internet and television, and still, you see Fs where there could be easy As or at least Bs on her grade list. How far can a parent go to make an adolescent girl comply to the rules of education? This can be a hard one to swallow, but at a certain point in their teen years, it is no longer up to you. Sure, when she was little you could ask for weekly update of what her homework is and what she has missing, but by high school, it's time for her to make her own choices, and face the consequences. When you consider the pressure of getting into college today and the long-term effect a few poor grades can have, this can be a real hard pill for parents to swallow. But swallow it you must.
This is an example of natural consequences. Parents who are brave enough to sometimes let consequences take their course find their children get a valuable life lesson from it, and without Mom or Dad even having to be “the bad guy.”
So you decide she has to find her own way on this one. Don't just let it drop. Explain to her that there will be consequences and “punishments,” just not administered by you. Poor grades can mean expulsion from school teams, and in the end, the lack of ability to get into a college. Point that out and let her know: if she wants to change, you are there to support her in any way (tutors, extra help) when she is ready to change her ways. Good grades could mean inclusion in some special events at school — like special trips her class may take. Rewards come for good work, punishment for poor, and it does not take a parent to dole them out.
Doing a child's schoolwork for her is never an option. Better to let her fall short than to give her a crutch. It's not about you; it's about her learning that there are consequences for poor work and rewards for good.
And what about things like drinking and sex? (More specifics on these issues in Chapter 11 and 12). Here, a parent's main duty is to keep a child safe. But the child who continues to act out even with all the support a family can muster (including restrictions, counseling and even court intervention), parents may reach a point of desperation.
A family is not a democracy. Make sure you don't get swayed by the “it's a free world” and “I can do what I want” argument. You are your child's dictator, and for good reason. Democratic families crumble.
You'll want to first work your hardest to keep your daughter from situations where she can make these poor choices. That can be tough, particularly for dual-full-time-working parents. You cannot always be your daughter's keeper, nor can you completely exclude her from any friends she may have made who you believe contribute to her poor decisions. But you can try. If she continues to make bad choices, intensive counseling is needed. If the friendships are hurting things, you may want to consider a school change. And if that does not work, there may come a time you have to say “She will have to learn the hard way.” Don't make this decision without help — either from a counselor, the courts or a program like “Tough Love” that helps families to work through such times.
In the end, good discipline and just punishments are a true act of love. It may take years (and even decades) for your daughter to see that, but reminding yourself of it daily can help bring you through this time.