How to help teenagers learn from mistakes

Parenting expert and author Michael Riera, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to help their teenage child truly learn from their mistakes
How to Help Teenagers Truly Learn from Mistakes
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How to help teenagers learn from mistakes

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When kids get into trouble, one of the first thing parents go to is consequence as if there’s some magic thing that when you come up with the right consequences will never happen again. I think we need to put it in a bigger picture. First of all, we need to become when we deliver the consequence so when something happens, it doesn’t mean you have to have the consequence ready right away. It’s fair to say, “I need to think about this for a while.” It’s fair to say, “Why don’t you think about what we should do?” The reality is the consequence gets their attention. If the consequence is too severe, they get resentful and they don’t learn from it. I believe the consequence should naturally follow what they’ve done. If they came home late by an hour, the next day, they owe you an hour’s worth of time because you stayed up for that hour or they’re probably be grounded for a night and they probably can't use the car for a while but they might have to do some sort of chore for you - wash the car, cut the lawn, do something in the kitchen. I really believe consequences are best when kids have to do something. They actually have to be involved as oppose to taking things away because this is the way they earn forgiveness. They earn their way back into the well-being of the family rather than just having something taken away from them. But the key is once the consequence is there, they came home late and you said, “Okay, tomorrow you're going to have to give us an hour and wash the car” or whatever it is. It’s important, the next step is the part that most parents leave out which is to look at them and say, “Look. When you realize you were going to be late, was there some part of you that said call home, bad idea, figure out a way to get home on time?” After they’ve been caught, after the consequences in place, 99% of the kids will go, “Yeah. There was this little part that said that I should’ve called.” Now, you're going to change the game. You basically metaphorically come around the side of them and say, “So, what’ve gotten in the way of you listening to yourself” and they’ll say, “What?” What’ve gotten in the way of you listening to yourself? There’s a part of you that knew exactly what to do but you didn’t listen to yourself. What stopped you from listening to yourself? At which point, they again and this is narcissism in the adolescence that we play with. They become fascinating to themselves. Why didn’t I do that? Eventually, they’ll come up with some answer. “Because Jackie would’ve made fun of me” or something other. It’s kind of a light answer. The last thing we want to say to them is “Bottomline, you’ve got that part of you that always knows what’s right. I want you to learn to listen to it. The better you listen to that, the better off you're going to be. That's the end of it. No lecture. No heavy duty about the consequence. Empowering them. Knowing that they're going to leave the home at some point and that voice has to be strong with them and this is the way we reinforce the voice rather to get lost in the consequence.

Parenting expert and author Michael Riera, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to help their teenage child truly learn from their mistakes

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Michael Riera, PhD

Head Of School, Brentwood School

Michael Riera, PhD, Educator, Author, Media Personality, and Speaker. Michael Riera is the Head of School at the Brentwood School, best-selling author, award-winning columnist, educator, television commentator, and national speaker on issues of children, adolescents, families, and parenting. Mike is the author of Right From Wrong: instilling a Sense of integrity in Our Children, Field Guide to the American Teenager, Uncommon Sense For Parents With Teenagers, and Surviving High School. His most recent book, Staying Connected To Your Teenager, was launched with three appearances on Oprah! For eight years he was the Family Consultant for CBS The Saturday Morning Early Show and also hosted an award winning television show on the Oxygen Network, Life in Progress, as well as his own daily radio show, Family Talk with Dr. Mike. Mike has worked in schools for over 20 years as a head of school, counselor, dean of students, teacher and consultant. 

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