Does Punishment Really Work with Teens?

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What is the first strategy that comes to mind when your teenager is making you crazy and does something that really wrong and pisses you off? Punish them! Take things away! Ground them for life! Take their phone! Take their car! Am I right? You are really ticked off. You want them to “get it.” You want whatever behavior it is to stop…like yesterday. You want to yell. You want to scream. There is a part of you that wants to evoke some kind of reaction from them that gives an indication that it matters to them that you even object in the first place to whatever they did.

C’mon. Be honest. We have all been guilty of it at one time or another. Well, guess what? I hate to break it to you but the American Academy of Pediatrics says that punishments don’t actually work in the long run. They may stop the immediate behavior at the moment, but really don’t have any long term positive effect. Not to mention the fact that a lot of those punitive actions actually punish you more than they punish the offending teenager. Taking the car potentially means a lot more driving for you. Taking the phone means that you cannot reach them wither when you need them. Etc. Etc. You get what I mean. I am not by any means suggesting that there should never be consequences for poor actions. I am just saying that, as tempting as it is to punish first, it is not as helpful as we think.

Well, if we are not supposed to punish them, what are we supposed to do? What recourse do we have? Do we let our teens walk all over us? The simple answer is no. We just need to consider an alternative strategy that has greater long term benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests discipline strategies instead of verbal or physical punishments to discourage unwanted behaviors.

So, what is the difference between discipline and punishment? Punishments, both physical and verbal, are quick, often knee jerk actions fueled by anger that may stop bad behavior quickly, but do not work over time. Discipline, on the other hand, teaches our teens how to recognize and control their own behavior. Teaching them in this way helps them to learn how to avoid harm later. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends four healthy discipline methods for teens. They are as follows:1) Be a role model for good behavior, 2) Ignore bad behavior or redirect your child away from bad behavior, 3) Set limits and expectations, and 4) Praise good behavior.

I have to say that, while I understand the American Academy of Pediatrics’ concept and the logic behind it, I find it difficult to adhere to 100% of the time. I find that nowadays the underlying intent of the Academy has been somewhat twisted and translated into overly permissive parenting with absolutely no behavioral consequences for children. I think that truly effective parenting must involve some kind of middle ground combination of discipline and punishment, maybe a 80%/20% ratio. At least that is what I am trying at the present.

Dr. Katz

It’s Just a Little Tougher to Bounce Back Nowadays

Wow. I have to say that having cancer has brought about more change than I realized. I think I tried to partition the whole experience in my mind as a discrete entity with a finite beginning and end. It somehow made it easier to trudge through with a positive attitude when visualizing an actual light at the end of the tunnel.

After the end of chemo, I am slowly realizing that, while that visual was helpful, it was not necessarily realistic. My journey did not abruptly end when chemo did. As I have discussed before, there have been many after effects and pitfalls since and I am learning about new ones every day. Each one I try to embrace, while fighting the little chip on my shoulder that I have to deal with it in the first place.

Most recently, I got my first actual illness outside of chemo in the first two and a half years. Yes. It’s true. Now that I think about it, one little-publicized actual positive side effect of the pandemic has been that we all have had less of the regular sick season viruses, etc because we have been wearing our masks, not doing as much, washing our hands, trying to avoid sick people, and not touching our faces as often. Granted, some of these precautions (like hand washing) should not have been new additions to our routine. Nonetheless, they have all contributed to less routine sickness. Anyway, my point is, that I haven’t really been sick in over two years. So, when I got this crappy gi virus, it really through me for a loop. Number one, believe it or not, I wasn’t really used to being sick. ( I get it. That sounds ridiculous considering I just went through cancer and chemo.) Number two, I was that much more stressed out about the repercussions of missing work because the economic strain has been significant from all the previous missed work. Number 3, it hit me a lot harder than I remembered from previous illnesses. Number 3 is what got me the most. I am just not bouncing back as fast I think I should be. There are a lot of reasons why that could be true. One could be my loss of perspective on being sick outside of chemo. Another could be that chemo has left lasting side effects that keep my body from fighting off sickness as well. My kidneys are not working as well so I get dehydrated more easily. My thyroid is still dead so I get fatigued and my metabolism is altered. The list goes on. You get it though right? There are plenty of reasons for me to have trouble bouncing back from regular illness. So, I shouldn’t worry, obsess, and beat myself up about it. But, alas, I do. I get distracted and instead of doing things to help myself get better, I waste time feeling guilty about who I am letting down this time, as if I haven’t left enough people down with all the cancer stuff. It’s kind of a vicious cycle.

So, here’s the thing. What do I do about it? The fact of the matter is I am the only one that can do something about it. NO one is making me feel this way but me. The guilt is all mine. I have to make the decision to accept this one more thing about surviving cancer. There will be changes that last long after the cancer is gone. They are not my fault. They are not my punishment for things done wrong. They just are. I can chose to move forward…or I can chose to be held back by things that I cannot control. I say forward it is. Otherwise, my recent win was all for nothing.

Dr. Katz

Still waitin for the Good Times to Roll.

Man oh man it has been quite the two years. I imagine that is a tagline that applies to millions at this point. It’s not that I am considering myself anything special but my gosh, just how much of a shit show are we all supposed to endure? Is there no end? What is the purpose? Are we being punished? I don’t understand.

Let me break it down for you. In the last two years, there has been an ongoing pandemic, businesses have been shut down, people have died, my daughters have had some major issues, I got cancer, and now my husband is having open heart surgery. I am not in a competition with anyone or anything but sheesh, it feels like a lot. I am not a person to complain per se but after awhile, even I am not immune to the occasional breakdown and thoughts of why me and why us? I start asking stupid questions like Does the universe hate me? Is this some kind of karmic retribution? Why can’t I make sense of this?

Then, I stop a minute, take a breath and try to calm myself. I realize that I am asking the wrong questions. All I am doing is making myself crazy trying to find an explanation or blame. This only leads to frustration, confusion, and anger. It won’t get me anywhere. At some point, I need to let it go and concentrate on moving forward and learning from what has happened. Otherwise, more bad things are bound to happen if I get stuck in a vicious cycle of negativity. That negativity will do nothing but drive more bad decisions and lead to further bad outcomes. I am not saying that we are not allowed to be human. We are allowed to feel sorry for ourselves and have boohoo moments. We just can’t let the boohoo moments define us.

Dr. Katz