As a teacher some of us are taught that there is a time-out for teenagers. It works similarly to a regular time-out but comes with a little logic. This process works for me a lot in class and with teenagers in my youth group. It's simple and about giving the kid time to recognize what they've done and come up with their own punishment or as I like to call it... natural consequences to choices.
Here's how it works:
- Think about it. If you're at home have the child sit alone at the dining room table or anywhere else they will not be able to talk to somebody. Do NOT send them to their room to call/text/email friends. If you're at church have them sit in a room by themselves or outside the classroom. "Think about why you're here. I'll be back to talk about it." This gives them time to think or calm down if necessary.
- Talk about it. "Let's talk." Sit down with the child and say, "Why are we here?" If they respond with sarcasm say something like, "Make yourself comfortable here for a while longer and I'll come back when you're ready to talk." Most of the time they'll change their attitude but if they don't have them sit there for 10-15 minutes before you check in again.
- Take responsibility for it. "What's going on? Why are we here?" They always know what they did wrong but may not be willing to admit it... yet. If not give them a few hints. "Chances are it could be your attitude or your behavior. What do you think?" It may take a few more minutes of contemplation for them to realize it would be better for them to talk than sit there all day. Once they own it, "Why do you think that was a problem?"
- Make it right. There are really only two options: A problem with another kid or a problem with an adult, either way they need to find a way to fix what they broke. "How can you fix it?" "What do you think the consequence of that should be?" The consequence should be related to the offense be agreed upon by both the child and the adult. If the option isn't really going to fix it respond with, "How will that work? or How will that make it right?" If necessary you can just tell them, "I don't think that's going to work for me. Think a little longer. I'll be back." When the issue is rebuilding trust they need to understand how difficult it is to rebuild.
- Encourage. "I don't know" is never an appropriate response it just means they need more time to think or a few suggestions. Be encouraging about their ability to make it right. "I know you can figure it out." Keep thinking. When they come up with an appropriate consequence respond positively. "That sounds like a good plan. Good work!" "Good idea. Is there something I can do to help?" "Let me know how it goes.
- Follow Up! Make sure they follow through with the plan on how to make it right.
Sample ideas for fixing it (remember that the consequence should relate to the offense):
- Apologize in person.
- Clean it up.
- Admit to the owner you took it, broke it, etc.
- Admit what you did to your parents.
- Replace it.
- Create a plan so it doesn't happen again.
- No electronics for a week or two.
- Not being able to use the car.
- Not being allowed to drive to social events.
- Limited computer usage.
- Not doing something without a chaperone.