For decades, the parenting experts at Boys Town have become uniquely experienced in allocating discipline for an infinite variety of misbehaviors in adolescents. It is through experience that teaches a certain way to approach discipline that is more effective than simply reacting in the moment out of anger or emotion.
We call it the S.A.N.E. approach:
- Small consequences are better.
- Avoid punishing yourself (e.g. taking away your teen’s car privileges only to have to drive him or her everywhere for two weeks).
- Never abuse your child with a consequence.
- Effective consequences are consistent consequences.
The example we often give is that of a dispassionate cop. Think about it: When you’re pulled over for speeding by the Highway Patrol, the officer doesn’t arrest you and throw you in jail. He doesn’t keep you detained on the side of the road so that he can’t go about his job. He doesn’t yell at you or physically assault you. He simply issues you the same ticket he’ll issue to the next person who speeds. Why? Because experience has taught law enforcement that this is the best way to achieve a particular result. That’s why he merely asks for your license, registration and proof of insurance, tells you what you did wrong and issues you a ticket.
A similar approach is useful when it comes to dealing with tantrums or general defiance in toddlers — or rule-breaking in tweens and teens.
Instead of becoming angry, raising your voice and becoming threatening, simply react as the cop would: specify the violation, describe the penalty (the “ticket”) and move on. If your child decides to be defiant or to otherwise escalate the situation, simply increase the severity of the consequence in an appropriate manner. Eventually, he or she will learn that this escalation only makes things worse.
It should be mentioned at this point that it is critically important to set expectations as to what the rules are in the first place. You cannot effectively discipline a child for breaking a rule that he or she did not know existed in the first place. This would not only be unfair to the child, it also undermines your authority by making you look weak and unprepared.
So if you’re having trouble dealing with tantrum-throwing toddlers or defiant teens, consider following the S.A.N.E. approach. It’s been highly effective at Boys Town for many years. And if it can work here, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll work in your home too. Also, check out our free Parenting Email Series to help you with your parenting challenges.