When Taking Away the Phone Doesn’t Work, Try These 4 Things
Teens love their phones, so taking them away is the perfect punishment, right? Wrong! Taking away the phone doesn’t seem to have any effect on changing a teen’s behavior, especially one that shows a pattern of defiance. It could be because they can always use a computer or someone else’s phone instead. Or maybe it’s because the phone punishment is completely unrelated to the problem. Either way, here’s four tips to more effective consequences than taking the phone.
Have a Family Meeting
It’s much better to call a meeting to discuss the problem and why it happened than it is to remove the phone. If the phone is taken away without explanation, the teen misses out on a learning experience and might fail to recognize that what they did was wrong. Instead, they will probably just focus on when they can get their phone back and might repeat the offensive behavior since they know the consequences will be the same.
Express your Concern
Showing your teen that you are disappointed or concerned about them is more effective than showing anger by taking away the phone. When a teen realizes that their parents are let down by their actions, they are more likely to take that to heart than if their parents react with spite. Taking away the phone will make the teen resent the parents even more and could encourage them to fight or rebel. Meanwhile, allowing your teen to keep their privileges, but expressing concern, might encourage the teen rethink their actions and consider ways to avoid making Mom and Dad worry.
Restrict the Phone Indefinitely
Instead of taking away the phone, you might consider installing restrictive software or activating parental controls. This way, your teen still has some access to their phone in case of emergencies, but you don’t have to make a timeline for when they can get full access back. You can leave the restrictions on their phone for weeks or months until your teen shows improvement in their behavior. Perhaps you set their phone to only work for a few hours a day, this way you can show your teen that full access requires a certain level of responsibility that they have to prove to earn back.
Don’t be Predictable
If your teen can predict that you will take their phone away from any offense, whether it’s missing curfew or getting a bad grade, they won’t learn how to change their behavior and will just accept the loss of a phone without a second thought. If you can make a consequence that is natural and fitting for their mistakes, they can become learning opportunities. For example, if your teen drives home past curfew, you can take away their car for the next night. If they are fighting with a sibling over who gets to use the TV, no one gets to use the TV until they stop fighting. If you make a unique consequence for each problem, your teen will change their behavior to avoid the new consequences instead of learning how to deal with the same punishment of losing their phone.
The Phone Isn’t the Answer
But now you have four other options that might solve the problem with your teen’s behavior. Finding out why your teen acted out, sharing how it made you feel, or finding a more fitting consequence are all super useful strategies. It might take a few tries to discover what is the most effective for your teen, but each of these methods works better than taking away the phone.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.
For more parenting resources, see this section of our website.