To say it’s difficult to parent a teen can be an understatement. Teens are hormonal, defiant, angry, and have emotions that can run all over the place.
With all of this, it can be difficult to hand out consequences to a defiant teen. Especially a teen that comes across as not caring about the consequences at all.
What should your next step be when your teen rolls his eyes and issues an apathetic, “Whatever” or “I don’t care?”
Quite often, these responses are due to your teen feeling powerless over getting the consequence issued. By stating that he doesn’t care about it. He is doing what he feels he needs to regain control.
Much of parenting a teen is a push and pull of control. Knowing how to follow through on consequences can help you to regain control of your home and family.
Following through when teens don’t care about consequences
To help you navigate these types of situations, here are a few tips to help you manage the situation in your home when it comes to issuing consequences.
You don’t need him to care
This can be a difficult thing to accept, but in reality, you don’t need your teen to care about the consequences that are being issued. He needs to learn from the consequences.
It can be frustrating when your teen defiantly blurts out that he doesn’t care when you’re discussing the consequences. Focus more on what you want him to learn versus whether he’s going to care about it. Then, you avoid some of the frustration you’d otherwise feel.
Consequences are not intended to necessarily make your teen buckle and apologize for his poor behavior. They are designed to help your teen learn from his behavior and to adjust his behavior to that which is more appropriate.
Think about getting detention in high school. If you’d rolled your eyes at your teacher and muttered about not caring, it wouldn’t have stopped the teacher from giving you detention. You got detention whether you cared about it or not. The goal of detention was to help you learn from your mistakes to change your behavior.
Adopting that approach with your teen can help you handle his defiant attitude in response to the consequence.
Pick consequences that will mean something
While your teen may have the shoulder shrugging, eye-rolling, “whatever” attitude, you can still pick consequences that will mean something to him.
It can help to prepare a list of consequences before needing them. While this may seem like you’re anticipating your teen’s bad behavior, it’s more about being prepared. The consequences should be effective and have meaning for your teen and you.
For example, if your teen is like most teens, his phone means a lot to him. If he was rude and disrespectful to you, taking his phone away for a day could be an effective consequence. A teen with an active social life may learn from the consequence of missing a party with his friends.
Keep the consequences simple. Make them ultra-clear for your teen. It can also be helpful if he knows ahead of time what to expect. If you’re going to have a conversation about consequences for breaking the household rules, include him in the conversation and have the conversation when things are calm. Bringing them up when things are emotionally charged can lead to further frustration and arguments all around.
Do not include important teen milestones as consequences for your teen’s behavior. Some examples of important milestone events include things like the prom or a big football game he was scheduled to play. This won’t lead to him learning from any mistakes but will likely lead to him resenting you. It can also make it difficult to follow through on the consequences if you know it’s incredibly important to him.
Ensure that all parents are on board
If you and your co-parent no longer live together, it can lead to a situation where your teen thinks he can avoid consequences by staying with the other parent. Discuss behavior expectations and consequences with all other involved parents and grandparents.
Leniency and compromise are great tools but won’t always help your teen learn from the consequences given to him.
Ensuring that all other involved parents are on your side will make you feel less like the bad guy when you’re issuing out the consequences.
Don’t argue or lecture about the consequences
The last thing an argumentative teen needs to hear is a lecture about why he is being punished for a behavior or action.
In the past, he may have found that if he wears you down with an argument that he’ll get his way. While you can applaud his determination, you can’t give in when he needs to alter his behavior and learn from his mistakes.
There is no arguing. There is no negotiating. There is no lecturing. Take his phone away, tell him the details of the consequence, and that is that. Getting drawn into a fight will get you angry, frustrated, and more likely to back down from the consequences.
Keep the communication open
You don’t want to argue with your teen, and you don’t necessarily want to negotiate the terms of the consequences. That said, you should do your part to ensure he knows that you are available if and when he wants to talk.
Quite often, you may find that your teen feels remorseful about his behavior or attitude after he’s struggled with the consequences. It may take some time, but he could recognize that if he does admit his shortcomings and speak with you, there may be a lessening in the severity or length of the consequence.
Don’t shut him down if he wants to speak with you about the terms of his punishment. You aren’t teaching him anything other than he can’t open up to you.
Mental health concerns
If your teen is coming across as apathetic, something deeper may be going on that needs to be addressed.
Get your teen mental health help, whether he is showing the signs of depression or not. The teen years can be a challenge. He’s facing so many changes and challenges and may feel unsupported. Support by way of therapy can prove helpful for any teen, particularly if he’s been struggling and hasn’t effectively communicated it with you.
Therapeutic boarding schools also serve as an option for a teen struggling, displaying inappropriate behavior, and fighting against consequences. Getting your teen into the right supportive environment can help him focus on the issues he’s struggling to manage independently.