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Teen Brothers Are a Handful at Home

Question:

I have two boys, 13 and 15. It is a constant challenge and battle to get them to do daily chores and to respect their father and me. It doesn't seem to matter how many times we ask them to do something, it doesn't get done unless we yell at them. We take away their phones and their X-Box and ground them to their rooms, but nothing seems to faze them. I need help. I am ready to throw in the towel and just give up completely. Can you please offer some insight?

Answer:

Parenting is a tough job, and parents continually have to try new strategies to mold and shape their children for success. 

You mentioned that you have used consequences, but that tactic is not working. Effective consequences have certain characteristics: They must be meaningful to your sons, occur immediately after and be related to the misbehavior, be contingent on the behavior and be appropriate in size and severity. We always recommend that parents start by using the smallest consequence that they think will effectively change their child’s behavior. If you use your biggest consequences right away, you have no way to increase the consequences if the negative behavior continues. 

It may be a good idea at this point to go back to the basics. Take time to write down your expectations for your sons. Be sure this includes chores, social skills and academic performance. Then write down their privileges. These should include the use of electronics like computers, television and phones. They also should include spending time with friends and having snacks. When you get all of this written down, discuss your expectations to your sons. Let them know that when they meet your expectations, they will be able to use the privileges listed… and if they do not, they will lose one or more of their privileges.

To improve communication and your relationship, we encourage you to catch your kids being good. Try to find the good things they do and praise them. It helps to look for good behavior in three areas: things your kids do well and you take for granted; small improvements in the behavior you want to see; and your children’s attempts at using new skills. Let them know that you notice the good things they do, not just the bad things.

If your children only hear your voice when you are being critical, they will soon tune you out completely. Switch it around and strive to notice and praise the good things your sons do four times more than you criticize them for the bad things.

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