Updated: Jul 18, 2019
Our last two blog articles talked about the first two Laws for Parenting a Teenager Lawyer:
Now we get to how to bring it all home with the third law and the last teenage flaw attached to it.
Law and Flaw III
If keeping Law I, control your emotions, and Law II, never using hyperbole, hasn’t worked for you in the past, it was most likely because you didn’t keep Law III: be consistent.
If you say they need to be home at 10pm or else there will be a consequence, then if they get home at 10:07 there needs to be a consequence. No emotions. No hyperbole. Just a natural, appropriate consequence.
If you say they lose their phone for three days then they should lose their phone for three days. Not 2 1/2 . Not 4.
Every parent knows they should be consistent, but does every parent know why? Consistency is tied to Flaw III: teenagers are data reliant.
Teenagers are the best data collectors. They have mental notes that are meticulously kept on when you enforce a punishment and when you don’t, when you care about a rule and when you let them slide, how many times you’ve lost your cool during an argument and how many times you’ve maintained composure.
They’ll use this data to make arguments and counterarguments during a debate. They’ll use it to make choices on how strictly they need to follow certain rules. They’ll also use it to gauge whether or not your newfound emotional control and lack of hyperbole is permanent or a temporary attempt.
Teenage Lawyers don’t trust that change is likely. If the same data has been presented to them over and over again for several years, they are not very confident that it will change in the future.
Collecting data isn’t their flaw. Everybody does that. Their flaw is relying heavily on past data. They use past data on you to justify their behavior and actions. “I don’t need to clean my room like my dad asked, because last time I didn’t do it nothing happened.” Then, when you enforce the consequence, they’ll say, “this is so unfair!”
Relying on past data to make future assumptions is actually another logical fallacy, generalization by induction. “The sun has risen everyday for my whole life, therefore it’s going to rise tomorrow.” This form of reasoning works until it doesn’t work. Tomorrow could be the day the sun burns out. Tomorrow a meteor may hit earth, knocking us out of orbit.
While such celestial changes are extreme (and unlikely), changes of the mind are not. A parent who has spent three years losing their temper with their teenage child may decide to change their approach one day after reading a series of persuasive (and well-written) articles. To the parent, it is a reasonable and natural change. To the Teenage Lawyer, it’s a change of cosmic proportions and, therefore, is unlikely.
Do not be discouraged if your newfound adherence to all three Laws aren’t giving you the results you want right away. Your Teenage Lawyer needs time to collect new and consistent data. Be assured that as you control your emotions, avoid hyperbole, and are consistent you will start to see the biggest change possible, a change in you.
Because while keeping these laws will help you work with the flaws of your child, it won’t necessarily get them to do what you want them to do. That is still up to them.
Teenage lawyers are defense attorneys. They must defend the accused, themselves, at all costs. That may mean they hold the court in contempt. You, though, as both the judge and prosecuting attorney must never hold the court in contempt. You are the court. And like Lady Justice, you must also wear a blindfold that will stop you from casting judgement on your teen that will lead you to useless, ineffective emotions.
How do you do this? By managing your mind.
When your teenager breaks a rule, pitches a fit, or crosses the line, one clear, purposeful train of thought can make all the difference in helping you stay calm:
“They are supposed to be like this...this is normal...this is how they learn...and it’s my job to teach them.”
For more on being consistent in your parenting, check out this article on Empowering Parents.