Punishment and Rewards: Which is Better for the Typical Teen? [Teen Article]

Tyler is a 16-year-old from Denver, CO. She enjoys reading and traveling, one day she would like to pursue a career in Business Management.

Punishing and rewarding teens

Take a typical situation. Every once in a while at my school, teenagers are given a standard multiple-choice test. Across the room teenagers are trying their best to look composed, sharpening their pencils, or are going over key ideas in their heads. But if you look closer, you will see a kid who is on the verge of a panic attack because he is horrified about the idea of failing and bringing home that inevitable progress report to his parents. Two seats from him, you will see a girl bragging as she gushes about the new designer handbag her parents promised they will get her if she does well on the exam.

Something is wrong with both of these parental structures. Some teenagers are born to the parents who will give them harsh punishments if they do not abide by the rules. Other teenagers are showered with rewards when they simply do the right thing. The question is this. Who is living the better life?

A parent has the option of giving their teen something every time they do something right. Sure, the parent is pleased that the teen is doing what they asked and the teenager is ecstatic because he or she finally got something that he wanted. However, taking this approach for a teen to follow the rules is not always healthy. This doesn’t mean that teenagers should never be given presents. Teenagers love being acknowledged when they have done something right when they are working hard, and it will push them to work harder. But would they still strive to do the right thing if the parents weren’t buying them a new thing every time? If the answer is no, in my opinion it has gotten to the point where the teenager literally has to be bribed every time, and it has gone too far.

Teenagers should be old enough to make the right decision on his or her own. Hence, this serves as a roadblock for a teenager to reach higher levels of maturity. How good can it be doing the teen if in the back of his mind, all he is asking himself is, “what’s in it for me?” They will start to lose a sense of doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. This addicting habit can have other setbacks such as creating an egotistical teen. A teenager could begin to stomp their feet every time they do not have a shiny prize awaiting them when they did something “good.” Or they could become unwilling to help others out of the goodness of their heart.

There is also a different side of the story. There are the teenagers who are terrified of making a mistake because of the harsh punishments that they will receive from their parents. Nothing will make a teenager more distraught over a situation if they know that they will get grounded or something taken away from him if things do not go as planned. This creates a lot of unneeded stress and makes the teenage years even harder than they already are. The teenager is trying hard enough, the added pressure is not always necessary. We’re going to have a misstep every once in a while. Having parents breathing down a teenager’s neck only escalates the situation. Making a teenager fearful of making a mistake can lead to insecurity issues and can make them lead an unhappy life. This is able to push the teenager farther away from their parents because they will feel afraid to approach them.

So who is living the better life? The teenager afraid of making a mistake or the teenager who always has his or her hand reached out for a reward? The answer is all of the teenagers in the middle. For instance, if you want your child to get good grades, teach him or her the importance of striving in school in order to have him benefit later in life. Don’t terrify him about failing and don’t bribe him with incentives.

He or she will learn on his own about making good marks, helping around the house, being responsible, etc. They’ll live a happier life and the parent will have an easier time coaching them right from wrong. Bribery and blackmailing will only make a parent and teen situation worse. For disciplinary actions to work, there has to be a healthy relationship without parents giving in to the obvious choices.

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One Response to “Punishment and Rewards: Which is Better for the Typical Teen? [Teen Article]”

  1. Dad Blog
    July 24, 2009 at 8:18 am #

    It is so true that every kid needs to make mistakes. The best thing is to learn from your own mistakes and others.

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