Promote positive risk-taking with consequences

Over the shoulder of daughter talking to parents in kitchen
Over the shoulder of daughter talking to parents in kitchen

Over the shoulder of daughter talking to parents in kitchen

In deciding to take risks, people weigh up the potential rewards with the consequences. However, consequences aren’t always readily grasped in adolescence. It’s often not until the brain matures around the age of 25 or 26, that we’re able to make choices and fully consider the likely outcomes. That’s why, during the teenage years, it can be good to help them understand consequences and realise that there can be implications of poor behaviours and decisions. By learning about the consequences that result from the decisions they make, you can help your teenager to change negative behaviour.

Setting meaningful consequences with your child

Give your child every opportunity to learn this life lesson successfully by considering the following in setting meaningful consequences.

  • What’s important to you? Help your child understand the values that are important to you and that your job is to keep them safe. If they do something that is in conflict with those values, or is a risk to their safety, there are consequences. For teenagers, using privileges can be effective in setting meaningful consequences.
  • Make a list of privileges. What activities or privileges does your child value? Agree on privileges that will be given up as a consequence of poor behaviour. Will there be an expansion of privileges in response to positive behaviour? Privileges may include access to technology, spending time with friends or doing a favourite activity, 
  • Agree on consequences together. By talking through your values, expectations and consequences you are allowing them to take responsibility for their behaviour, the decisions they make and the consequences of not living up to your expectations.
  • Consequences should relate to the behaviour that you want to change. Consider consequences that give your child opportunity to exercise better self-control and judgment. For example, if they stay out past curfew, the consequence may be that they don’t get to go to the next party they are invited to.
  • Consequences should be consistently applied, and fit the issue. There shouldn’t be room for debate, particularly if the consequences were agreed beforehand. They can be scaled up for repeated misbehaviour or the seriousness of their actions, or scaled down following good behaviour. Consequences should also happen soon after the behaviour, and have a limited timeframe that is clear to everyone.

Teenagers can teach us a lot about ourselves. Unfortunately, when they take negative risks we can respond out of fear, anger and frustration. Your child will know exactly how you’ll react to their poor behaviour. Learn to grow with them by keeping your emotions in check when managing poor decisions and judgment. We were all in their shoes once and we all needed strong, clear guidance. Don’t be too hard on them or yourself while you learn about this together.

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on