DEAR COACH RICHIE: Will punishment get my teenager to listen. My daughter is 18 and moved in with her father about 8 months ago, she still has a year and half to go in school. I took her Car away for about 3 months because I’ve paid for an oil change twice that she never got. I just gave it back to her this weekend after getting her to clean it out and get the oil change which I paid for. I want to help the child out in life so I let her take the car back and was going to gift it to her in December.
But I got a call from the school she’s missed 14 days straight. Only showing up two of those days for partial days. she has an excuse that she doesn’t feel well and she’s been sick, but 14 days. Should I take the car back. I didn’t know that I gave it back to her. she’s 18 and could drop out if she wants even though I don’t want that for her. Should I give her the car and wish her well and let her figure out life’s not that easy on her own, and maybe if nothing else she’ll have a car to go to work when she drops out, or should I take the car back yet again. I’ve asked family and they say they don’t know what they would do.
COACH RICHIE: No to your question. Will punishment get my teenager to listen. They never do what we want them to do. They have no idea that we have their best interest at heart. In this type of situation we have 2 options. We can give them the car with no strings attached or give them the car with a lot of strings attached. ie doing what we believe they are supposed to do. When we give them things with strings attached it is really not a gift. It is a rental providing they do things we want them to do. So it is not really a gift more than it is is a way to control them to do the things we want them to do. I gave both my son cars and washed my hands of it. That is it. I don’t care if they robbed banks with the cars.
They pay for insurance,oil changes, gas, brake downs, tows, etc. It is an opportunity for them to learn some life lessons. Let them figure things out. My son called me once from the highway with a flat tire (he was 17). I could of jumped in the car to rescue him. My wife and I did that in the past (a lot). This time I chose to use it as a teaching opportunity. He was in crisis and panicking. I asked him if he was hurt, bleeding was his leg ripped off? He said no. Then I asked him what he thinks he should do in this moment. Then gave him some time to think. He said. “Well I could call AAA“. He did and made it home. That was a teaching opportunity that would have been lost if I had jumped into the car to rescue him. Did that one before and the calls kept coming. Once I asked him what he should do. He became more resourceful and never called me for a car problem again.
Why do we want to setup ourselves and them for failure when we put conditions on things we want to give them. The question you need to ask ourselves. Do we want to give them the car no matter what else they do or don’t do? Am I giving her this car so I can control her behavior and make her do things she really doesn’t want to do? As parents we sometimes do things we think are the best interest for our children. However, they see it as control and sometimes that is exactly what we are trying to do to them in an innocent sort of way. We tell ourselves we are trying to teach them responsibility and such but what are we really trying to do? Make them do the things that we need them to do. The things that we had to do when we were their age.
Taking things away and then giving them back irritates them. That would irritate me but it is another form of control we use on them. When we accept our children for who they are in the moment that is the gift we give to them. Then we can accept the parent they need us to be instead of the one we fantasized about becoming. Do you want her to have the car with no strings attached? The decision is yours. Because if there are strings you both will never find peace and harmony together. Hope something here helps. Maybe a little bit too much. But my boys and their car days brought back some emotions.
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