Wednesday’s Parent: Talking to Your Teen About Irresponsible Behavior


irresponsible behaviorOne of the first things we learn growing up is that all of our actions have consequences. If we pull a glass of water off the table, it will spill all over us. If we touch a hot burner on the stove, it will burn. If we pick up a knife on the blade, it will cut us.

Selective memory loss

Teaching teens the consequences of irresponsible behavior can be challenging. Unfortunately, too many teens begin to make choices during their teen years that are life changing and life altering. They don’t rationalize that sleeping with someone you just met can have consequences: sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, pregnancy, rape and even at the very worst murder. They don’t think that cheating on a test in school, even if you don’t get caught, robs you of an education and learning. They don’t see that getting in a car with a drunk driver could end in tragedy because most teens who are drunk believe they have the capacity to drive. They can’t look far enough into the future to see that going to a college they can’t afford could land them in overwhelming debt after graduation.

Running down the scenarios

I know. All those scenarios are a bit dramatic. But let’s just think before we discount them as viable examples of ignoring the consequences of our choices. Your teen would be well served if he did the same. The next time your teen is tempted to sleep with someone they just met, what would happen if they ran over the previously stated consequences in their mind before they decide to do it? There would be consequences to their decision: good or bad. Before they get into a car with another teen who is drunk or drive drunk themselves, imagine what would happen if there is an accident and their friends or other innocent drivers and passengers are killed. Before getting wasted, imagine what would happen if he got alcohol poisoning and his friends couldn’t recognize the symptoms or get help when it was needed.

All decisions have consequences

When you’re young and your whole life is ahead of you, you tend to function in the present. Twenty or thirty years from now seems like an eternity to someone in their teens. But time has a way of catching up with us and every choice we make when we are young has both good and bad consequences. The trick is to know when those consequences aren’t worth the risk. And the other trick is to pause long enough before taking those risks to weigh both the good and the bad.

If your teen gets anything from this bit of advice, let it be this: take time to think before you act. Weigh the good and the bad consequences. Then once they decide, make the best of their decision and swallow the good with the bad. Every path they take in life has the potential for greatness. Encourage your teen to be wise and think before they act, knowing that their choice could potentially be the wrong one.

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3 Responses to “Wednesday’s Parent: Talking to Your Teen About Irresponsible Behavior”

  1. Such important advice that needs to be repeated, and repeated again, the young can make so many unwise decisions. Parents, teach them well!

  2. Courtney says:

    Calling it “selective memory loss” implies that they’re ignoring parents on purpose. This age group has a lot coming at them – from peers to parents to teachers to media – and they’re learning to discern the good from the bad. It’s been shown that the cause/effect parts of their brains aren’t yet running at full capacity until the twenties or beyond. It’s a lot to navigate.

    • Suzanne Shaffer says:

      Some are ignoring their parents, Courtney. But you make an excellent point. They are moving toward independence and have to learn discernment. But it’s our job as parents to help them see the cause/effect even when they cannot.