Teens on Punishment:
“Taking Away the Cell Phone DOES NOT WORK!”

Lisa Barr: I wrack my brain trying to figure out what punishment actually works on my kids. I’ve been in the Take-Away-The-Phone-or-Computer-Camp. Truth: It doesn’t work. I asked GIRLilla Warfare’s editorial assistant Sami Blumenthal (love her) to investigate the ultimate Parental Dilemma by going straight to “the source.”

Here’s what “My Girl Friday” discovered when she asked a group of teenagers their take on consequences:

I’m Sami Blumenthal, a 17-year-old just graduating from Deerfield High School, with plans to attend the University of Illinois this fall. Throughout high school, I was a very involved student, who got good grades. I worked hard. Whether it was performing on a dance team at half-time, competing at the State competition, helping plan Prom, or even give advice to incoming freshmen, I was always considered a very responsible young adult. I did a lot of things “right” but I also had plenty of “coming-of-age” moments. (Feel free to ask my mom!)

Like so many others teenagers, I had my ups and downs, and DEFINITELY my fair share of consequences.

As parents, I know that you try “everything” to make sure we do the right thing, and when we don’t, figuring out what actually works can be complicated. So I thought, hey, why not ask some of my contemporaries their thoughts on Parental Punishment.

Here’s what they had to say:

Nate, 19, the eldest of three kids

“Well, I don’t really get grounded or have stuff taken away anymore. When I was a kid, those kinds of punishment never really got the message across. When we would sit and talk it was always more constructive. The problem isn’t solved by taking away material things, but by the discussion and reflection that takes place around said punishment is much more effective. At least that’s how it was for me.”

Chloe, 17, youngest of 2

“If parents act as if the situation is a big deal and act disappointed, this will cause their children to not participate in the act again. Whereas taking away their phones for example will make their kid just want to do it again once they’re not in trouble anymore. Contrary to popular parental belief, phone confiscation has NO effect.”

Josh, 18, eldest of 2

“Once their punishment is over they’re just gonna start doing whatever they were doing before because they have no reason not to. Give a punishment that has meaning.”

Rachael, 14, middle child of 3

“The only thing that really gets me to listen is when my parents sit down and talk to me. I can always use someone else’s phone or computer to get a ride somewhere. It’s when they sit down and really explain the issue and its consequences that I learn.”

Jake, 15, eldest of 4

My parents love each other but they are not united. My Mom will give me a punishment, say taking away the phone and my Dad can’t hold back, he gives me back the phone in five minutes. They are not consistent. It works for me, but it doesn’t work for a punishment. Stay on the same page whatever the punishment is. Don’t send your kid mixed messages.

Shana, 15, youngest of 3

It’s really hard for my parents to follow-through. I have this party tonight and I wasn’t supposed to go because I did not go to my religious school, and that was the threat. But guess where I’m going tonight? I think the follow-through, if I were a parent, is very important.


After interviewing the other teens, I decided to reflect on my own “consequences.” Some punishments that my parents have given to me over the past few years have truly been questionable. My mom might disagree with that because she sees punishments not as “given” but “deserved.”

All right, so if this is true, shouldn’t I “deserve” the right punishment? It doesn’t make sense that I might fail a test and I get my phone taken away….and if I get “caught” at a party… I get my phone taken away. Or if I forget to clean my room…I get my phone taken away. I come home past curfew…I get my phone taken away.

If I truly “deserve” the right punishment that best fits the crime, why does EVERY punishment involve snatching my phone?

Maybe for every other teen it’s not the phone…It could be driving privileges, friend privileges, whatever it may be, it seems as though the punishment is consistently disregarding the intensity of the crime.

The real problem is parents don’t realize that their punishments are ALWAYS predictable. Parents don’t realize that their kids aren’t afraid anymore.

They are not hesitant to go to that party or not study for that test because they know that their phone will get taken away, but given right back so their parents can just take it away again for the next dumb thing they do.

I wonder: Is it that parents are too lazy to think of the right punishment? Or is it that parents are too preoccupied to really to sit down and have that life lesson talk?

From personal experience, THAT talk is what sets me straight. That heart-to-heart, open and honest conversation I’m able to have with my parents about what I did wrong actually does have an effect. Even though you think the phone is all we care about — you’re wrong.

Having a real conversation can open up many doors – especially those doors that will lead to the right punishment that fits the crime. I get caught drinking? Okay Mom and Dad, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about what I did wrong…and why I did it. Teach me these lessons instead of just taking my phone away…And if the conversation isn’t a strong enough punishment, well then sign me up for an alcohol resistance program. Embarrass the hell out of me so I’ll never make that dumb  mistake again.

Don’t just take my phone away…because you did that when I forgot to do my laundry.

LB:  I thought Sami’s words were insightful. I took notes. Moms – Dads — have at it. GIRLilla Warfare would love to hear your responses.



< back

16 Comments. Would you like to comment?

Leave a Reply