It is vital to always remember this basic fact while working with your teen: The goal of discipline is to teach healthy behaviors in constructive ways.

What is Responsibility?

Responsibility is the process of making choices and accepting the consequences of those choices.

Teens who take a more “I’m responsible” approach to their problems learn and GROW from their mistakes.

Teens learn self-responsibility by

  • Participating in defining appropriate behaviors
  • Developing, with parent, the consequences for violating this standard

When teens recognize that consequences come from choices they make, they begin to see they have more control over their lives and learn to make better choices.

There are basically two types of consequences in life: Natural and Logical.

Natural consequences are like “rules of nature”—don’t eat dinner and you go to bed hungry! Natural consequences may take a long time to work.

Logical consequences require a specific response for a behavior—ignore requests to clean your room and you don’t go to the mall with friends. The timing of logical consequences must be as immediate as possible to be effective. Begin the process by working with your teen to decide upon consequences for behaviors. This eliminates the “I didn’t know” response.

Teens will be more likely to “buy in” to consequences if they help decide upon them.

Sometimes we can just use a polite request to effect behavior change—remember that our teens value respect.

When these fail to produce desired results we can use the “I messages”—“I have a problem with you not clearing away the dinner dishes after I asked you to. I expect you to have them off the table in 15 minutes.”

When these don’t work, we then resort to logical consequences.

Eight Logical Consequence Guidelines

  • Ask the teen to help set the consequences—you still have final approval
  • Make sure the consequences are logical
  • Give the teen a choice: either/or, when/then
  • Only give choices that you can live with
  • Keep your tone firm and calm—don’t yell
  • Give the choice one time then act
  • Expect testing by the teen
  • Allow the teen to try again after experiencing the consequence


  • Mathews, D., Matter, L., Montgomery, M. (1991) Parenting Under Stress Charlotte, NC KIDSRIGHTS.
  • The Child Welfare League of America (2002) Positive Parenting [On-Line] Available: CWLA.
  • The MASTER Teacher Inc. (2002) You Can Handle Them All [On-line] Available: The Master Teacher.
  • Effective Discipline Video Library (1999) Active Parenting Publishers, Marietta, GA.
Day, P. 2004, Logical Consequences & Responsible Teens, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-04-66

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