Sometimes as parents we need to be extremely creative in our discipline. I managed to have a stroke of creative genius when my son was 16 that I want to share with you that helps illustrate a facet of Empowerment Parenting: "The only person whose behavior you can control is your own."

When Kyle turned 16, he wanted to have a birthday party. As an Empowered Parent, I knew my job was to ensure this was a safe party as best I could so I began to ask him my preliminary questions. How many kids was he inviting? Who were they? What activities was he planning? Where did he want to have the party? Was he thinking he’d have any alcohol or drugs at this party? What was his picture of adult supervision?

His answers basically satisfied me. He wanted 16 friends, male and female. (Every birthday, he had a party with the same number of friends as he had candles on the cake—sixteen years-old, sixteen friends. He wanted this to be a camping party and he planned to play paintball and flashlight tag in the woods behind our house. He assured me there would be no drugs or alcohol at this party but when we got to the adult supervision question, he was adamant he didn’t need or want any.

I let him know that adult supervision was a non-negotiable. If he wanted a party, then he had to agree to adult supervision. After all, I was going to be responsible for 16 underage teens who were not my own. There was a pond in the woods, bear and other dangerous things. I told him I didn’t need to be there the entire time but I would need to check on them periodically to ensure everything was all right.

After complaining and whining that he didn’t need supervision and accusing me of being an overprotective mother, he reluctantly agreed to my supervision. He recognized there would be no party without it. I thought all was well until the day of the party.

The s ixteen friends I knew turned into over 70 kids. There were caravans of cars coming from town with young people, some of whom I had never seen before. Some of them had already graduated. It didn’t take long to find out there was alcohol there when Kyle’s best friend from grade school vomited at my feet!

I went around to all the kids I could find and collected their car keys. I confiscated all the alcohol I could find and dumped it out. I never found evidence of drugs. I hid all pain relievers and acid reducers I had in the house so they could experience the natural consequences of their drinking the next day.

After everyone left and it was time to deal with Kyle, I wasn’t sure what to do. My first thought was to KILL him but I didn’t think that was a very smart idea. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my natural born days in prison orange. (Not my color.) So, I went to my fall back position which was grounding. I believed I needed to ground Kyle for allowing his party to get so out of control. He never came to me to ask for help. I knew I couldn’t trust him so I thought I should ground him until I could trust him again.

There were several problems with this approach. First of all, grounding your child is often a punishment to yourself because children will make it their mission to make their parents’ lives miserable until the grounding is lifted. I didn’t want that. The other problem I saw was that it was at least possible that even though I grounded Kyle, he may decide to go out anyway. Then I had to ask myself how far was I prepared to take that? If he went out, would I lock him out? Would I contact the police? Would I simply let him in with no consequence? I really didn’t want to have to answer those questions. Another problem is that when a child is grounded for lack of trust, how can he earn that trust back? He isn’t placed in any situation to test how trustworthy he actually is. He isn’t learning anything. He is only being punished.

My creativity began to kick in. I was able to recognize the main problem. I was attempting to control Kyle’s behavior. I can’t make anyone do anything he or she doesn’t want to do and here I was trying to coerce my 16 year-old child to stay in the house for an indefinite period of time. Knowing the tenants of Inside Out Empowerment, I know the only person whose behavior I can control is my own. Trying to control Kyle at his age in his rebellious state of mind was a recipe for disaster!

In a moment of supreme creativity, I knew what I had to do. I was going to control my behavior instead of his. I still told Kyle I didn’t trust him. He stuck to his story that he hadn’t invited all those people. I told him I believed him, knowing how news can spread in a small town. However, I didn’t trust him because he hadn’t come to me when things got out of hand.

Since I didn’t trust him, I told him my first thought was to ground him. (No sense telling him I actually wanted to KILL him first!) But I told him I had decided against the grounding. Instead, I wanted him to do anything he wanted to do but since I didn’t trust him, I would go along until I believed I could trust him again. If he went to the school dance the next weekend, I would be a chaperone. If he went to the movies with his friends, I would sit in the theater until he was ready to go. If he went out to eat with his friends, I would go along. . .I was even willing to buy! Wherever he went, I would also go.

I knew he would either ground himself because he didn’t want to be seen with me or we would spend some great quality time together. Had he chosen the latter, he wouldn’t have been mad at me. He wouldn’t be grounded because I said so. He was choosing it because he didn’t want to be seen with me. The opposite occurred. He and I went everywhere together for the next two weeks. He pretended to hate it but I believe he secretly enjoyed the quality time we were able to spend together.

After two weeks of shadowing him, I told Kyle I was feeling able to trust him again. I reinstated the trust and never had another problem with him. He’s almost 23 years-old now.

When you are disciplining your child, are you attempting to control his or her behavior or your own? Is your goal to punish or to teach? If it is to teach, do you think fear and control are good teachers? Did you learn best when afraid or did you simply learn better ways of not getting caught?

If you take the time to be creative enough to think of ways to change your own behavior instead of your child’s and you find methods of motivation and inspiration, you will be rewarded with a stronger, healthier relationship with your child and consequently a greater influence over their future growth and development. Isn’t that what you ultimately want anyway?

Author's Bio: 

Kim Olver is a life coach and public speaker who has a graduate degree in counseling, is a National Certified Counselor and a licensed professional counselor in two states. She has worked in the helping profession since 1982 and has spent her entire life helping people get along better with the important people in their lives. Kim works with couples, parents and children, and individuals seeking to improve their lives. Check out her coaching packages