Teen Drivers and the Tao of Natural Consequences

2015-10-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-man-night-smoke-red-Joel-CampbellWhen the kids were little, I was known for making threats that would be difficult, inconvenient or downright impossible to carry out.

Mostly, this consisted of vowing to deposit a passenger or two on the side of the road if they didn’t stop arguing, or to “turn this car around” when we all knew wherever it was we were headed was someplace I particularly wanted to be.

I loved the whole “natural consequences” idea the Love and Logic practitioners touted. I gave it a good, college try for a while.

I rarely got it right, though. Somehow “I’m sorry your inability to clean your room has resulted in your being late to the birthday party because you can’t find your shoes,” always morphed as it was coming out of my pie hole.

What my kids ended up with was usually more like: “I’m sorry you can’t find your shoes, jeez, what HAPPENED to your ROOM? Oh MOTHER OF ALL THINGS HOLY WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO BE ON TIME FOR ONCE?”

Like that … but with more profanity.

This was usually followed by: “Stop it. Stop crying. Here. Wear your swim shoes. They look fine. I know it’s November, we’ll be inside, they’ll probably make you take them off anyway, just PLEASE GET INTO FREAKING CAR. GET INTO THE …. Alright one …. TWOOOO ……”

Better-Parenting-Through-Screaming-and-Yelling. And counting. That was my thing.

Now, fully ensnared in the teenage years as we are, I have bone to pick with the whole concept of natural consequences. Back in the day, natural consequences might mean you get your butt dragged out of Target without the snack you were promised at check out because of the whole tantrum-on-the-floor thing and mommy-being-embarrassed-by-people-staring thing.

Today’s natural consequences are so much more … consequential. It comes with the teen territory. Given that, I’m finding my over the top threats may have been just the thing to prepare our children for the total shit-show that can happen by virtue of a one, stupid mistake. An instant of bad judgment.

Take, for example, a sixteen year old whose brain has yet to develop past the stage where he thinks things like speed limits were designated for no better reason than because the sign maker had a mad power trip.

And stop lights? What’s up with those? Completely necessary? Or someone’s random idea about how to move traffic from one side of town to the other, threading half ton heaps of scrap metal full of flammable liquid through a maze of other moving death buckets piloted by slightly distracted soccer moms, aggressive rednecks, hormonal adolescents, and whoever else has been granted license?

What I mean to say is sometimes natural consequences for a teen (or an adult, really) bear a lot more resemblance to my unenforceable, inconvenient or impossible threats than I would ever have guessed. Then again, sometimes, natural consequences mean you get away with something you shouldn’t have, or maybe with just a honk and a hand gesture. It happens all the time.

Sometimes, though, natural consequences mean the universe is going to smoosh you under its thumb, and keep smooshing with things like citations and court dates and loans owed to your parents who don’t have all that much to loan in the first place.

Sometimes natural consequences mean that freedom and cache you had for all of six weeks of your junior year in high school are gone in a flash because a combination of distraction and assholery on your part cause a pretty big mess.


Yes, this happened Thursday, via my precious prodgeny, who only just received his license last year, and shortly thereafter his own vehicle. And thank God, no one was hurt.

And now someone had to be driven to school Friday morning, and probably for all mornings in the foreseeable future, and will have to get reacquainted with daily begging for transportation in order to get to work, or go pretty much anywhere on his own.

And someone’s going to be getting a near daily lecture on how he should thank his lucky stars his momentary distraction didn’t result in something far worse, natural consequences being of a naturally douchey nature.

And someone’s parents are going to be feeling pretty sorry for themselves as they make their way back to the world of unpaid chaufferery (which spell check is telling me is not even a word, and I’m thinking WAY TO KICK A GIRL WHEN SHE’S DOWN SPELL CHECK, but spell check didn’t even recognize douchey, or assholery, so maybe they’re still working out the bugs), and probably have more than a few insomnia attacks as they replay events of the day in their heads and imagine what if?

And all of this is a great big natural consequence of a young couple that once had an idea that procreating would be a good thing, because if they turned out okay, what’s to say they wouldn’t make more just like them? Forgetting, of course, that between day one and year 30 or so, there was a whole lot of crap they put their own parents through.

… And forgetting that natural consequences and karma are the very bestest of friends.


Hug your kid today. They really aren’t all that bad. And the favor of a vote (by clicking on the banner below), is very much appreciated. Thank you.



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  1. Oh my gosh, I\’m so sorry your son wrecked the car, but I\’m so glad he\’s okay. That is so scary! Teenagers + driving scares me so much. My son is 16, but for several reasons, he still doesn\’t have a license. We keep bugging him to get it, but sometimes I\’m kind of glad he doesn\’t have one. It scares the crap outta me!! I\’m always telling my kids that when you\’re driving a car, you\’re essentially driving a weapon! I\’m such a paranoid mom, I hope I survive all of their teenage years.

    1. Thank you, Melanie. In the grand scheme of things, it was an expensive but obviously valuable lesson in how vulnerable we all are – and for one kid in particular, the importance of caution. As much as I have appreciated his interest in driving, it\’s a new kind of pins-and-needles issue for me.

  2. So so glad to hear your son is all right. Daughters are easier in the driving years, I think. Mine was a dream. I\’ve still got 4 years to pray before my son is in driving territory.

    Also wanted to say that your attempt at Natural Consequences sounds exactly like mine. My son calls it my scary Mommy voice (no matter how much I try to get him to call it \”frustrated Mommy\” instead).

    1. Oh, you might have some payback coming. Tread carefully.

      Mine calls it my \”tone.\” I won\’t even be yelling (yet) and my younger son says \”you\’ve got that tone in your voice mom.\” It\’s like DEFCON 3, I think.

  3. Ah yes, Love and Logic. Gerald and I took a L&L course years ago when the kids were still little and the consequences were still little. Every now and then Gerald will remind me that I\’m doing something against what we were taught. He usually gets a nice finger gesture when he feels compelled to correct me. But yeah it\’s kind of unnerving as our boys get older. The oldest is almost ready to drive and I find that terrifying.

    1. Yes, finger gestures fly around here when either one of us chooses to gently remind the other about acceptable parenting methods.

      And after about four days of the oldest no longer having a car, I\’m looking at our schedules next week and realizing how difficult life is going to be and ready to get him (access to) another one. The worry fades so quickly….

  4. I\’m glad your son was okay. Some consequences are pretty consequential, as you say. Never mind, I\’m sure you must be thrilled at the opportunity you now have for a bit of additional parent-child time every morning. By the way, if \”chaufferery\” isn\’t really a word it definitely should be.

    1. Actually, I was just realizing how much I missed our chats on the rides to and from school. It\’s an hour, round-trip, and if he doesn\’t plug in his ear buds and go to sleep, I get to catch up on all the juicy gossip at school. WAY more interesting than anything I have going on.

      I\’m taking up a petition to Websters on \”chaufferery.\” I just like the sound of that, now.

  5. Oh, this is so scary. I\’m glad he\’s okay.

    I was talking to my (almost) 15 year old nephew last night– he\’s counting down the days until he gets his learner\’s permit. Scares the crap out of me. I started telling him horror stories from kids I knew or rode with when I was his age. I don\’t think it affected him, but it made ME feel a lot worse. Ha!

    1. You know, I think they can hear things over and over until we\’re all numb from talking and still people of a certain age won\’t believe what they don\’t experience firsthand. Then again, some are lucky enough to witness something close enough to internalize the consequences, others have to have consequences smack them upside the head.

      That appears to be the case with my kid. Hope your nephew figures things out without experiencing them firsthand!

  6. Kids learning to drive is a terrifying concept, period. And it comes with its own set of consequences. You make the car go boom, you have no car to drive. It worked with my kids… at least while the car was getting repaired.