Raising Lions for Teens: 2-for-1 Time


Joe Newman as a teenager with his adoptive dad, Ira.

I am often asked if the Raising Lions method works with teenagers as well as younger children. The answer is a resounding yes.

If you want to use the Raising Lions method with a teenager, the basic principles aren’t going to change. However, while you can help your 4 year old through a tantrum by giving them a holding break, you cannot reasonably do this with your 15 year old. Your teenager is not only physically grown, but they are also very capable of mapping out decision processes for themselves.

What doesn’t change, however, is the clear and direct structure of the protocol. The structure you are building has to have a clear endpoint. When you are in conflict, where do things end? Do you end in a stalemate or slammed doors? You do not want to be guessing and making up consequences in the middle of the conflict. Instead, you want consequences to be very clear and set out before conflicts even appear. The clearest way to do that is by using a tool I call 2-for-1 time.

2-for-1 time is simply this: if you don’t get what you need by a certain time, you start a timer and for every 1 minute the timer goes, 2 minutes are taken away from the resource your teen wants.

This applies to any needs your family might have: for example, you’re trying to get somewhere (school, church, event, etc.). Your child’s refusal to be ready on time is sort of holding you hostage, or making a problem for your family. When heading out of the house, for every minute your child is late, two minutes are taken from your child’s free time or tech time later that day.

There are a couple of different ways to use 2-for-1 time. One way is as a protocol as the last step of a cognitive map.

For instance, your child is cursing all of the time, and you don’t like this behavior. When they start to curse you tell them to take a 1 minute break, which turns into a 5 minute break, and if the 5 minute break isn’t taken, it turns into 2-for-1 time.

 The reason to put it into a protocol like this is that it creates a condition that you can repeat all the time. This map makes 2-for-1 time the end of the road in a cognitive map, and enables you to help your teen stop small behaviors you’d like to see them change.

Just as important as the 2-for-1 tool, and even more important with teenagers, is that alongside establishing a consistent protocol, try to shift your language surrounding these expectations from speech-making and lecturing towards giving your teen their own autonomy and open-ended dialogue. Allowing your child to make their own decisions and dealing with the natural consequences of those decisions themselves will help them to create their own autonomous identity.