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Immediate Consequences for Inappropriate Behavior?

Immediate Consequences for Inappropriate Behavior?

Recently, several parents have called us asking for guidance on how to deliver consequences for inappropriate behavior. Many parents have heard that consequences must be delivered immediately following inappropriate behavior. However, we believe that there are good reasons why this isn’t always such a great idea.

Immediate consequences might work well with rats, pigeons, mice, and monkeys, but in real-world homes and classrooms they typically create more problems than they solve. Here are some of the problems with immediate consequences:

  • Most of us have great difficulty thinking of an immediate consequence while we are in the middle of the problem.
  • We “own” the problem rather than handing it back to the child. In other words, we are forced to do more thinking than the child.
  • We are forced to react while we, and the child, are upset.
  • We don’t have time to anticipate how the reaction to our response.
  • We don’t have time to develop a reasonable plan and assemble a support team to help us carry out the plan.
  • We often end up making threats that we can’t back up.
  • We generally fail to deliver a strong dose of empathy before providing the consequence.
  • Every day, we live in fear that our kid will do something that we won’t know how to handle with an immediate consequence.

What if I could give you a technique that had the power of an immediate consequence, but gave you time to think (and plan) when your kids pulled the unexpected? Would a technique like that lower your blood pressure? The next time your kids do something upsetting, experiment by saying the following:

“I’m going to have to do something about that.
We’ll talk later. Try not to worry.”

The awareness that a consequence is on its way is also a consequence, especially if you use the words, “Try not to worry.” When you do this, what happens? The child starts to imagine what might happen, what can happen, what they are going to do, and so on.

This technique also gives us plenty of time to get our friends to help us figure out what to do. In addition, it gives us time to plug the holes and get ourselves calmed down so that we are not angry when we deal with the problem and keep everyone’s dignity intact. It helps us be empathetic instead of angry.

The next time your child does something inappropriate, experiment by saying:

“Oh no. This is so sad. I’m going to have to do something about this!
But not now, later, try not to worry about it.”

The Love and Logic delayed, or anticipatory, consequence allows you time to anticipate whose support you might need, how the child might react, and how to make sure that you can follow through with a logical, appropriate consequence. This Love and Logic technique also allows the child to “anticipate” or worry about a wide array of possible consequences—without you losing your cool!

For more perspectives on the power of delayed consequences, listen to our audio, Love and Logic Magic When Kids Drain Your Energy.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Love and Logic Magic When Kids Drain Your Energy