Wholeness Healing Today

Delayed Consequences

I was sitting in on a Love and Logic Parenting class the other night and I got to thinking about delayed consequences. Children always want to know the “punishment” for a behavior immediately but it doesn’t have to work that way. In fact, we as adults don’t always know immediately what the consequences of our actions would be, so don’t we need to better prepare our children by giving them more “real life” experiences.

During the class, the instructor was talking about the one-liners that parents use. Mine was always, “I wonder how that will work out for you“ and the line worked pretty effectively for me. It gave me time to calm down (and make sure there really were no dents and scrapes on my car), collect myself, and really think about a consequence that would mean something. And in the time I was considering the consequence, the child also calmed down, thought about his/her actions, and really did have a chance to become remorseful and apologetic. Then when I delivered the news of the consequence, the child was much more open to it, not screaming that I was unfair. In fact, many times my consequence was less than the child had imagined.

In the real world, if we screw up, the consequences may not be apparent for months, even years. And often they are the logical outcome of our actions. So in trying to re-create a more life-like outcome for our children, if we sit back and try to configure a consequence that more closely resembles life, it may take some time. And will allow time to dis-engage the emotional piece. It our job as parents to deliver consequences without the anger, disappointment, and frustration playing a part. So give yourself time to really consider the consequences. Allow your child to be uncomfortable while he/she waits; the person who is the most uncomfortable is the most likely to change and so increasing the child’s anxiety is a natural part of the consequence. In fact, to do anything differently is, in essence, cheating the child out of a golden opportunity.

So how does this look when played out? Your child came home an hour late and then wanted to argue about the time he/she was expected to be home in the first place. Do not engage in an argument; simply instruct the child to go to bed after telling him/her you will discuss the consequences the next day. Oh, and tell your child, “Don’t worry about it.” Go to bed yourself and don’t think about it that night. In fact, you won’t have to think about it as your child will be doing that, and it is his/her problem anyway. Then in the morning, allow yourself some time to contemplate a logical consequence. And then of course, add in some “energy time” that your child owes you, because you were inconvenienced staying up late an extra hour. This could be washing your car, mowing the lawn, or any number of jobs. Sometimes this should be the first thing that happens, allowing the child even more time to think about the infraction.

Then sit down with the child and discuss what should be a consequence. Sometimes it helps to make them tied to the infraction (one hour earlier curfew for a month because he/she needs practice coming home on time) but occasionally it is fine to have a consequence that seems to have no relation to the broken rule. But allowing yourself time to think will prevent those lines from slipping out (“You are grounded until your 19th birthday and I will never buy you any new clothes again!) that you have no intention or need to enforce. Plus, some consequences handicap parents as much as they do the child, and that is counter-productive. Avoid that at all costs! The consequence should be more meaningful to the child than to the adult. Lessons are learned where there is some anxiety, some thought, some remorse, and some contemplation about alternatives. If you can create this out of the rule infraction, chances are greater that learning can happen. And then the breaking of the rules served a purpose!

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  • Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
    Licensed Professional Counselor
    Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist

  • Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.


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