“Consequences don’t have to be dole out on the spot to be effective. In fact, they are often most effective after a child thinks they have gotten away with inappropriate behavior.” – Cline and Fay Parenting with Love and Logic
For the longest time I thought that when my son was behaving inappropriately I had to take immediate action. Nip it in the butt and get it done. Part of this was due to insecurity and part due to my own upbringing.
But recently, with the help of my son’s therapist I have been learning about ways to use delayed consequences. What I like about this is that it gives me time to think before I speak and act. And, it gives my son an opportunity to make a good decision.
Delayed consequences are more empowering for parents than acting “in the moment” and in the heat of anger.
The Most Effective Way To Teach Children About Consequences
Recently we had a playdate/adult birthday party at a friend’s house. The plan was for the adults to hang out while the children played together.
All day E kept asking when we were going over to their house. When we actually arrived the boys started to play immediately. At first everything was fine and everyone was enjoying themselves.
Watching them play with another child who arrived later, we did notice some tackling and rough play. Witnessing my son call his best friend a, “poop head”, was a little embarrassing. But everyone present is aware that part of E’s issue is how he uses language in a social context.
I used what the therapist (and Parenting With Love and Logic) calls an enforceable statement.
“I would like us to stay and have fun and birthday cake, but if you hit someone or use unkind words we will go home.”
After dinner the kids went into the house while the adults stayed on the deck. We heard my son’s good friend say, “E—, stop it!” Hubby went inside, broke up the argument, and again told him to use kind words.
At this point we probably should have let the kids work it out on their own and ignored them.
Within 3 minutes, E’s friend was crying and running to his mother. My son had grabbed him by the shirt when he said he would tell me that E had been saying mean things to him.
Personally, I would prefer the children work it out on their own so that E can learn through logical social consequences. But in this scenario we were surrounded by several sets of parents, each with different parenting philosophies. Everyone was sort of looking to us to handle our child.
E does these things without thinking. This is very typical in kids with Aspergers and ADHD. He reacts without any impulse control.
Thank goodness for my husband – he immediately flew into action grabbing E and enforcing our statement that we would leave. We calmly packed up – with our son screaming and stomping all the while – and then walked out the door.
We are fortunate that this couple understands we are dealing with E’s issues in the only way we know how. Driving home we agreed that we were upset, but we had to leave the way we did so that E would understand that what he did was wrong, and there are consequences.
E cried, or perhaps screamed, for about 15 minutes straight when we got home. I told him he needed to calm down and let me know when he was ready to have a conversation. I held him close; knowing that self-soothing is not his forte.
After a while I asked him to tell me what he was feeling – he said he was “mad at Daddy because he wanted birthday cake.” I let him suck his thumb and tried again.
I asked him why he grabbed his friend’s shirt and he told me, “he was going to tell you I was bullying.” Impressed though I was with his use of the catchphrase, I asked him to tell me how he thought his friend felt. E told me, “Sad mommy – I’m sad too.”
All of a sudden I realized that the consequence for his behavior was not leaving the party – it was the sad feeling he had when he realized what he had done. E felt genuine remorse and was able to express it.
He even came up with a small token (a card) to give to his friend that read, “I’m sorry —-.”
Tips for using delayed consequences:
Stay calm in the heat of the moment, model the behavior you want to see.
Don’t assign a consequence that you cannot possibly enforce.
Use enforceable statements. (See pdf below for examples.)
Work with your child to verbalize what happened and let them come to their own conclusions.
I have been and continue to be a big fan of calm, logical parenting. Total control over your child isn’t really the goal. The goal is for your child to feel confident in his or her ability to interact with others and make good decisions.
Since my son has Aspergers, he often has trouble understanding and acknowledging how his words and actions make others feel. Using enforceable statements and then delayed consequences has made a huge difference in how he learns about relating to other people.
I feel peaceful and empowered, which is saying a lot because as a mom with adhd, I am always looking for ways to be the parent I want to be. Using delayed consequences and enforceable statements, along with the information in the Parenting with Love and Logic book, have made a huge difference.
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