Living

Living with Children: Solving the misbehavior to-consequence equation

The subject of today's lesson is so-called experts who don't know what they're talking about.

According to many experts, if a consequence/punishment is not delivered within a few minutes, the child will not be able to make the mental connection between the misbehavior and the consequence.

Rubbish. Actually, there's a smidgeon of truth to that idea, but no more than a smidgeon. Indeed, because of their short attention spans, the interval between misbehavior and consequence must be fairly short with toddlers. But permanent memories begin to form around the third birthday, at which point parents can delay the delivery of consequences.

With a 3-year-old, the misbehavior-to-consequence interval can be several hours but does not extend to the following day. With children ages 4, 5, and 6, the interval can be as much as several days. By age 7 or 8, the interval can be extended to a week. And so on. When the consequence is deployed, all parents need say is "Because of what you did (specific past day and time), this is now happening," and the connection is made!

For example, if a 6-year-old engages in an act of defiance on Wednesday, he will make the connection if told on Saturday that because of his previous insubordination, he is not going to a classmate's birthday party.

A teenager can be informed in June that because of a February experiment with juvenile delinquency, he is not going on vacation with his best friend's family.

And, yes, I am also saying that parents are under no obligation whatsoever to inform a child of the specifics of a consequence before it is delivered. Simply delay, then dispense.

The element of surprise inherent to this approach greatly increases the deterrent effect.

Visit family psychologist John Rosemond's, website at www.johnrosemond.com.

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