Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Behavior Bootcamp

Do you see these children?



Do not let their quiet demeanor or sweet smiles fool you.

They are spoiled rotten.

And yes, I know its my fault.

I am a giver by nature and I love for my kids to be happy. If its at all possible, I give them what they ask for. This is not where the problem lies, however.

At some point, my children forgot their manners. They forgot to ask for things in a nice polite voice. They now demand and order me around like their servant. "Get me juice, mom!" is how Jayce asked for his drink this morning. Jaina, who has grown ever so more lazy each passing month will plead, "I'm thirsty! I can't reach my cup that's on the coffee table. Can you get it for me?"

Really?

So I look at my son and say, "Jayce, you need to ask me nicely for juice." He responds by yelling, "I SAID PLEASE! GO GET IT!"

Um, no. Not acceptable in any form other than "Mommy, may I have juice please?"

Which I then model for him. And he repeats... in a very annoyed tone. Sigh. Its a start.

Then there's Jaina and the word "No." I think that word somehow escaped her current vocabulary. Oh, now she knows how to tell me "no" alright, but she doesn't take "no" for an answer if it comes from my mouth.

"Mom, I'm hungry. What can I eat for a snack?"

This is while I'm obviously standing in the kitchen by the stove actually cooking the dinner that will be ready in 10 minutes.

"Nothing. Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes. You can wait."

"I can't! I'm starving and I don't like what you are cooking. I'm going to get chips out of the pantry."

"No, you aren't Jaina."

"But why can't I have chips?"

I have to bite my tongue not to snap back, "Because I said so!" which is what I want to say, but that's not the only reason I won't let her eat chips at 6:50 PM.

I usually end up having to tell Jaina "No" about 3 or 4 times before she believes me. Now, I know some of this is her age. And some of it is her personality. I certainly don't like to be told "No" either, and if someone tells me "no", I usually go above that person to see what that policy is in place to  begin with.

(Yes, I was a difficult stubborn child as well for my mom!)

But I think what Jaina is having a hard time understanding is that I am the final say. There is no one she can go appeal to if she doesn't like my verdict. I'm mom and I'm the boss.

This is a huge concept we've been working with Jayce on. Because of his autism, he has a hard time reading social cues and relationships. His sister, his friend, his teacher, me, Grandma... we're all the same to him. We're all on the same authority level. And naturally, he doesn't like listening to any of us!

Its time to get back to basics in our house. I realized that we no longer have house hold rules posted up in the kitchen. Thanks to one of the therapist's suggestion, we will have new rules to post.

1. Control your body
2. Control your voice
3. Follow directions

With rules come consequences. I personally like natural consequences. Let the punishment fit the crime, in other words. (However, I do not advocate retribution. I will not let Jaina smack Jayce if he just hit her 5 seconds prior. That doesn't teach anyone that physical violence is wrong.)

Some examples of natural consequences:
If ice cream is left on a counter, it melts. When children refuse to eat, they become hungry. If people stay awake too late at night, they will be tired the next day. When a child loses a baseball glove, she will not have a mitt for the next game. If, despite warnings from the lifeguard, a child runs beside the pool, he may fall and skin his knees. When children forget to take their lunch money to school, they will have nothing to eat.

A good example of this in our house would be "taking responsibility for your clothes." For some reason, my kids never believe me when they want to go play outside in 40 degree weather and I ask them to put on a jacket. Now, I never tell them to put on a jacket, I merely give them the suggestion. They can be responsible for that themselves. And when the come back into the house 5 minutes later to retrieve their jackets, I don't have to say a word. Lesson learned.

But I find that its hard to think of natural consequences for all misbehavior. Sometimes I do need to contrive parent-imposed consequences like Time-Out or loss of a privilege. Those two consequences work great for Jaina... but not so well for Jayce. Disciplining a child with autism can be a whole different game. Not just a game, an entirely different ballpark!

Its not that I've been a permissive parent for the past 8 years or anything like that, but I do find that I get caught up in day-to-day stuff and sometimes take the easier way out with the kids. Its much easier to give into their demands if it makes them hush for 10 seconds. Disciplining is a lot of work, and well... you have to be a disciplined parent if you are going to guide your kids the same way. Its exhausting, I tell ya.

So, this Behavior Bootcamp is not just for the kids. Its for me, most of all. Its to remind myself of my expectations for my kids. Its to remind myself that I need to be a good model for the behavior I expect. Its to make sure everyone in the house is on the same page with rules and consequences. And its about treating each other with the respect we all deserve.

Wish me luck! Or else its going to be a loooong summer....

10 comments:

  1. who says being a mum is an easy job? good luck to you! i was looking forward to my son talking but not so much now that i've read your post. hehehehe.

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  2. Oh how I needed to read this!! It's as if you've had a camera in my house and have been watching me and my kids -- ha!! Your daughter? Sounds EX-ACTLY like my 7 1/2 year old daughter. Your son? Though my 5 year old boy hasn't been diagnosed with autism, he has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD and we deal with A LOT of the same behavior issues. It is such a struggle, but a comfort to know I'm not the only one battling it :)

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  3. I think we are ALL where you are in some way! I've yet to see the perfectly behaved child...

    As for the arguing thing that Jaina does, Olivia has gone through the same thing, and still does from time to time. She started having to go to bed early. Every time she argued, she lost 15 minutes off her bedtime. It was nice for me, because I didn't have to fight anymore - just dock minutes. And as for a natural consequence... "If you are going to act like a little child, you can go to bed early like a little child" - right?? Anyhow, good luck!

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  4. Good Luck!! It is way hard work, but the pay-off is great! I constantly have to work on some of those same things with my kids, and the temptation to give in is so tempting. however, on the things that i haven't given in to i'm so happy with their behavior - like going to bed. its one thing i've been consistent with from the get-go and they all go do bed so good without any complaints...anyway, i hear ya, its plain exhausting most days :) But I know you are up to the task!!

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  5. Good luck! You're certainly not alone :)

    I'm finding it difficult that the Bear doesn't respond to a cross voice or a cross face. Unless I really scream (done once, never again because it scared him senseless!) he seems to have no idea that there's any difference between Mummy cross and Mummy happy.

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  6. Ok, I really really like those three simple rules and am totally going to post them with my son's behavior chart.

    You are not alone in these struggles but, dang I wanted to think that my two and five year olds were going to outgrow it soon! Ha!

    Good luck!

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  7. Sounds like you have a great plan!! We often have times where we "tighten up" to do a little re-training!!

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  8. We need to work on this too. My daughter is very sassy and sometimes just doesn't give up on things!

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  9. Those are three very good rules.

    I wanted to say that the main approach in "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" (beyond your kids at this point obviously!) has been really nice in disciplining a toddler with autism. The main principle follows very well with AP, too - restate your child's feelings before you call judgment on a situation. I wonder if answering something with a "you want chips, right? you're hungry and you feel like you're unable to wait" until Jaina backs down would be appropriate.

    I like the natural consequences factor, too. Kids are amazingly able to take responsibility for themselves. I learned that way and I am teaching it that way.

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  10. I've been so busy that I've gotten behind on my discipline and my blog reading! Glad to read this one! You and I are of the same school of thought on parenting, it sounds like. I step in if something is destructive, or dangerous, or hurtful. But, things like leaving homework at home and having to walk at recess, is more about him learning than reminding. Natural consequences do provide a lot more teachable moments!
    I probably could use a little boot camp myself!

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Thanks for commenting!