Regardless of whether you are a believer in spanking and shouting or if you use tried and proven alternatives like time-out or food/toy bribery, there comes a time, usually not long after your child’s tenth birthday when most of the methods that worked with your toddler have lost their effectiveness.
Depending upon your methods and your child’s individual differences, this could happen sooner or later but the rule for violent discipline (spanking) is pretty clear. As soon as your child approaches (not reaches) a point where they could hurt other people by mimicking your behaviour, you need to stop teaching them that this is ok.
So, now that you’ve got an unruly ten year old with isms on your hands and you’ve been effectively disarmed, you need to find some new deterrents.
Keep Discipline in Mind
Being a parent is often a thankless job and sometimes we feel like taking a little revenge for the things our kids put us through. As a parent, it’s important to realise that you’re not alone in these feelings but these are urges we have to curb. You have to constantly remind yourself that discipline comes from the word disciple, meaning “teacher”.
We’re not here to punish or take revenge on our kids, we’re here to teach them the skills, respect and behaviour that they’ll need throughout their lives.
Ensure Discipline is about Teaching
Whenever time permits, talk to your child about what they have done wrong and try to determine, without asking directly, whether they realise that it was wrong. Sometimes things which are obviously wrong to us, are less obvious to our children. This is especially true of children with Asperger’s syndrome.
For example, a child may be making noises by clicking a pen after a teacher has asked for the class to be quiet. If the child has Asperger’s syndrome, they may interpret being quiet as not making noises with their mouth, such as talking or humming. The activity with their pen could be an unconscious stimming behaviour. A teacher who punishes this behaviour may make a student feel that they are being picked on – and it could cause the student to react to that discipline.
Frequently, when children with Asperger’s have meltdowns with authority figures, it’s because they feel that they’re being treated unfairly. This “unfair” treatment is often the result of an authority figure enforcing an “invisible rule” and then upping the ante on punishment. It’s important therefore to ensure that the child fully understands a rule before punishing them.
This is also one of the reasons why many parents of children with Asperger’s syndrome pre-register their child with the police, to ensure that any approach by authority figures takes into account the high probability of misunderstanding.
Of course, not all discipline can be talked out and some things need to be taught using deterrents. Whenever possible, it’s much better to use natural deterrents than to create ones which make you out to be the “bad person” who decides the punishments.
A natural deterrent for an older child would be that they need to replace or fix what they have broken.
For example, if a child breaks another child’s toy, they might have to give one of their toys (of similar emotional value) to the other child. If they break a window, they might need to save up to get it replaced. If costs are steep, they don’t have to save the entire cost of replacement but it should count towards a percentage at least – and they should be told exactly what they have paid for. Understanding that they have only had to pay 10% of the cost and that if it happens again, the percentage will be much higher, will help your child to understand consequences.
Take Things Away
One of the most effective deterrents is the removal of privileges. In particular, removing access to electronic devices such as games, iPads, mobile phones, television and the internet works extremely well with kids on the autism spectrum.
The trick however is to take care not to take everything away at once because a child with nothing to lose will quickly become a child with no boundaries. Taking things away should be immediate and with a clearly set boundary. A good example of this would be, “No iPad for a week” followed by a quick retrieval of the iPad and placement out of sight of the child. Don’t ban things and then leave them lying in plain sight as temptation.
Shorter bans are far more effective than longer bans. For example, removing an iPad until a child cleans his room is far more effective than taking it away for a month.
Kids with Isms – What does not Work
As mentioned earlier, any kind of discipline which relies upon fear or hurt, including shouting and abuse is not an effective method of discipline. These methods may actually work to produce results but they also damage the child. They teach the child that violence can solve problems and they can often lead to self-esteem and social issues. It’s no accident that many children who bully their peers are victims of parental abuse at home.
The other type of response which fails is grounding. Typical teens have huge issues being grounded but children with Asperger’s syndrome will often see grounding as a reward. After all, it takes away the difficulties of social interaction.
Escalating Discipline Results in Failure
For example, your child refuses to set the table, so you deny them desert/pudding. They respond by trashing their brother’s bedroom and you respond by sending them to bed immediately. They respond by taking their iPad to bed and playing under the covers and you respond again by removing that iPad for a week.
It becomes a game of disciplinary tag and the problem is that in this situation, your child clearly thinks that he is your equal in terms of authority.
Don’t play this game. In this situation, you need to follow through with your discipline by being present at all times. Deny him dessert if you will but don’t allow him leave the dining room until everyone has finished dinner.
If he starts trashing his brother’s room, go up there and talk to him, explain how what he is doing is wrong and then talk him through fixing his brother’s room. If he’s not ready to fix it yet, then don’t drop additional punishments on him, give him time to think it all over and try again tomorrow. Perhaps tomorrow, you can choose a time to withhold the iPad while he cleans up his mess.
In the end, discipline is up to you and your child. Things which work in one household or with one child won’t necessarily work in other situations. If you find yourself at loggerheads with your child, try backing off instead of pushing harder. Sometimes you just need to give things a little space.