Knowing when and how to provide your child with consequences is no easy feat-  a feat which becomes more complex when they have special needs. Bill Nason, a Mental Health Specialist and Autism Specialist runs a Facebook page called “The Autism Discussion page” and gives easy to follow advice for these sticky situations.  I would certainly recommend checking out his page and books.

Right now… Go!

Generally we recommend taking a positive approach with our little rascals (ie rewarding for good behaviour, rather than providing negative consequences when they are not so good). However there will be times where you will have to provide your child with consequences. But how, and when, and what does this look like?

In Bill’s book, “The Autism Discussion Page on anxiety, behaviour, school, and parenting” he recommends considering the following factors;

  1. Did the child know what they did was wrong? Well this makes sense- if the child does not know they have done the wrong thing, punishing can just confuse the situation. A good example of this is your child taking things from a shop when they are very little. Did they know about stealing, why we do not do it, what the consequences are..?
  2. Does the child have good conscious control of their actions? If your child was scared or has anger management issues, could they actually stop themselves from doing the behaviour? Were they in “fight-flight” mode? Were they mid meltdown? (not tantrum- I mean the BIG wobblies that last for ages and take hours to calm from). Examples of these usually include physical altercations; maybe your child was being restrained for their safety and they hit you mid meltdown. Or they threw something and it broke a window- do you think they had the power to stop themselves or were they, “too far gone”?
  3. What purpose did the behaviour have for the child? Not following an instruction because they, “don’t want to” is a different situation to not following an instruction due to anxiety/avoidance or because they are performing a self-soothing behaviour. For example some families get incredibly angry at their children for “annoying them” with these self-soothing behaviours (hands in mouth, jumper sleeve in mouth leaning heavily on items, walking in circles). Think about what the child gets from this behaviour and help them find a more appropriate way if need be.
  4. Did they child know any other way to behave and have they shown they can do this in heat of the moment? This is an important but often over looked point. If your child knew throwing a rock at a window was the wrong thing to do you might jump straight to punishment. But if they did so because they have difficulties with managing their anger, and they have not been taught any skills (which they are able to apply in the heat of the moment!)- this may not be as effective at preventing the behaviour as you think.
  5. What do we want our child to do instead, and what would motivate them to do it? Use these challenging situations to teach your child something. Then help them WANT to perform the appropriate behaviour. For example your child might not want to clean their room, they might argue with you and slam their door. Yes your child knows the right thing to do in this situation but some kids just need more motivation than others. And that’s ok! First and then’s work well in these situations. “first clean your room then you have play on the iPad”. As does longer term rewards for the older kids, “you are one star off getting your 10th star! 10 stars mean you get to (insert amazing activity of the child preference).

Remember- our kids often teach us a lot more than we teach them.  And Bill Nason teaches us a lot too.

Thanks Bill Nason.