Nearly all parents struggle to find the right way to discipline their children, and there are some families in which discipline is lax or even non-existent. However, when it comes to children with autism, discipline is not only important, it can be hard to implement. Parents must think of autism and discipline in different ways when thinking of how they want to approach this, and they must also be sure to ask for help if they think they are failing.
Three important things to remember when it comes to dealing with discipline for autistic children is be positive, be consistent, and to be timely.
It is recommended that most of the discipline for autistic children be positive. This means that the positive behaviors should be rewarded as much as possible and the negative ones should not be rewarded with a lot of attention. This is good advice for any child, but is very important for children with autism.
When children have bad moments, it is important for a parent to figure out why. They may just be acting out in a naughty manner, but they may also be experiencing tension or frustration.
If they are frustrated, this is an excellent time to remove them from the situation and to show them breathing or relaxation techniques they should use when they feel that way to help them calm down. It might take a while, but with some perseverance they may be able to learn to use them.
When it comes to mom and dad, discipline must be consistent. That means that the punishment should come immediately following the offense. If parents lack consistency they will lack control.
The same punishments should be used each time. If parents decide they want to use the 1-2-3 method, they have to use it every time and there has to be an outcome if they get to ‘three’. You cannot count to two and then go back to one or the child will know they can get away with things.
If a time out is the punishment after ‘three’ is reached, this has to be enforced no matter what. If not you run the risk of losing control of the moment and the situation, and the child has learned nothing positive.
There should be no waiting for the other spouse to get home to deal with the problem or to reprimand bad behavior, as the child may be confused when they are being punished long after the event took place. Timing is essential.
However, it is important that both parents be equally involved in using discipline so that the child does not learn to act up in front of the parent that is known to pass the buck when these things happen.
Each offense should be dealt with in the same manner, as this gives the child a clear picture of what will happen when they do something that they should not be doing. Any delayed punishments will not work with a child who has autism.
It is also important for parents to remain calm. Try to avoid yelling or out of control actions. If you’re feeling frustrated should walk away from the situation to calm down. Parenting is hard for any parent, but with the extra stress of autism, things can easily get out of control even for the best of parents.
Each child will learn about discipline in a different way, and as long as the punishments are just, immediate, and consistent, there should be some progress being made. Dealing with autism and discipline is never easy, but with practice, you can learn to cope.
We’ve had a really hard time helping our son to know when he’s “in trouble” and really had zero luck with it at all until he was in his preschool autism classroom and we learned a little about ABA. It’s pretty much what made him talk. I love how you remind all of us to think, and listen, and be consistent. You’re so right. Timing is everything!
Thanks so much for your comment. Consistency is the key to everything, and it is extremely important for children with autism or other special needs to have that kind of consistency too.