Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How do you discipline a kid when you're not sure he understands?

First off, thanks to everyone for the great feedback on yesterday's post about toys. I went ahead and created a list of good toy sites, let me know if you have ones to add!

Now, on to today's group therapy session. Max is typically an angelic kid. But once in a while, he hits. Like tonight, when we were sitting in bed reading books and he smacked Sabrina in the face because she wouldn't move over. I said "No hitting, Max! Do you want a time out?" He nodded yes.

Whenever this happens, I am just not convinced Max understands me. Dave, however, firmly believes that he does—which would mean Max is being a wise-ass when he says "yes" to a time out. Hard to imagine where he'd get that from, I know.

I always feel so badly enforcing time outs, although I know full well he needs those boundaries/consequences, just as every child does. I guess I feel that Max has already gone through so much trauma in his life, he doesn't need added misery. These are the illogical thoughts you struggle with when you have a disabled kid.

I think Max hits as a means of expression, because he cannot speak. Sabrina is fully able to say things to me such as "YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND ANYMORE!!!" and "I DON'T THINK THAT'S A GOOD IDEA!!!" and "MOMMY!!! I. TOLD. YOU. TO. LET. ME. WATCH. THE. PRINCESS. VIDEO. SOME. MORE." Stuff that she'll get a talking-to for sounding so disrespectful. But Max, who doesn't yet have the words to say such things, can't let off steam that way. So he acts out the only way he can, by hitting.

Which discipline issues perplex you?


  1. Okay have to discipline your kid...regardless. If hitting is his means of expression, he needs to learn something different, as hitting is just not okay. Besides, if it okay for Max, pretty soon it will be okay for Sabrina...that won't be good.

    I have this battle with Jacob just about every single day. I know there is a 2.5 year age difference between Jacob and Max, but Jacob is wise beyond his years, and I don't think you are giving Max enough credit.

    What is a time-out anyway? Get removed from a situation, oooooohhhhhhh scary (made to sound incredibly sarcastic) for a few minutes. Jacob will whack or bite one of his siblings, or me...and he will be asked if he wants a time-out, and his answer will generally be "Sure." And he will then hit again, just for good measure. This pisses me off beyond belief, and I think he gets a kick out of my brief moment of total insanity, because I then generally get a big smile with him batting his eyelashes. Or sometimes he laughs at me...gggrr. We have resorted to no treats for the day...he loves sweets. It seems to be working a bit better. And we still do the time out, just with the added bonus of no yummy treats.

    Max understands. He may not communicate with you the way Sabrina does, but he does know what he is doing. I know he has been through trauma, but we all have. He may have CP, and not speak a lot, but he isn't stupid...he is playing you. Looks like he is pretty good at it too!


  2. I am not a complete wuss, I do discipline him and give him time outs. I will stop trying to feel badly about it and focus on how it's a good thing. Or maybe I will try tar and feathers.

  3. The teacher in me says that kids need boundaries and consistent discipline. They DO actually like it. I promise.

    Now, I have no parental basis for discussing discipline because Charlie is still pretty young.

  4. Sounds like Sean. I found you through a UCpeople link a friend sent me. I hope you don't mind. My son Sean who will be 3 in Feb of 09 had a stroke in utero. We didn't find out about his stroke until a little after his 2nd birthday. He was a preemie and was not doing a lot of things so we started EI at 6 months and now go to 5 therapies a week. Thanks for caring so much about the cause to and spreading awareness. Feel free to come see my blog it is

    As to this post Sean does the same thing although he can say the words but in certain situations his mind doesn't let him he will touch, tap, hit, push, kick until he gets what he wants. It is hard because I don't think they understand what they are doing is wrong or hurtful so it is hard and I can't figure it out either.


  5. Erin, welcome to this blog, I am so glad you found me. Glad to hear you're blogging, too, and look forward to reading yours.

  6. Thanks I am going to add you to my blog list too:)

  7. I have always found it hard to discipline BC. Every time I need to, I get this image of him in the NICU and my heart just melts ;-).

    BUT I agree with Sarah, it's unfortunately necessary. Often it's all in a 'name'. If Max has come to think of 'time out' as amusing or not much of a threat, maybe 'repackage' it - it could be 'the alone zone' or something else of your own creation.

    We've been lucky that BC doesn't misbehave that much, but when he does, what I've found to be VERY helpful in making sure he understands what he's done, why I am upset with him and what the consequences will be, is using Boardmaker picture prompts to explain my feelings, his actions and the result. Definitely has helped in our house.

    All the best!

  8. Hi Ellen,

    I happened upon your blog from a friend's. The blog world is small and, for the most part, comfy, isn't it?!

    My Ellie is 3 1/2 and she also has CP. I completely understand where you're coming from on the discipline front. Ellie is verbal (although well behind age-level), but I still wonder if she fully understands the whole consequences-for-actions idea. I also struggle because she is forced to do things that are hard for her (therapy) all day long. Sometimes my heart is too soft to be yet *another* person scolding her (not that her therapists scold, but they definitely "push", you know?).

    So, I have no words of wisdom for you, but I can say that you're not alone!

    Nice to "meet" you!


Thanks for sharing!