Monday, January 4, 2010

Disciplining our kids vs. keeping the peace

Saturday, we went out to brunch with friends. I was psyched; Max wasn't. He wailed when we walked in to the restaurant. Once we were seated, we kept him calm for a few minutes with a Cars coloring book and a (what else?) purple marker. Then Max jumped up and tried to make a break for the front door. Then he stood by the door and watched people come in and out. Then I toted him back (there are definitely times when his pipsqueak-ness comes in handy). Then he dashed to the front door again. Then I hauled him back. Then he got up, walked over to an empty table, sat down and looked up, happily. He would stay if he could sit at that table.

I walked over to the restaurant hostess and asked if it was OK. She said yes.

"We're switching tables because otherwise, we're not having a calm breakfast," I told our friends, and we all moved over to Max's table, where he had a pitcher of mimosas waiting for us.

Once we were seated and Dave was helping Max down blueberry oatmeal pancakes and chocolate milk, one of our friends asked something alone the lines of, "Do you guys always give in to him like that?"

He didn't mean it obnoxiously, he was just curious.

"Well," I explained, "in a situation like this, I wanted you to enjoy your brunch, I wanted to enjoy brunch, and this was the only way Max would be pacified. So, yes, I gave in to him today."

His question percolated on my mind for the rest of the brunch. If this had happened with Sabrina, we wouldn't have let her get away with it. Nuh-uh. No way. But Max is another story.

I've written before about struggling with disciplining Max when I wasn't sure he understood me. These days, his cognition is much better, so that's not as much of an issue. Keeping the peace is.

Believe me, I do not let Max get away with everything for the sake of the greater good. We were in a store the other day, for example, and Max started tossing every single thing with a speck of purple into the shopping cart. First thought: Wow, he's using his hands really well! Second thought: Uh-oh. I let him pick just one purple thing, a plastic basket, and then took out the other stuff as he screeched his head off and people stared.

I certainly don't want Max growing up thinking he can always get his way. Can you picture Max on a date at a restaurant as he leaves the girl alone at their table, walks over to another and stakes a claim?! Can you picture Max tearing someone's shirt off them because it's purple?! (Actually, that might be kind of interesting to see.) Still, I know that his behavior isn't totally bratty; it's mainly because of his condition. Max has sensory issues about the hustle and bustle of restaurants, and asserting control by choosing a new place to sit calms him down. So I don't think it's wrong to give in, though our friend's question did give me pause.

[Sigh.] With Max, the answers are never black or white; they're inevitably gray.

Or purple.


  1. Link within just generated a pic of my sweet boy!

    I think that sometimes we give into the battle so we can just be people and not parents.

    Also, some things are bigger deals than others. I've seen plenty of kids sitting at their own tables in restaurants.

  2. It's a matter of picking your battles. Some things are more important. Enjoying a brunch with friends is more important than what table you're sitting at. I don't think discipline for any child is a matter of black & white. Each child is different and must be treated accordingly.

  3. Stopping over from Lynn's blog.

    I believe that you need to pick your battles. That sometimes there isn't any harm in letting a child have his way. In fact, sometimes parents say "no" just for the sake of saying no and not because they really need to.

    Now, I also really believe you need that "sometimes" in there. Not okay to give in all the time, but trying to find the balance.

    Sounds like you do a great job at this, mama!

  4. I struggle with this and my daughter. I don't always know what she understands and what way will be best to correct her behavior. I believe that every child and every situation is different. Enjoying your time with your friend was the goal, not working on your child's behavior.

  5. Ellen,
    This is a great post. It is so difficult. Faith has developed this problem with shopping carts...she wants to push them in her wheelchair but it is incredibly awkward and if she isn't allowed she screams and crys like it's the end of the world. I still haven't figured out what to do about it. I don't think there are any right answers!!!

  6. Stopping by to visit from Midday Escapades Monday Meet and Greet!!

    I really enjoyed your posts...I have read quite a few this fact I used up all my blogging time, :) and now I have to get ready for work.

    Took a button and can't wait to see what Max accomplishes next!!

  7. Thank you. Thank you for posting that. We "give in" quite frequently for the same reasons and sometimes we're made to feel like bad parents because of it. Sometimes I question myself a lot. Sometimes I wonder if we're doing right by our boy.

    Thank you for reminding me that sometimes it's a necessary part of parenting a child with special needs.

  8. Great post! I think we always struggle to take into account issues our kids may have that influence their behaviour (e.g. sensory, communication)that make discipline not black and white. It's really challenging when other people apply their experience with typical kids to ours.

    I often struggle with feeling that we haven't set enough limits with Ben or let him get away with too much, but so often I think about the fact that he can't express exactly what he's feeling and what is behind the behaviour

  9. As I was reading your post I thought - gee what a great solution to just go with the flow of Max. Why not? It seemed to work afterall!

  10. We struggle with this EVERY SINGLE DAY! Jack is quite particular (to put it mildly) and it's always a give and take and my poor brain hurts trying to sort it all out...Jack's the kind of guy who if you do it once you had better be prepared to always do it that way so something as simple as changing the color of his cereal bowl can kind of get much like a small snowball at the top of a mountain! All of that aside, my answer is yes! I give in -- especially for the very reasons you posted about! Thanks for posting :)it so helps to know we're not alone!

  11. I am stopping by from Midday Escapades to say hello. I think you are so right. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles glad to meet you. Have a great day..

  12. I have to agree with everyone who says it's your situation, you have to pick your battles, and people have to stand in your shoes before they can criticize how you manage any "events."

    I practice the "removal" method. If they act up, we're leaving. I don't back down. No exceptions. It took me a long time of bargaining (didn't always work), bribing (didn't always do it, either) and throwing my own bad conduct tantrum (frustration on my part, but I just looked like an idiot) before I figured out that just leaving works...for ME, anyway.

    It took about a hundred messy and drama-laden departures before it started working, though. I had to work through the boiling gut that accompanied these (sometimes REALLY LOUD) outburts, too. It's not easy to fake being calm when you are the unwanted center of attention, and you just want to yell yourself or run away from the situation.

    They know what "That's enough. Settle down or we'll have to go" means. They've figured out over the past year or so that I really mean it because we've done it often enough. But see, that's what works in our case. It probably wouldn't work in many other situations.

    Of course, I am lucky because there is no question of communication--I know exactly what "the problem" is (his is bigger than mine, I want the blue/pink/green one, I want to sit in that seat, I want/I dont want...or the place is just too BUSY--too many people, noises, colors, stuff happening).

    I also don't do much socializing; I don't know how I'd handle a meal with friends in that instance. I'd probably do what you did, especially if they were real good friends that I was looking forward to having a fun time with.

    I also have wonderful parents where I can dump the little troublemakers and go back to shopping or whatever--and I never am that far from home that I can't make this method happen.

    You know what "the balance" is. You're living it, you know when you're indulging, and when you're simply coping or managing so that you can have a life, too. And we all deserve one of those, don't we?

  13. This is Joyce. So gray. I would have done the exact same thing in this incidence. What does bother me a bit about this story is your friend's reaction. I would be a bit put off that he felt it appropriate to question your parental judgement. Period. But then add the more unique aspects of parenting Max and I say, "rude" just plain rude.

    P.S. Have you read the book "I love you the Purplest?"

  14. I don't know what to even say...I have found someone who struggles with the same things I struggle with. It's so easy to feel isolated when you are the parent of a special needs child. Your Max sounds so much like my Sam. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  15. Quirks. Our kids have 'em.

    We just had a similar issue on Christmas Eve. When Emmett is overwhelmed and over-stimulated, for some reason he finds comfort in...vacuum cleaners! It doesn't even need to be turned on. Christmas Eve at my in-laws was very chaotic, and Emmett asked to see the vacuum. When we pulled it out of the closet for him, my MIL threw a fit, yanked it out of his hands and put it away. Of course, Emmett was destroyed and we had to leave soon after. If she'd just have allowed him to sit with the vacuum like he wanted to, we all could have enjoyed ourselves.


    Sometimes it's better to just give in and let him be happy. These kids need MORE understanding and patience from us, not less.

  16. I'm agreeing with the sentiments expressed. I've done the same thing. I really admire your strength and love for Max.

    Thanks for being my featured blogger today! :0)

  17. trust yourself with max, you know him the best. I can see being torn between the therapeutic - look he's using both hands-and if it was the first time he ever did it- I might have maxxed out my credit card to buy everything!!

  18. I agree with the comments about "Picking your battles".

    One question.... does the friend that was with you have any kids of h is own???


  19. Interesting responses! Yes, the friend who asked has a kid.... It's clear, people just don't get it. Max must have seemed bratty to this guy, period. I wasn't offended, and I also didn't take the chance to educate him on why Max does what he does. Sometimes, I just don't feel like it. Joyce, I hadn't heard of "I Love You The Purplest"—just looked it up, what a cool book! Thank you for that suggestion!

  20. totally understand where u are comeing from due to the fact things have happend like that around here recently

  21. I know this post is really old, but it really strikes a chord with me right now. I have lately been toeing the line between trying to have some sort of discipline & order & boundries, but it can be really hard, b/c do I really want a serious tantrum over something that isn't a huge deal to me, just to make a point? But then how much giving in do I do that just makes for more misbehavior? And I am perfectly aware of those who think I spoil the heck out of my son...and am not so sure if they're wrong sometimes. But then, these people don't see the times that my husband & I do put our feet down & say no & deal w/ all the screaming & crying & throwing things, etc., etc. Ugh. Too much complication.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...