Day #240 – Our 3-Step ‘Punishment’

In Day #232 – Baltimore & Why I’m Terrified I told the story of Tucker ripping a bathroom door off its hinges.

A reader sent me a message, “How did I convince the school to not punish Tucker more severely?”

I answered his question – but have been thinking about that ever since.

One punishment simply doesn’t fit all – especially in the spectrum world.

The best thing that could have happened, happened in this situation.  His ‘misbehavior’ was dealt with in a positive, productive way.

I would argue that one punishment never has (or will) fit all….on or off the spectrum.

A very different example?

Last fall Tucker got into a bit of a skirmish with another boy at lunch.  I received a call from the school and was told that he would be ‘eating alone’ for a couple of days as his punishment.

I shook my head.  Worst punishment ever…and probably not for the reason you are thinking.

If Tucker put together this ‘eating alone’ punishment with a skirmish it will result in more skirmishes.  Why?

Tucker’s version of a wonderful lunch?

Eating alone, in a quiet place without all of the noise.
Eating alone, with his book to read when he finishes.
Eating alone, not having to engage in conversation with anyone.
Eating alone is heaven to him.

I had to call the school and remind them that this, in fact, was not punishment at all.  So, we worked together to come up with a different plan.

My point?  Punishment just doesn’t work with most spectrum kiddos.

It doesn’t work because the ‘misbehavior’ is often unable to be helped (knocking things over).
It doesn’t work because the child may not really understand why the behavior is wrong.
It doesn’t work because ‘I told you so’ doesn’t provide enough reason to stop doing something.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to ‘step-in’ as a High School Principal while the residing Principal had surgery.  I truly believed then (and now) that…

1.  Punishment has to be related to said crime
2.  Punishment must mean something to the culprit
3.  Punishment must teach a positive lesson of some kind or have a positive end result

Yes, I think detention is silly.  It’s a catch-all that really doesn’t teach any type of lesson.

A boy was sent to me because a teacher saw him pick a piece of gum up off the floor and then offer it to his neighbor.  No, I didn’t think this was a ‘Principal’ level offense…but it was my job to deal with the situation.  I ‘punished’ the child to a week of custodial duty after school.

1.  The punishment was related to the crime.
2.  I ‘took away’ the student’s free time-that definitely meant something to him.
3.  The positive lesson was learning how much time and effort the regular custodians put into keeping the school clean.

Little did I know that these ideals would carry over into parenting a child on the spectrum and honestly?  Any child, in general (at least I think).

I knew behavioral management would be a struggle fairly early on.  These things called ‘time-outs?’  Ridiculous.  Useless.

It’s when I began to get creative.

Break a bird bath?  Let’s sit together and put it back together.

1.  Punishment related to crime.
2.  Took away free play time.
3.  Putting the pieces together forced practice on fine-motor skills.

Hit your sister?  You will sit beside her and watch her favorite movie.

1.  Punishment related to crime.
2.  Took away free play time.
3.  Watching her favorite movie will give you something to talk to her about.  The physical act of sitting together will force kindness…or you will watch another and another.

Dump your supper plate?  You will help me clean that up and wash the rest of dishes from supper.

1.  Punishment related to crime.
2.  Took away free time.
3.  We spend quality time together.  You learn a basic life skill.

Most recently?  Fail a math test?  You will retake it at home after school.

1.  Punishment related to crime.
2.  Took away after school free time.
3.  We spend quality time together – working on math.  He sees me doing something I don’t particularly like to do, but recognize is necessary.

Trust me – I know this takes more time.  It takes creativity.  It takes thought.
Trust me – I’ve watched and listened to parents who yell, engage in time-out, and/or send children to their rooms.

To each their own…

Here is what I know.  The method I’ve learned because of Tucker results in better outcomes for better reasons.  Children behaving  in positive ways because they know what is appropriate and why, NOT because they are scared or scarred.

I had to parent Tucker in this way…because nothing else worked.

Because of Tucker, I have had the incredible opportunity to parent Estelle in this same way.  How blessed I was to learn this lesson early.

Little child boy wall corner punishment standing

6 thoughts on “Day #240 – Our 3-Step ‘Punishment’

  1. I have to do something that will identify my son as having autism. Sometimes it is not obvious unless he starts to talk. Every time I see or hear a news story like this, it makes me so scared.


      • I really appreciate that. I am also planning on taking him to the local police department to have them speak with him and he to them!


      • Oh yes, yes, and more yes! Talk to as many people as you can!!! The more you work at building a community of understanding the better off he (and honestly, you) will be!! Feel free to share my blog (especially the one about Baltimore) and if I can help in any way, just let me know!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

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