Monday, August 15, 2011

Discipline. Down syndrome or not.

One of the forums I frequent (or in-frequent?) is Life’s Journey with Down Syndrome.  It’s a small, private board, very close knit, and many of us have met personally after getting to know each other online.  The group there talks about many things, and discussions are always interesting but respectful, which I appreciate a great deal. (If you’re interested in joining, fill out the registration, or drop me a line and I can put in a good word for ya with the “powers that be.” Smile)

I don’t get to go over there and join the discussions nearly as often as I’d like, but today I popped in.  There was a thread about one of the topics I’m most passionate about… discipline/proper behavior, etc.  I won’t share the others’ comments since it is private, but since I wrote out a bit about my thoughts, I thought I’d share them here too so see if there was more discussion or thoughts that YOU might want to throw in…

(Someone had asked about if the members disciplined their children with DS…the same as their other kids, differently, less than, or not at all.  And discussion ensued about how each of us feels about the discipline/behavior topic.  Then a comment was made about how one member feels strongly about behavior and will at times avoid spending time with friends’ families/kids who are not well behaved or exhibit unacceptable behaviors.)

Part of my (edited for privacy) response is below… feel free to comment, politely, of course. 

I could go on for days about this topic! What *** said above is so true for me... I'm famous, for better or for worse, for avoiding kids that don't act in a way that I find acceptable. I have several friends who I would spend alot more time with but their kids either just really annoy me (sorry, being brutally honest) or are flat-out inappropriate to the extent that I don't want my girls to see that behavior. And often, it's the interaction between parent and child that bothers me more than just the behavior of the child. The unwillingness of a parent to be firm and respond beyond a half-hearted "Oh Billy, I wish you wouldn't do that," is really hard to watch. I always think, "If you WISH they wouldn't do it, make sure they don't. BE the parent!"

I'm a stickler for behavior. If I've said no, I mean it and it will be enforced pronto if it's not obeyed. Period. Do I mess up and sometimes get tired? Of course. But thankfully, my husband and I are on the same page about most of this stuff [so pleased!] so he is always consistent with them as well. There are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for both my girls, and unacceptable behaviors will meet a quick consequence every time.

Granted, some things are dealt with differently for each of them, for both personality and developmental reasons. But the rules are the same. Braska is very easy. She has gained a bit more of an attitude lately, but it's still generally easily addressed, and though she might pout a bit, she minds pretty well. Kinlee is VERY strong willed and too smart and manipulative for her age, but she is expected to behave in a proper manner, regardless of the fact that she's "only 2".

This goes as far as to speak politely when spoken to, to say please and thank you, no yelling in the house, no pushing, hitting, etc. The girls will repeat the mantra when I ask them... "When I give you an instruction, what do you do?" "Listen and obey," they chime. [Some people] think we're too strict and that we're not allowing them to have all the fun they apparently should be having, but we make sure they get plenty of "fun" and plenty of playtime to be silly girls, with the correlation to appropriateness of time and environment.

Though Kinlee can be very tough, she isn't [quite as] brazen anymore. We have worked hard to teach what is acceptable and stick with it. If a toy is treated in a manner that isn't appropriate, thrown, jumped on, etc, a firm verbal instruction might be given (Don't throw the block.) but if it is not immediately heeded, the physical will be there in seconds. The toy is removed, the child is removed from the area, the instruction is repeated clearly, at the very least. It doesn't have to be a big scene, loud or emotional, just clear information to the child that I mean what I say. What works for one might not work for all, but consistency works better than it's alternative every time.

Suffice it to say that behavior, proper and respectful behavior, is hugely important to us. I'd much rather be thought of as too strict and have well behaved kids who can mind themselves in most any adult or child situation than be seen as the easy-going mom and have kids that others are avoiding. It's all a balance, for sure, and I pray every day that I'm finding the right spot.

What’s your feeling about discipline and special needs/Down syndrome?  Or is the disability a non-issue?


  1. Always a thought-provoking usual. I feel the same way about behavior. As a classroom teacher, most of my efforts and successes were related to classroom management. Before we could accomplish ANYTHING we had to establish a classroom culture of respect and obedience for the common good. It was the only way to reach any of the other goals I'd set for my learners.
    It's probably even more significant with my own children (and why LC's recent status of wackadoo has me so bent out of shape). If anything, I think my leash has to be shorter for them than it otherwise would be because any reinforced behavior is three times as difficult to unlearn. I also think it extends beyond the obvious misbehaviors. When LC goes to school, she is very probably going to be the size of a typical toddler. Even so, it is NOT socially acceptable for a kindergartner to be carried around by adult teachers and I will expect the same for her. When Jace is in elementary school he may want to show affection for those he likes with hugs and kisses. But other 2nd grade boys will NOT be hugging and kissing their friends and, therefore, that's unacceptable behavior for him.
    All that said, I'd definitely like to send Pudge to RK Boot camp. Your girls are always shockingly and noticeably well-behaved. well DONE, momma.

  2. I remember being in the cardiologist's office with L once. She was playing with a musical toy, and I asked her to "make it quiet", which she understood and could do. She didn't, and after I addressed her again and she still refused, I took it from her. I told her since she did not listen to me, she could no longer play with her toy, because I was trying to talk to her doctor. He commented that he found it impressive that I treated her like "any other child". He didn't mean it in a bad way at all, but I still felt the need to say, "If I want the rest of the world to, then it has to start with me."

    We have clear expectations for both children. Our behavior techniques are different between the two of them, but that is simply because they respond to praise/reprimand differently. L responds to lots of praise, especially spontaneous praise (catch them being good), and usually it takes no more than a stern scolding to get her back on track. B, on the other hand, doesn't respond to much except a complete lack of acknowledgement. Time outs, yelling, negative reinforcement, etc don't matter to him, but if I tell him "I can't hear you if you're not sitting at the dinner table", he often finds his way back quickly.

    All this is to say, there is no developmental reason that L can't "behave". She is verbal, and she politeness is expected. She understands consequences, and her behavior should reflect that. She's not getting a free pass, at all. I still stand by what I said to the doctor: If I want the rest of the world to treat her as equal, than I need to teach her the responsibility she holds for that on her end.

  3. In total agreement with you and the Courtneys! You know my education background.
    Behavior has to be good for any child whether they have any special needs or not. Kids won't know if our kids can add 400+400 and really won't care if they can or not but, they will notice and care if our kids behavior is inappropriate.
    I hold the girls to the same standard that I hold Aidan.

  4. Thanks Cotes :o), Courtney, and Rochelle... you guys rank high on my list of the cool kids, as always!

  5. You're doing a great job RK! I agree with you whole heartedly. Consistency is key.

  6. I have enjoyed reading your blogs for a long time now.
    As far as discipline goes I think that a kid with DS and disabilities should be disciplined when called for, and I know that all kids respond differently to different types of discipline too. So like you said what works for one might not work for another.
    My 2 are totally different. My girl hated to be in trouble and of course she cried when she was in trouble even before you disciplined her. So sometimes we were not as harsh with her, depending on what she did. Now my son is a different story. He did not respond to time outs or anything like that after a while. However he did seem to respond to spankings (I do not mean beating either, for there is truly a difference).

    I just wanted to say that I think you are doing an awesome job with your kids and no I do not think you are to harsh on them. NOW is when you teach them right from wrong not after they are older.


  7. I think you guys are doing what parents should do. You guys are not too strict with the girls. I know how lovely mom you are. My youngest son is just a month old, so I am not sure how he will behave, but he is already grunting when I don't get his milk quickly.

    As far a discipline Tommy is something my husband and I discussed before he was born. We both agree we would discipline as any other child without making a different due to his diagnosis. Tommy is a very willed child and I began time out with him since he was 2 1/2 years old. I just do it when he is not listening at all what I am telling him or when he is behaving really bad and it works for him. Mostly, I count backwards and it works sometimes. Or I firmly say "Stop right now!," and he collapses in tears most of the time. Tommy and I have constant battles because he wants to do things in his way, even at the daycare they say he is very independent on what he wants.

    I agree different kids different discipline approaches.

  8. Discipline is just recently becoming and issue between us and Quade. He is SO hard headed and will test me beyond anything I ever imagined. But we are pushing forward and trying to establish rules.
    I would love to become a of this group. As a first time mom gaining knowledge from other parents has helped me a lot.

  9. Discipline is my hot button topic! Nothing...nothing nothing nothing makes me more irritated than when a parent does not take authority over their kids and discipline when called for. It's ridiculous. That is our job as parents....they need rules, they need boundaries. They are comfortable when those are in place. They feel safe when they know what is expected of them and when. I totally get what you mean about not being around certain people because of their kids. I even feel that way around family members as well! Lets just say family gatherings are NOT always a blast! Consistency is the key in ANY situation with any child, whether they have special needs or not. If more people would practice that, then I think a lot of the behavioral issues we are seeing today would dissapear. Also...if everyone were as perfect a parent as me...the world would be a better place;) (of course...that is a joke. Soooo...SOOOO not a perfect parent!)

  10. Here's an issue I need help with! Kayla has started talking back, or saying back to me what I've said to her. As an example I might tell her "Kayla you're being rude." She'll then say, "You're being rude mommy." I'm having a difficult time explaining to her what she is doing (ie the talking back) is not acceptable. I say it's not acceptable, and I say you don't talk back, but I really don't think she understands the meaning of what that is. (Does that make sense?) I don't think she's doing/saying it on purpose, as a way to talk back, but she is just impulsive(?) and says what comes to mind. There are some behaviors, like she'll hide her face in her hands when I'm talking to her (or doing homework and she doesn't know the answer, or doesn't WANT to do the work), or she'll turn her head away from me with her chin in the air. I feel like I'm having trouble getting through to her, and I feel like some of her behavior is a lack of being able to communicate (on her part).
    For the most part her and Lucas are disciplined the same way (most commonly a time out sitting against the wall) but I know some things will have to be adjusted for Kayla based on cognitive ability and communication.
    I know I don't want her to be one of those kids acting out, getting away with anything *because* of having Ds either.
    I'm trying to find other methods beside the time-out, but she really doesn't have anything she is 'attached' to that I can take away, not even something like watching tv or computer time because that isn't something they do that often.
    Sorry for writing such a long reply!

  11. Karen, Susan, Rosa, Angie, Misty, Michelle--Thanks for your input. For the encouragement and for the enlightenment!

  12. RK,
    I think you are doing a GREAT job with teaching your girls how to behave.
    If you ask me the kids who are disciplined are the ones that are the happiest. They have rules and know what is expected of them.

    I hate going to a store and a kid is misbehaving and the parent does nothing, or better yet they laugh at them. I went to Targ*t the other day kid knocked down a display they parent just laughed and thought it was extremely funny. Sorry but my child would not have thought it was funny when I got through with him.
    Better yet to to Restaurant and the kids misbehave and even run around the tables while people are trying to eat in peace, and again the parents do nothing.
    Sorry but I went to the Restaurant to enjoy my meal in peace. If I had of wanted to watch a child play I would have gone to the park to eat.
    Sorry but venting....

    This was a great post thanks for writing about it RK.


  13. I think that I am harder on Ella (Ds) than I am on Hunter (typical.) Part of that reason I think is just their personalities, Hunter I can just give a look and it breaks his little heart and he shapes up right away. Ella, oh Ella, she is defiante, sassy, unreasonable etc, so MUCH harder to deal with. I think that I am perhaps harder on her because she has Ds (that sounds horrible but it's true) I want her behavior to be socially acceptable, both now and definetely in the future. That being said she is a REALLY hard child to discipline. She gets it in the moment and I believe is truly sorry BUT she is SO impulsive and will repeat the behavior over and over. It's a tough job, being a parent, that's for sure!!

  14. I believe with all my heart we are called to discipline, 'train up our children' if you will, by God. We have 18 years to teach them how to behave in an acceptable way. DS or not, my girls are both responsible for the same type of behavior, respectful of others and their things and space. Do I repeat more for my daughter with DS? Absolutely, because that's on her level, but ultimately, she is still responsible for her actions and her actions, good or bad, have consequences.

  15. I agree with you, Randa! Yea for you and other mamas who teach their children to obey - with love! You make the world a much nicer place!


Thanks for commenting!! I only ask that we all keep it positive, respectful, and clean. Comment moderation is on for now. (As this is my blog, I reserve the right to delete any comment I deem inappropriate for any reason.) If you use the anonymous option, be sure to sign your name. Thanks!!

Make it a great day!!