Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thumbs Up

For the longest time we’ve struggled with finding an effective method to discipline CJ. In the few months leading up to the discovery of his developmental delay and sensory issues, it became apparent that absolutely nothing was working.

Discipline seems to be hotly debated topic. In my opinion, the point of discipline is to train the child in the appropriate way to behave in any given situation. This, I’ve come to understand isn’t a simple one-size fits all task.

We’ve tried all sorts of things with CJ- time-outs, rewards, removing a toy, and in desperation even spanking. I was spanked as a child. I didn’t like it and it deterred me from doing the thing that resulted in being smacked on the butt. It did not faze CJ and did not serve as a deterrent against the behavior being repeated. Bottom line, it didn’t work- so what’s the point of doing it? It didn’t feel right to me and for a reason.

And CJ began to lash out at others- he hit, bit and kicked and screamed. At first we were befuddled at what the heck was going on with this kid. He’s been strong willed from birth and obviously bright, but a different creature had taken over. I’ve written prior about the horrible experience we had at the preschool he was attending at the time; I won’t go into it again.

Long story short, we discovered after an evaluation with an OT- setup through our Pediatrician- that he was delayed in grasp and visual motor. Also SPD- see my sidebar with links for more information. What he was doing was exhibiting frustrated behavior at his inability to hold crayons/pencils and draw/write. And he had a big traffic jam in his brain with sensory overload. He didn’t have the verbal ability or maturity to put into words what was happening to him. And he was labeled a behavioral problem by the former preschool.

You simply cannot spank a neurological disorder out. You can’t change the behavior exhibited by a neurology disorder by spanking. And since I wasn’t sure what behavior was resulting from the SPD and what was him being stubborn. I decided that it was simply not for us. The understanding of the developmental delays shed light on the frustrated behavior. And helping that simply involves therapy to increase the skills. As the skills have increased, the frustrated behaviors subside.

At our new care facility, his teacher has been wonderful. I was honest with her from the get-go at what we were dealing with. She didn’t bat an eyelash. He’s put her through her paces and she has never held any of his behavior against him. She doesn’t let him slide, by any means. But she was a huge blessing in our lives at the perfect time.

A couple months ago I was at the school, picking him up from the day. He looked at Ms. C and said, “Did I have a this day (holds his little thumb up) or a this day (little thumb down). She smiled and held her thumb up and he smiles and jumps up and down. I must have looked puzzled because she then explained that when he’s behaving well, she gives him a thumbs up and if he begins to slide into inappropriate behavior she gets his attention and holds her thumb out sideways and tells him he’s getting there and let’s bring it back up. We don’t want to get to here (holds her thumb out down) and CJ responds by shaking his head no.

Are you kidding me? That’s about as simple as it can get. And it works on him?

I decided then, that I would bring that tool back home with me. I’d see how it works for us at home or out in public. I’ve discovered it’s a nice thing to have in public. It can cut back on verbal scolding. As long as I can get his attention, it can be used from across a room. He doesn’t like getting a sideways thumb and will usually correct himself in order to get a thumbs up.

I don’t know why it works. Why does this speak to him when other things don’t?

I like that it’s immediate. I see him sliding and usually can catch him before it escalates.

Like everything it isn’t perfect and doesn’t always work. But we have had better results from a simple thumb than anything else.

*Please note that I am not making any commentary about the way anyone disciplines their child. I am simply writing about my personal experience with one of my children. I make no judgement of anyone. You discipline your child as you see fit and do what works for your family as long as it is legal. I am not debating disciplinary styles. If you would like to comment on what works for you or your experience without criticizing others then that is welcome. Openly critical, mean comments will not be posted.

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