Discipline is defined as training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. Parents often wonder what is the best way to discipline their child or teenager. Discipline has two main goals. First, two change behaviors and second to maintain the relationship.
Three strategies to change behaviors quickly
“Thinking of children as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment. Thinking of children as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress. Ross Green.” PhD.
Parents who use these strategies will help improve their child’s behavior and will still maintain a loving relationship with their child or teenager.
Many children and teenagers with Neurodevelopmental Disorders like Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), struggle with social, emotional, and behavior challenges. Parents of children with ADHD, Autism, and other Neurodevelopmental Disorders need to learn additional parenting strategies that can improve their child’s behaviors.
Children with ADHD, Autism and Developmental Delays can be forgetful, impulsive and prone to distractions with daily tasks. Parents often get frustrated when their child or adolescent does not complete their tasks and responsibilities completely. Using effective prompts can help parents reduce their stress and maintain the relationship. Effective prompting and fading can help children and adolescents become more independent, respectful, and responsible.
Reasons for Using Prompts
Prompts can be used to increase skills or improve behaviors. Examples include improving hygiene, completing daily tasks, transitioning from one task to another, completing homework, following directions, improving communication skills, and many other skills and behaviors.
Prompt: Any assistance that helps the child/adolescent perform the correct skill or behavior.
Fading: Gradually reducing prompts until the correct skill or behavior is being done independently.
Types of Prompts for ADHD, Autism, and Developmental Delays
1. Physical – touching the child/adolescent including (Full) hand over hand through whole or part of the behavior to (Partial) touching an elbow to start a response. Physical prompting is typically used with younger children.
2. Modeling – physically demonstrating the correct skill or behavior. A parent shows how to do the correct behavior or skill first then has the child do it. Also, doing the correct behavior together is a form of modeling like when helping your child clean their room.
3. Gestural – using gestures (pointing, hand gesture, orienting or signaling in some way) to encourage the correct behavior.
4. Verbal (full and partial) – a full verbal prompt is giving the entire response (“juice) and a partial verbal prompt is giving just the beginning sound (“j”).
5. Voice Inflection – using your voice in a way to give a hint to the child/adolescent which response would be correct.
6. Visual - presenting a picture, object, list, or picture symbols to help the child/adolescent do the correct behavior or skill.
Considerations and Cautions
Parents should use the least intrusive prompt necessary for the child/adolescent to do the desired skill or behavior. For new skills, the child/adolescent may need more intrusive prompting such as physical prompts. For a skill that is already acquired, a child/adolescent may need just a word or a gesture to get him or her to perform the skill.
Parents need to work together to make sure the appropriate prompt is being used so there is consistency in teaching.
Prompts need to be faded as soon as possible as children/adolescents may become prompt-dependent. Fading makes sure that a child/adolescent will not become dependent on adults to complete tasks for them.
Increasing reinforcement as the prompts are faded, motivates the child/adolescent to continue the appropriate skill or behavior.
Verbal prompts are the most widely used prompt, but can also be aversive to many children/adolescents. Instead of prompting exactly what a child/adolescent needs to do, try asking: What comes next? Where does that go? What should you be doing? Asking open-ended questions causes him/her to think, fosters independence, and generalizes skills across other settings.
Parents often ask me, “How do you teach your kids how to be responsible?” Responsibility is defined as the state of fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management. So how do we teach our kids to be responsible?
The Perfect Life
As parents we want our children to succeed and do well socially and academically. We want our children to never have to struggle too much, be uncomfortable, or be disappointed. We want them to attend the best colleges and universities and meet that special someone whom they will marry. Eventually we want them to grow up to be productive citizens and good parents themselves.
In the 1980’s scientists built a biosphere in the mountains of Arizona. It was an attempt to create the “perfect” living environment for the human, plant, and animal life. The environment was created for perfect growing conditions for trees, fruits, and vegetables. The trees inside this sealed enclosure grew more rapidly than other trees in natural environments. However, they had weak underdeveloped root systems. When the trees grew to be a certain height, they would fall over. Scientists realized they forgot the natural element of wind. Trees need wind to help them grow their root systems deeper into the soil which in turn helps support the trees as they grow taller. The trees were not allowed to struggle and their roots and foundations were not strong enough to hold them up as they grew.
Children and Adolescents Learn Responsibility by Learning to Solve Their Own Problems
Children and adolescents learn responsibility through the natural experiences of life by learning to solve their own problems with their parents’ guidance. As a parent, have you rescued your child from getting poor grades, being teased, playing too rough on playgrounds, having to deal with a difficult teacher or peer at school? Have you made excuses for your child not completing tasks or chores or have you protected them from uncomfortable feelings or situations? Every parent has done this at one point or another. The more experiences and mistakes children and adolescents make the more they will learn how to be responsible.
Is it possible for children who have not been responsible for their actions and who have not solved their own problems to have the tools to face the rigors of adult life? Children who are robbed of the opportunities to solve their own problems will struggle as adults. Parents are not obligated to solve their child’s problem. Parents need to hand the problem back to their child in a loving way and guide them to solve their own problems.
Guiding Children to Solve Their Own Problems
The popular Love and Logic® parenting classes have outlined five steps in helping our children solve their own problems.
Parents who apply these steps have less stress and more responsible kids. These steps can be used for children and adolescents with Autism, ADHD, and other Behavioral Disorders with some slight modifications. The effectiveness of this approach does not depend on our children listening to our wisdom. It depends on our ability to empathetically hand the problem back in a loving way and help them explore solutions to their problems. Children and adolescents who learn to solve their own problems when they make mistakes or are faced with challenges will have a stronger foundation and become independent, responsible, and respectful adults.
Kyle Bringhurst, MSW