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.
1) Staying Calm
Frustration and anger fuel negative behavior. Most discussions fall apart as soon as one person’s heart rate increases. In situations where we feel emotionally or physically threatened physiologically our heart rate surges and our adrenaline rises. Our “fight, flight, or freeze” mechanism kicks in and problem solving becomes very difficult. When we are in this state we are more likely to verbally attack others, become defensive, or run away from the situation. At this point, we are not emotionally regulated and our interaction progressively gets worse.
When a person is not emotionally regulated and they are in the fight, flight, or freeze mode they need to take a break from the situation until they are regulated again. They can go for a walk, listen to calming music, do breathing exercises, or other activities that help them to regulate their emotions. After they are calm, they need to come back to the situation and try to resolve it again.
2) Improve Your Nonverbal Communication
How many of you have heard, “It’s not the words you use but how you say it?” Your tone of voice speaks volumes of how you really feel about a situation. Avoid sarcasm and scoffing when trying to communicate with others. Our body language speaks the loudest. Your facial expressions, gestures, posture, and level of eye contact are powerful when communicating.
Pay attention to others and your own body language. Look for clues on how the other person might be feeling by noticing his or her face and stance of their body. Avoid facial expressions that convey mockery or contempt. Don’t roll your eyes, purse your lips, or twist them in a sarcastic smile. By improving how you understand and use nonverbal communication, you can express what you really mean, connect better with others, and build stronger, more meaningful relationships.
3) Listening and Speaking Without Being Defensive
The key to defusing defensiveness is to be a good listener. When you are the listener it is your job to understand and empathize with the feelings behind the words you hear. This can be very difficult, especially when someone is criticizing or yelling at you. Try not to get hooked into the personal attacks that provoke you to defend yourself. Nondefensive listening doesn’t mean you agree with the other person. Your job is to understand and empathize with how they are feeling and accept them as legitimate even if you don’t share the same feeling.
When you are speaking, especially after you were the listener, your automatic reaction might be to express your displeasure by criticizing or expressing contempt. This will escalate the conflict.
Learn to express your complaint rather than make a personal attack. How you react to the situation at this point will determine the likely outcome.
Listening or speaking without being defensive helps prevent destructive behaviors. It will help defuse negative cycles we often get into in relationships with our spouse, children, and others.
4) Locking in the Empathy and Validating
Empathy and validating are putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagining his or her emotional state. Letting them know you truly understand him or her is one of the most powerful tools for healing your relationship. Instead of ignoring others' point of view, you try to see the problem from their perspective and show them that you value their viewpoint.
Summarize and then validate what the other person might be experiencing. For example, “It makes sense to me now why you saw it this way, and what your needs were.” Take responsibility for your actions in situations that do not turn out well. Apologize if you were wrong. Admitting you were wrong has a powerful impact on your relationships. Complimenting the other person for handling tough situations will likely have a positive effect on the rest of your conversation.
Sometimes it is difficult to empathize and validate the feelings and perspectives of others. In this case, let the other person know you are trying to understand how they feel or their perspective. “I hear what you are saying and am trying to understand how you feel.” This is still validating that they are important to you even though you do not understand their point of view. Empathy and validation need to be genuine to be effective.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Changing behaviors requires a lot of practice. Don’t give up when these strategies do not work right away. The more you practice these skills the more automatic they will become. Incorporating these four keys in your relationships will improve them. As you do this your relationships will become a source of support and happiness in life.
Applied Consistently Over Time,
Produce Big Results.
John M Gottman Ph.D. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.
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.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often thought of as a disorder of inattention and overactivity. It is also thought of as a disorder that creates difficulties in concentration and organization. New research and reports based on long-term studies of ADHD are showing that emotional instability should be treated as a core symptom of ADHD.
Emotional dysregulation is the inability to properly modulate and regulate emotions. Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts such as destroying or throwing objects, aggression towards self or others, and threats to harm others or oneself. Emotional dysregulation can lead to behavioral problems that interfere with a person’s social interactions, home life, marriage, school, or work.
What Is Emotional Regulation?
Emotional regulation Is a term typically used to describe a person’s ability to effectively manage and respond to emotional experiences, control bodily functions, and maintain focus and attention. Most of us use a variety of emotion regulation strategies and apply them to adapt to different demands, situations, and environments. Some of these strategies are healthy including talking with friends, exercising, meditation. Other strategies are not healthy including avoiding difficult situations, physical or verbal aggression, abusing alcohol or other substances.
Self-regulation happens early in life, such as sucking your thumb in infancy, needing your favorite blanket(s) as a toddler, or wanting your parent to kiss your “boo boo”. As a child we learned to regulate our emotions by the environments we were raised in and the modeling from parents, teachers, and other caregivers.
Treatment for Emotional Dysregulation:
Current available treatments focus on reducing symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning at home, school, and in the community. Medications are common in treating ADHD along with psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Treatments that have been developed to help individuals regulate their emotions and decrease symptoms of ADHD include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness, and others. To successfully self-regulate there are three critical neurological components that need to be part of the coping strategies learned to regulate emotions: sensory processing skills, executive functioning skills, and emotional regulation skills.
Many parents and individuals seek a therapist or counselor for ADHD who understands the mental and emotional aspects of the disorder. Others may find a behavior specialist who understands the behavioral components of ADHD, but struggles to address the emotional complexities of ADHD. Arizona Behavioral Consulting provides both mental health and behavior consulting to children, adolescents, adults, parents, and teachers so they can learn how to manage and decrease the challenges associated with ADHD.
Kyle Bringhurst, MSW
Address: 3048 East Baseline Road Suite 107
Mesa, AZ 85204