A calm talk with my son about rewards, consequences and his behavior

As I have written about before, Fridays tend to be the worst day of the week for Cameron, every week he goes to school, deals with his little brother, has to deal with us parents and come Friday, his behaviour becomes a real issue.

This passed Friday was no exception, he woke up in a bad mood, being defiant and talking back to us in regards to just about everything. A simple request such as “Cameron, can you please put on your socks?” was met with him yelling back at us “No! I not go to school, I not put on my socks!”

ScreamingThere’s only an hour between his wake up time and the bus arriving but his defiant, lashing out behaviour was more than enough for me to send him to his room long before the bus arrived. He continued to yell back at me from the room.

I waited for only a minute before calmly walking in and sitting next to him on his bed.

I said to him “What good does it do for you to behave bad like this? Will it make me want to give you treats and let you play games?”

He shook his head “no”, without saying a word.

I then said “Today is Friday, which means that tomorrow you have no school. Do you think you’ll get to have lots of fun tomorrow by being really bad today?”

Again, he shook his head “no”.

I continued “Do you think I’d be happier and want to do more fun things with you this week-end if you were a good boy?”

He nodded his head “yes”.

Along the same path, I said “do you think being good at school today will mean having more fun this week-end?”

He nodded again, “yes”.

This was important, because without having ever said a word, he agreed with me that behaving good means having more fun, getting more rewards. He also recognized that behaving poorly meant getting less treats and less fun.

So finally I asked him “are you done being grumpy? Do you want to try hard to be good now so we can have a good week-end?”

He nodded “yes”.

We left his room and continued to get ready to go outside. While getting his snow pants on, he finally spoke, saying “Dad, I’ll be good today, I promise.”

Sure enough, he came home from school with a big smile, telling me that he had no thinking chairs (time outs). I checked his book (from his teachers) and they said that he must have really turned it around because he had a really great day at school. He listened well, he participated in everything and had no time outs.

Now, I recognize that this won’t change things for the rest of his life but it’s a huge breakthrough, one that I know can be repeated. He’s proven to me that he understands the consequences of his actions, even the ones he has little control over, such as his meltdowns.

And while he will still lash out and be defiant, at least now I know that I can work with him to get through it.

It’s hard sometimes, as parents, to stay calm and try the ‘logic’ approach rather than just letting them stay in their room for a while “to think about it”. It’s especially hard if your child has Autism and you have no way of knowing just how much they understand or can process. But it’s still worth trying anyway because you may just be pleasantly surprised… as I was.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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2 Responses to A calm talk with my son about rewards, consequences and his behavior

  1. Roger Tidd December 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    As a teacher working with children on the spectrum I realised very early on that teaching ’cause and effect’ was probably the most important concept. Without it ‘consequences’ are meaningless!

  2. Alain December 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    Well done! Keep up the good work! I wish I could deal with my guys in as straightforward a manner.

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