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Why to discipline a child with language processing difficulties

(16 Posts)
JoinTheDots Mon 24-Mar-14 10:39:22

Hi all,

So DD (3.5) with some undiagnosed SN maybe ASD, ADHD, dyspraxia, or sensory processing issues, or a mix of them all, was in the bath yesterday and was told not to splash water outside the tub or she would have to get out of the bath.

She understood this, and still splashed a lot of water outside the tub on purpose so was removed from the bath.

Cue tantrum.

During tantrum she hit out at my DH and was told if she hit again she would lose her favourite toy for the rest of the day. She hit again and lost the toy. More tears.

As she was calming down, she asked for the toy she lost and I said no, she asked why and I said because you hit daddy, she asked why she hit daddy and I said because you were angry at having to get out of the bath. She asked why she had to get out of the bath and I said because you splashed mummy with water.

She started crying again and said she didn't want to do anything bad again and just seemed really confused.

I now question myself about how much of what was going on she was really understanding and processing. So my question is, how do you discipline children who might not entirely understand what's going on? I need to have a zero tolerance policy with the hitting, I just can't stand it, and she needs to be more willing to do as she is told but am I going about it the right way?

Redoubtable Mon 24-Mar-14 11:08:08

It's so difficult isn't it.

You say she understood what the rule was...and then did it on purpose.
I would wonder if she truly understood.
If she has language processing issues, she may have not understood (although she may have agreed with you), or she may have genuinely and completely forgotten.

Relying on language (in the excitement of bath-time) might not work. Could you use drawings and a social story before you start, with constant re-inforcement of not spashing until she understands what 'success' lookslike?

Note: I am not criticising what you did...I have made similar mistakes and this is what I find works....describe the desired behaviour, model it, have them copy me, hover over them for the first few times with massive amounts of praise for doing it 'right', fade away the supervision.

ouryve Mon 24-Mar-14 11:11:12

You need to stick with consequences which link directly with the behaviour issue. Even though she wasn't happy about it, taking her out of the bath for splashing the water was a reasonable consequence. She probably doesn't even link removing the toy to the hitting, though, unless she was hitting you with it.

Emphasise kind hands, when she starts hitting. If you can walk away and say mummy will come and talk to you, again, when you can be gentle, do so. If you can't, turn her around, hold both hands, gently rub them (so she's getting sensory feedback, which can be calming) and say no, we need to be gentle. The hitting won't have got her back into the bath, so it's clear to her that it's not going to get her what she wants.

This is an excellent website, btw.

ouryve Mon 24-Mar-14 11:13:45

And agreeing that a social story might help, if it's a repeated problem.

JoinTheDots Mon 24-Mar-14 11:21:58

Oh, I am completely open to criticism! What I did yesterday did not work, so I need the advice.

You could be completely right. I think she understood she was not meant to splash, but it is possible she had forgotten, and it is possible she was just being impulsive. She is very impulsive. It is also possible she understood no splashing, but did not think what she was doing counted as splashing. Who knows...

I do praise good behaviour but I might try exaggerating a bit more. I hate giving sanctions, but she seems to respond to these much more consistently and quickly than praising the good and ignoring the bad so I often seem to turn to "if you do x you will lose y" which I hate feeling I have to do.

Good idea to model and get her to copy. Currently mostly trying to simplify language rather than getting her to follow my lead with actually doing things for her to observe. Other than what she sees me doing in daily life of course.

She does not seem to get anything from pictures (asks me to tell her or gets distracted by something in the picture which is not its intended purpose) but I can try the social story idea, she loves books, I will have to write some simple ones.

Anything is worth a try! Thank you

JoinTheDots Mon 24-Mar-14 11:25:36

Ouryve, thank you for the website and the tip about linking hitting and sanctions, you have a good point there. I need to curb my own emotional response when she hits (I try not to show it outwardly, but it makes me very angry and upset, so I need to detach and be the calm adult she needs as an anchor). Good ideas for phrases to use too, kind hands and being gentle. I think she would like the sensory feedback - if I can get her to stand still and not lash out at me while I am trying to do it!

Babiecakes91 Mon 24-Mar-14 12:31:26

My 2 year old ds has asd and is non verbal and I swear at times that he was just ignoring me before he got dx , then I found out it may be that in that moment he knew and he couldn't control what he was doing.
He went away with his grampa for week and one of his aunties has hit his hand so for a month after he got home he was hitting out of anger and happiness so we ignored him when he did it and it did hurt a lot, but he's not hit in two months now as he gets no reaction at all.

PolterGoose Mon 24-Mar-14 14:32:22

Splashing in the bath is a lot of fun. We went for reducing the amount of water in the bath to limit the 'damage', with a basic 'no water must leave the bath' rule. Lots of bath toys as a diversion can help. Go for lots of bubbles instead of lots of water as bubbles make less mess. And watch your reaction, if you're responding to being splashed by screeching and doing a funny shocked face, she might be doing it because your response is making it even more fun IYSWIM? Lots of 'lovely playing dd, and no big splashing, well done' type commentary. If ever you feel you are losing it either do tag team parenting or back off and calm down. We all lose it at times, have a plan for how you deal with it.

My DD is a little older at 5.4 (gosh how did that happen?!), but she has a language disorder and can be quite challenging at times. She hits out and like you it makes me really angry and things tend to escalate.

What I have found works is giving DD the choice to calm down. So if she shouts or hits. I do a simple do not shout at/hit me/your brother/the cat and calmly take her to another room and tell her she can rejoin us when she chooses to behave. She calms down and then comes back and no more is said.

The lack of reaction from me, coupled with putting her in control (she comes back when she is choosing to behave) has lead to a reduction in her screaming and hitting.

Also, I am trying to understand that a lot of it is born of frustration and not being able to communicate how she is feeling so I also try and understand what is wrong, e.g. 'you didn't want X to come and sit with you'. So then I get her to say what was actually wrong and it also seems to calm her and gives her more language for the next time the situation occurs.

zzzzz Mon 24-Mar-14 14:57:23

For mine the rules and language can become a bit jumbled especially in the heat of the splashathon. Simplify language "dcname, no, splashing", then "no splashing ONE", "no splashing TWO" .....if I say three the activity stops. Leave more time in between and definitely give warnings.

Move on with "no hitting ONE" etc, get to three mine would be in his room without the toys.

youarewinning Mon 24-Mar-14 21:26:39

One thing I've always loved is the explanation needs to be the 'what to do' not the 'not what to do'

So if a child with language processing difficulties hers 'don't splash the water out of the bath' they may actually only hear 'water out the bath' iyswim? Whereas if you say 'keep the water inside the bath' even if they don't fully comprehend they'll hear 'water inside the bath'

So when you give consequences (as strange as it sounds as it's not grammatically correct!) you can use something like "water in the bath or bath finished"

Obviously if she does understand that and chooses to splash then you'll have to follow through. Can you create a safe space for her so when she gets overwhelmed she can be put there - where she can't kick you or limits the hurt she causes herself?

ouryve Mon 24-Mar-14 22:43:31

Quite, youare.

When DS1 is bombing around the bathroom, in the morning, when he needs to be scrubbed up enough to be reasonably sweet smelling and presentable, instructions tend to be "stop talking" (sounds negative, but it's a clear instruction of what to do), "arms by your side", "both feet on the floor" and so on.

zzzzz Tue 25-Mar-14 00:09:34

It is ALWAYS better to tell someone (anyone) to DO something rather than NOT to do something.

JoinTheDots Tue 25-Mar-14 10:06:02

Very good point, I shall try to be aware of that.

TheLightPassenger Tue 25-Mar-14 18:18:36

I agree with youare and zzzz about stripping language right down. At that sort of age I tended to go for "no, naughty" or "gentle hands" and counts, and v simplified language (my DS was at 1 to 2 word understanding level at 3).Also I went more for consequences than discipline overall.

WaveorCheer Tue 25-Mar-14 19:43:18

My DS is 3.5 and has reduced receptive language skills. He really struggles with even basics like "if you do x then I will y". I would have removed him from the bath for continuing to splash (or more likely let the water out!) but have never used your second example of removing a toy for hitting because it's so far beyond his comprehension.

I'm a big fan of Janet Lansbury (she has a blog called Elevating Childcare) and her technique with hitting, biting etc is to say, "X, I won't let you hit me" in a neutral, disinterested tone, whilst helping the child not to. So with hitting, I might take DS's hand gently in mine so that he can't use it to hit.

Not a standard technique, for sure, but the language comprehension needed is ok for DS, and actually I really like the underlying philosophy - that the child doesn't really want to hit you, that it's a symptom of their frustration, annoyance or whatever. I try to reflect DS's feelings back to him, which I think both helps his language, and helps him with his emotions. So for example, I might say, "DS, I can see that you're really frustrated because DS2 has a toy you would like to play with. But I won't let you hit him."

I find disciplining him really hard, tbh. So tricky when you're not sure how much they understand, but you need to make the effort!

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