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How to deal with 5 year old who doesn't react to being told off

(12 Posts)
Areyoufree Fri 13-Jan-17 23:41:45

My daughter is 5, and we are currently seeking a diagnosis for ASD. I have had some amazing advice from this board already, and am reading both "The explosive child" and "The out of sync child", which are really helpful.

I'm kind of stuck on one thing though. I understand more now about why she reacts the way she does sometimes, and am working on improving her skills, and helping with unsolved problems, but I don't know how to handle it when she doesn't react to being told off. For example, this evening, we were playing. Her and her brother both got carried away, he pulled her hair, and she hit him. I told them both off, and she grabbed my arm, and raked her nails down it. I was slightly stunned by this, and she said "Sorry", then carried on as if nothing had happened. I told her that there would be no bedtime story (she has been warned before about this), and she just shrugged and still acted like nothing had happened. But then, other nights, the idea of not having a bedtime story could send her into hysterics.

I just don't know what's going on in her head. Whether we are not being firm enough, although, judging by experience, that would only make things worse. But she genuinely doesn't seem to care about consequences - we tried a reward system, where she could earn or lose tokens, and then trade those in for treats. But she wasn't bothered by losing the tokens - she would even come and give them to us after doing something she shouldn't, or not want them if we said she deserved them. If anyone has had similar experiences, or has any tips, it would be most appreciated!

zzzzz Sat 14-Jan-17 09:13:01

The point of a consequence is to reinforce the behaviour you want to encourage and make undesirable behaviour less appealing. It isn't to make you feel better. She apologised and carried on playing in a more appropriate (ie non hurting) way. I'm not sure what more you were looking for?

If you think that she is going to continue to hurt you when you intervene, what can you change to change her reaction?

Areyoufree Sat 14-Jan-17 10:21:46

So, what you are saying is that in her mind, she reacted in a way that she she instantly knew was wrong, so apologised straight away? That's interesting - I hadn't looked at it like that. It came across to me like she thought that a non-committal "sorry" would make me ignore her behaviour, if that makes sense. Although that doesn't fit in with how she generally is. If she were then embarrassed about her behaviour, that could explain her 'not bothered' attitude afterwards.

Okay, thank you! That's actually really helpful. I'm having to completely try and change my mindset with regards to her behaviour at the moment. It'll take time, but I'll get there!

user1483945709 Sat 14-Jan-17 13:19:33

If a token has already been earned for good behaviour, why are you taking it away for a bad behaviour?

I found a better reward system was earning a reward, once earned it cannot be taken.

For example if child manages to use the potty, give a token. If child doesn't manage to use the potty no token is given, but any tokens already earned are not taken. (Not necessarily potty related, but I'm sure you get the point)

What would you like her to do when she gets angry? Obviously not hit, have you tried something like pinch an object...a pillow, stress ball etc rather than you?

Areyoufree Sat 14-Jan-17 17:22:47

I've realised that I phrased my first post poorly. It sounds like I want to see my daughter upset when I tell her off, when what I think I really mean is what do you do if they don't seem to care about the consequences?

User: we were implementing a reward system in the same way as a friend with two autistic children had found useful. Having said that, they are older, and your potty training analogy makes a lot of sense. Increasing her anxiety about her losing control is not going to help the situation. However, she really doesn't seem bothered about getting the tokens or not - more about the system being correctly implemented, if you see what I mean. For example, she might bring me tokens voluntarily and perfectly happily after doing something wrong.
I have talked to her about punching pillows etc, and I do think she is making progress with calming herself down when she gets really worked up, but these are like very random, sudden instances. One minute everything is fine, the next she has lashed out.

user1483945709 Sat 14-Jan-17 22:04:56

As Zzzz said the point of a consequence is to change behaviour, as long as your dd is learning from the consequence, it doesn't really matter whether she seems bothered or not by it.

If you mean she doesn't seem to be learning from the consequence and just keeps repeating the behaviour, you need to change the consequence.

For example no bedtime story, for hitting isn't very logical. Maybe a more logical consequence would have been to stop the game you were playing there and then.

As for tokens, maybe they have no meaning for your dd. Maybe a more immediate reward is needed or you need to rethink the rewards.

user1483945709 Sat 14-Jan-17 22:10:08

Also as I said previously, I don't think it's effective to give a reward for a good behaviour, then take it away again for a bad behaviour.

For example if your dd is given a token for putting her clothes in the dirty wash, then it's taken away for hitting. It's not logical, it's unrelated and she did put her clothes in the dirty wash!

Also if you are going to use consequences, these should be made clear ahead of being used and not just made up on the spot. More effective to let the child know.

zzzzz Sun 15-Jan-17 16:34:26

Guessing what other people care about is just guessing though. The focus should be on if the consequences are effectively teaching her to manage her world.
She is, as we all are, allowed to feel however she feels.

Are you concerned that she isn't modifying her behaviour?

youarenotkiddingme Mon 16-Jan-17 06:51:02

My ds is the same. I think some of it is because he learns that way. When X happens y happens.

Totally agree with zzzzz that what you need to do is teach her to change her behaviour. Teach her how to behave in the way that gains reward. It's not about ignoring the bad (eg ignoring the scratching) but abiut teaching her to do something other than scratch when she's cross.

A lot of the bahviour comes from not knowing a better way and not having the skills yet to control that. It's not easy. So much is trial and error and takes so much longer.

But think about the bigger picture here. She reacted to her brother pulling her hair. She then reacted to being told off equally for her reaction. She then got further punishment. What did she learn from this?
In those situations I talk to my Ds about what he could have done from the offset. So how could he have reacted when his hair was pulled? Then point out of he did X then he wouldn't have had a consequence.

Areyoufree Mon 16-Jan-17 13:30:21

Wow, lots to think about here.

First of all, thank you so much, all of you, for your input. This thread has really given me a whole new way of looking at what has been happening. Zzzzz: yes, my concern has been that she isn't modifying her behaviour, but then, as youarenotkiddingme has quite rightly pointed out, I haven't been giving her alternatives. I can also see now that, as User pointed out, our consequences haven't always been logical. My daughter always tries hard to do the right thing when she can, and I have been trying to advocate an approach of helping her with this, rather than coming down heavily on any of her violent responses, but it's hard to justify this when it doesn't seem to be making a difference. And then when you have your mother-in-law muttering about how her children knew not to try anything like that...

It's amazing how someone can turn something on its head with just a few words though. I told my husband what zzzzz had said earlier in the thread about how my daughter had apologised and carried on playing in a more appropriate way, and what more were we looking for, and he was quite taken aback too. Can't believe we missed something so obvious!

zzzzz Mon 16-Jan-17 15:47:23

It's what I love about this board. It's so helpful to read what other people think and do. Sometimes even if a violently disagree with their take on things, that clarifies what I do think/care about/want.

its really hard when you are in the thick of things to untangle all your own and your child's emotional response.

youarenotkiddingme Mon 16-Jan-17 17:29:08

Totally agree. There is no law you have to take advice - or even agree with it! But it can help see another PoV, what's worked for others and your own thinking.

Have you ti d social stories with your DD? It can help to have pictures and simple words to explain what to do in certain situations.

You'd need to read up properly online but something like.

My name is xxxxx (picture of DD)
My brothers name is xxxxx (pic of Ds)
DD and Ds like to play together. (Pic of playing.)
Sometimes Me and Ds name don't play nicely.
This makes me feel angry. (Pic of an angry face - you can use a cartoon one)
when I feel angry I need to <insert something she can do that calms her down> (Pic of that area/toy or whatever)
When I do xxxxxx (whatever you've said) I fee feel happy again and get a reward for good choices.

Read it everyday. Best to pick a time that you know she's usually calm and engaging. After a while once she seems to have got what to do you can use it at times she doesn't manage to do it as a reinforcement.

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