Monday, March 16, 2009


My friend Beth and I talked a couple of times today on the phone trying to brainstorm ways to help her with her son after she posted this. She's in the middle of trying to get a correct diagnosis for him and figure out how to manage his behavior. Different doctors have told her that he's a little ADHD, mildly Asperger's, and now ODD. Of course figuring out which one, or combination thereof will help considerably. Since so many of the symptoms overlap between them though, there were some strategies I was able to share with her, things that work for my daughter.

We got to talking about how punishments don't work with these kids. They just don't respond to taking their toys, tv's, video games, trading cards, privileges or allowance away. They definitely don't respond to spankings. The only thing that I have found that works with my daughter is rewards. Whether it is simply thanking her for doing what she was asked, acknowledging the fact that she controlled her behavior instead of melting down, or giving her a treat for her good behavior, she thrives on success.

I think these kids have so many situations in which they feel like failures, that punishing them just reinforces their feelings of not being good enough, and I think that's why they don't work. If you already feel like you are worthless, having your things taken away must just reinforce that belief. Can you imagine what this must feel like to the child? That they aren't worthy of having their toys, etc? On the other hand, they light up with the slightest success. They like to help. They love to be appreciated. They need to be told that they did something right.

S0metimes it's hard to notice the good that your child is doing when you are so frustrated with their misbehavior. It's hard to rearrange your own attitude to focus on the good instead of the bad. There are times where you have to focus on the bad. When your child is doing something destructive or hurtful to someone else, you have to step in to stop it. Other than that though, you need to look for the smallest of their successes.

With my daughter, we have rewards instead of punishments. Instead of "If you don't clean your room, I'm taking away your toys" it's "When you get your room clean, we can go to the park". I also choose words very carefully to try to foster that success. You notice I said "When you get your room clean" not "If you get your room clean". This gives her the subtle message that I know she can and will do it. In school she gets a sticker for every assignment she completes without goofing off. When she gets 10 stickers she gets to pick a candy from a jar. I reward her for good behavior with extra time to play on the computer or Wii, or getting to do something with just me (without her sisters). It doesn't have to be something expensive, she loves to bake cookies or watch a tv show alone with mom.

There were a couple of things that came up in our conversation about rewards. She and I both have tried elaborate reward/sticker chart systems in the past. Often they are hard to keep up and be consistent with, and if the parent doesn't keep up with it, the child gives up on it too. Also, Beth's son is 13 and my daughter is only 10. The little candy rewards my daughter loves may not entice her son to strive for good behavior. Baking cookies with mom might not be his idea of a good time. So my question is this, for those of you with older kids and especially boys, what kinds of rewards work for them? Has anyone developed a good reward system that isn't too difficult to keep up with?


Roxane said...

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to write such great advice! I will definitively start working on that budget tomorrow. As far as rewards go, I don't have children of my own but I care for them for a living and I've always liked to reward them with a special activity, like baking cookies or working on a special art project. Also, I'm so sorry to hear about your sweet cat Gargamel :( I'm sure he had a great life filled with love, joy, and belly rubs

Aubrey said...

Wow. Wow. WOW.

I can't tell you how much this hit home for me. I have an 11 yo daughter and we can't seem to keep her on track with her schoolwork, chores, behavior, etc. You really hit it out of the park with this one. I can't wait to share this with my husband and work on Rewards instead of punishment. I bet this will work MUCH better for us~!

just beth said...

I knew you would call me when I posted that post. And when you did, I swear to god Lorna, I let out a sigh of relief. I haven't had the time to really email you or find your number, but I KNEW our friendship was strong enough that you would call me.

So thank you. Thank you again and for the ten thousandth time, for being such a great friend.

Talk to you soon...



Jill said...

Hello.. I recently signed your follower list and I am glad I did.

I have a 7 year old daughter with both add, adhd and odd! She was diagnosed at age 5. We have been struggling to get her on the right combinations of meds so she can concentrate on school. It has been a really rough ride for us so this post hit very close to home for me. I know a lot about the disorder and I would love to talk to you and your friend if you have any questions. Actually I think it would be great if we have each other to lean on.
Please come over and sign my follower list. I am going to check out your friends post now.

Jill :0)

Anonymous said...

I think it is strange that this child has been diagnosed as ODD, ADD, and with Aspergers. Aspergers is a developmental delay and the other two are Axis 1 mental health disorders.