Many are talking about the latest research that shows that children who are spanked are more likely to behave aggressively and act mean. Although causality hasn’t been proven, that is, we don’t know that spanking causes aggression and mean behavior, a established link is very concerning. As parents, we need to get curious and ask ourselves, what is the message of spanking? Does a spanking communicate what the parent THINKS he or she is communicating? Maybe not!
Kids with an altered sense of pain and who overreact and underreact to touch may be interpreting a “little swat on the butt” quite differently than a neurotypical child might. I remember one parent in a support group reporting that she came to realize that her toddler was actually misbehaving in order to get the calming, focusing input of a spank. By finding a different discipline method, and reserving firm pressure touch to be used only when the child requests it (massage, firm pats, and so on), you can avoid this problem. A child who is oversensitive to touch may be very frightened and confused by a spanking and go into a panic mode. And if we’re trying to teach our kids to be aware of and modulate their touch, and not hit when they’re angry or anxious, that’s a difficult lesson to impart if we hit them because we’re angry or fed up with their behavior in the moment.
What worked for me at the worst times, the terrible threes? (Yes, we were delayed on the terrible twos behavior!). Becoming “the Buddha,” quiet and still, observing and then asking, “What is going on with him?” My calmness supported him in his struggle to gain control again, and it allowed me to think straight and strategize.
Parents of sensory kids have shared with me many insights into sensory smart discipline and I’m especially grateful to those who allowed me to interview them for the book. I have learned so much about time out and variations on it, calming touch and holding, and reward systems that motivate kids with a “just right” challenge and focus on encouraging better behavior AND teaching self-control, social skills, and communication skills. Sometimes, you have to “dial it back” and lower the bar so that they can feel a sense of “I can do this” before raising the bar again, and it’s important to break down skills like developing self-awareness and impulse control and teach them incrementally.
What have you learned about effective discipline for your sensory smart child or children? What works and what definitely does not? Did you modify time outs? If you don’t use time outs, what do you use?