Sunday, April 04, 2010

Disciplinary Decisions

One of the hardest issues that face my daughter, son-in-law and myself as we work with Maya and Kurtis is the issue of discipline.

Discipline for small children can be difficult enough to begin with -especially when there are three varying factions involved -like each parent, plus a grandparent on the premises.

My kids will tell you that when they were growing up, I could be a very tough disciplinarian. Not that it seemed to make a hill of beans of difference to them a lot of the time, mind you, but yes, I suppose I was harder on them than maybe I had to be, or even than I should have been. Then again, in retrospect, maybe I wasn't tough enough either.

Who knows and it's pretty difficult to play Monday morning quarterback in that realm after so many years have gone by now, whether I was too rough or not hard enough on them.

I'm thinking I couldn't have been THAT hard on 'em since all three of my kids still speak to me -most of the time anyway -today.

But with Kurtis and Maya -as you know -things aren't always as they seem -to us, and certainly not to people in the outside world, away from our little realm here.

Take today for instance -Sunday, Easter Sunday ya know, and we all attended the 10 a.m. church service at our church.

With my kids, they were attending church with me from the time they were babies and I was the only disciplinarian they knew there as their Dad never went to church with us.

When I was small, attending church with my Mom and Grandparents, quiet was the key word, for sure. I don't remember how Mom and my Grandmother got that message across to me, but they did it, that's for sure. Back then too, the congregation seemed to react differently to from the congregation when my kids were small to the way it is today. Back then, EVERYONE was quiet! There was no whispering even before the service much less during the service and small children who made noise, of any type, were frowned upon and yes, frequently looked down on too.

With my kids, once they got past the baby stage where they actually understood a few commands, it got to be that I could generally keep them in line if they got a bit restless just by shooting them a "looks could kill" glare and they were pretty much sit up, shape up and yes, be quiet.

I don't recall ever having to leave a service half-way through to take any of my kids out to the vestibule to get them to settle down, to be quiet, to behave, to not fight with each other. Not that they were angels, but somehow, they got the message early on and they really did do me proud.

We've had a lot of issues from time to time with Maya especially.

It's not that we didn't introduce her to going to church because we began taking her with us to services when she was just a mere 2 weeks old and we continued doing that too until she was about 2 1/2 when things went amuk.

Initially, she did quite well all things considered at those early church services and rarely did Mandy ever have to take her out because she was fussing, making a lot of disturbances that tend to bother some factions in the parish.

But, when Kurtis came along, we have no clue what happened but suddenly, Maya was a problem child where church was concerned.

It all happened very quickly too and totally took Mandy and I both completely off guard as well.

When Kurt was about 2-3 weeks old, we had decided to attend an evening service and to take both kids with us. As we pulled into the church parking lot, Maya started to act up -crying, whining, pulling back from us as we tried to get her out of the car and then, as we tried to get her to walk into church.

As soon as she set one little foot inside the door, into the narthex, she let out a blood-curdling scream that I think probably was heard on the other end of the township plus, she threw herself down on the floor, kicking and screaming and generally creating quite a scene.

We were both pretty much dumbstruck by her behavior and Mandy decided then and there that there was no point in trying to re-establish any sense of order or decorum with her, so she left and brought her back home -leaving Kurtis and me to attend the service, just the two of us, and she returned in about an hour then to pick us up. (Kurt, by the way, was good as gold!)

From that point on over the next 13, almost 14 months, we couldn't take Maya with us to church as she apparently had developed some type of fear or obsession in her mind and as soon as we got near the church, she would launch into a massive meltdown.

Now I am a firm believer in that the only way children learn behavior -proper behavior that is -pertaining to church, is if they are taken there, and from seeing how adults as well as other children behave plus having little things with you to try to keep them entertained -small quiet toys, books and yes, often little tidbits of food too -cereals, crackers and such -and gradually, they learn how they are to behave.

Well that's how it had worked for me and with my kids. With Maya -not so much!

It wasn't until she was better able to communicate with us, to understand a few simple commands or requests that we dared to take her with us again to church. And overall, for the past three years now, she has learned and has generally done quite well.

Kurtis now is the one we have to work with -a lot -to keep him settled and quiet. He's learning but often, with either of these two, if you see them beginning to work up to becoming a tad on the fussbudget side, the best option is to take them out to the narthex immediately, let them cool down, chill out and then, bring them back in and start the process all over again.

Today, Mandy had told Bill she would appreciate it if he would attend church with us so that she might have a chance to sit through the entire service and not have to take one or the other child out to the narthex if they got too restless or a bit unruly. And, he agreed to do that -to go with us.

Well, things were going fairly well -not that Kurtis is totally quiet as he does tend to speak out loud whenever the mood so hits him, but so far, he hasn't really been really bad and obnoxious and disrupting the service. This morning, he was doing okay but then, started to get a bit unsettled and it was evident he was working up to a good cry, so Mandy had Bill take him out.

However, since Bill rarely (almost never) goes to church, he really wasn't/isn't familiar with the routine Mandy generally uses with the kids when it comes to taking them out from the service.

So, instead of his sitting with Kurt in the narthex, he decided to take him outside and walk around with him as a means of distracting him, keeping him calm, etc.

On the surface, that does sound like a reasonable idea except for the fact that Maya saw that her Dad was outside with Kurtis, allowing him to be able to play, to run around freely, and the good old thing called "sibling rivalry" kicked into high gear on her then as she started to whimper and cry about Kurt being allowed to go outside with Daddy.

So, rather than risk her going into a full-blown meltdown then too, Mandy took her out to join Dad and her little brother. It also then became evident that he had no intention though of bringing Kurt back into try to participate in the service so Mandy then told him well if that was going to be the case, he may as well just take the kids home. (Not a problem since we had taken two cars to church -since all five of us won't fit into one vehicle, ya know.)

So that's what he did.

And Mandy was then upset because they hadn't handled the whole disciplinary thing as a united front. And, by taking both kids out, by allowing them to rule the scene instead of it being the reverse of that, they were learning the opposite of what we try to teach them, which is that they are to listen to Mom, Dad or Grammie and also, that if they don't want to be in a specific setting, all they need to do to get their own way then is to set up a bit of a ruckus.

Actually, Kurtis hadn't been that loud and really, neither Mandy or I might not have even taken him out in the first place but Bill, not being very familiar, certainly not accustomed to how we would handle him, and what constitutes too much noise, etc., made the decision initially to take him out and away from the disciplined atmosphere of the church service.

It's one of those things though that any parents with children who have autism have to iron out, make decisions a bit in advance too as to how they will handle these situations when there might be a difference of opinion in one parent over the other as to the best way to deal.

Definitely though, going into these situations with a united front is the best way to deal from the parental perspective and also, it gives a more solid foundation to the children so they learn faster what to expect of a situation and how they should act/react then there too.

Just one of many ways all parents, regardless of how their children learn, have to learn from experience what works best for their children and what behavior the parents will tolerate -or not -from the children, autistic or not.

Another little reminder that April is Autism Awareness Month and with respect to that, I am just trying to show little things to try to provide a bit of knowledge about autism, about issues, behaviors and such in hopes that maybe it will help others to gain awareness and especially be more accepting of those around who either have autism or who deal with the various behaviors and issues on a daily basis.


Debbie said...

You are so right that a united front is best in these situations. I hope everything calms down for you soon:)

Suldog said...

It has to be tremendously tough. I was, like you, raised in an era when noise of most kinds was just not tolerated in church. One of the things that both MY WIFE and I noticed, and which got on our nerves during the last few years we attended Catholic services, was how little parents seemed to care concerning the noise their children made. It was a though they felt they had fulfilled all parental obligation by bringing the children to mass. The rest - keeping them quiet or amused or respectful - was up to God.

There is so much more sensory input these days, for all children, that it is much tougher to have them understand why quiet is sometimes very important. I certainly don't envy your position, especially with the special situation you're handling. God bless you!

Smalltown RN said...

To me discipline regardless if the child has special needs or not...should always be on a united front.

Like you Jeni...I went to church every Sunday with my my parents managed 10 of us in church I will never know. Mind you my brothers were alter boys and usually one or two of us were in the was my father who would give the glare...and my goodness you knew exactly what that meant. There was no living the church...if you left that was worse....cause you knew you would be in worse trouble.

Back to the and Mandy as you say are the one's who generally take the children to church...if SIL doesn't know what you have done in the past to discipline he is not to blame ....sounds like he did what he thought was best at the time. It could have been used as a test for Maya...that sometimes things aren't always the same....Kurtis gets different treatment than her...and she needs to learn and accept that.

My family is a combined family. I have three girls from my first marriage and Doug has 2 boys from his marriage. Doug and I have different ways of discpline...that could be partially due to the fact that I raised girls and he had boys....with that said....we have had some arguments about what we think the discipline should be for the crime committed. Now we try and talk about it prior to and lay down ground rules.

It's never easy....but the most important is that you are on a united front...