Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Punishment vs Consequences

These are my opinions people, so please don't leave me any hate mail. Thanks in advance.

IMHO I don't think punishment works for RAD kids. I think it makes them shut down, dissociate and locks them into the fight or flight part of their brain. This is why typically star charts and other behavior mods don't work. When they have shut down everything seems like Mt. Everest to them. They can't manage it in their brain. It's unattainable even if it's a 5 minute task. My job as a RAD parent is to help them shake that off. RAD kids have already been punished enough for a lifetime. Why would I want to continue that kind of treatment?! Why would that make them want to bond with me? I don't think so. Before J came home I heard Parenting with Pizzazz CD (couldn't find the CD anymore but the book is still in print) by Deborah Hage. One of the things she said was, "who wants to bond with a b*tch?" Nobody.

I've tried many, many, many different things but the things that I think that work the best for us are the short and sweet consequences. Why does a consequence have to be bad? Short means that the consequence should take less than a minute and the sweet part is a Skittle or such deposited from my hand to her mouth, a hug, a high-five, etc. "Good job with that consequence honey" and another hug. Then I ask her what happened. She 'fesses up and I'll give her another hug and congratulate her on telling the truth. Briefly talk about what happened and should've happened. Usually ends with a little dance spin and I send her off to her next adventure.

When there will be a natural consequence I just allow that to happen and let her learn from the experience.

Some of our consequences are:

1. Spin in a circle 3 times (I usually let them take my finger and spin them like we're dancing.)
2. Take your shoe laces out of your shoes and put them back in.
3. Run to the 1st drive way (we live in a low travel street in a subdivision so I send them to the neighbor's drive way. Its' about 50 ft away.)
4. Give Mom a hand rub.
5. Massage Mom's shoulders
6. 5, 10 or 15 jumping jacks (depending on age and ability)
7. Run jump on the mini-tramp for a minute. (Bouncing really helps change up brain function.)
8. Go swing (again, swinging really good for the brain)
9. Stand or sit in your think spot for a minute with their arms in the hooked-up position (brain gym).
10. Time-In's (sit beside me)
11. Hug Mom
12. Go find Mom a pretty leaf.
13. Go jump rope.
14. Follow Mom around (keeping them close to me)
15. Walk in a figure 8 pattern (brain gym)
16. Do the cross crawl. (left elbow to right knee and then right elbow to left knee in a marching pattern. (brain gym)
17. Tapping
18. Skip to the 1st drive way.
19. Hop 10 times then walk 10 steps to the first drive way.
20. Sit in Mom's lap.
21. Pull on your ears. (You start at the top of the ear and pull gently straight out all the way down to the ear lobe. brain gym)
22. Have a tea party.
24. Play doh time (moon sand, silly putty, whatever, just something they can knead)
25. Go color me a picture (can be very revealing of their feelings)
26. Blow up your imaginary black balloon with all the yucky feelings. Let it go and send all the negative energy away.
27. Put on your pink suit. (J's love is pink so she has an imaginary pink suit that she can put on from her toes up to her head. I "zip" it up to hold all the good stuff inside.)
28. You look like you need some pink love. (I "pour" my love into her forehead with my forehead touching theirs while I make silly sound effects of all the love going inside. I seal it up with a kiss and hold my finger on that kissed spot while she hugs me, closes her eyes and let all the pink love seep into her body.)
29. Hit your angry pillow.

Well, you get the idea. I used to have a consequence jar and and they could go pick their consequence. I still do it occasionally but I'm more practiced now so I usually just throw it out there. Copy, paste and use them if you like. Add some that are practical for your family or do some of the special things that are unique to your family. Don't forget the crazy nonsense things you can add too.

Your kid must be regulated BEFORE a consequence happens.  You will notice there are several things above to help get them regulated.

The major point is that I have tried punishment and it didn't work for us. I'm ashamed to admit that I have even swatted J's behind (after adoption). IT DIDN'T WORK. It only feeds the anger and self-loathing. If she has committed a serious offense I still do one of the above listed consequences and later after their brain is switched up from the fight or flight I'll whisper in her ear that she'll probably owe me something later to make it up to me. Then I assign the owed chore when she is in a happy mood. This means they will (usually) do it fast and snappy and not be stuck because they're brain is working right.

Then of course, there are the days that NOTHING works. Those days I just hold out for tomorrow. There are also the days that I am the queen b*tch. I hate those days. They just suck.

I don't have all the answers. I know it sounds insane. Probably goes against everything you know to be true or logical. Maybe that's why it works. I just keep doing trial and error stuff until I find what works. What works today might not work tomorrow. If something isn't working give this a try. Just for a day. Not a lifetime commitment. You've got nothing to lose.


SocialWkr24/7 said...

Now, please please PLEASE tell me how to convince people that this will work!

Seriously, though- please include this on your CD!

Little Wonder said...

all these are great ideas. I'm so happy (well maybe that's not the right word, relieved??) to hear I'm not the only one who made the swatting mistake 1nce. After the deathly look of fear in my son's eyes, I've never ever done that again...I decided right then and there that this was not going to work --- ever.

We do many of the things that you have listed! How cool is that! We also include sandbox play or water-table play as a consequence among a few other things. Anything to get him thinking about something else; stimulate the tactile or brain activity in a positive way. Sometimes I even pull out stupid things like "Quick, go find 3 blue toys in the play-room and bring them to me." 1 minute under the weighted blanket also works (of course his head is not under) and he usually stays there longer.

Someone could write a book simply on consequences! Thanks, Lisa!

Christine said...

Sadly, I think some people will just keep punishing until they finally face the fact it is not working.

I went way too punitive with Mar for awhile. Granted, SHE was escalating. She manipulated everything, whether it was clever, "light" or more "Nancy Thomas-y."

I just hung in there and kept it "light" after awhile. People readily accept that it is perfectly reasonable to just redirect a toddler. Well - HELLO - our kids are emotionally toddlers!!

Our toddlers did not get redirected three times and then stop pushing limits and acting out. We expect to have to do it over and over and over and over and over again. Practice makes perfect (ya' know - the definition of "perfect" in the RAD dictionary).

I think we jump to punishment because we are facing some really crazy acting out. When it is a "big" bad choice, we want to instill a "big" bad consequence.

It's really more about us at that point.

Speaking from experience!

Stealing some of your ideas. I needed some ideas to refresh me. Thank you soooo much.

Yondalla said...


I find that punishment isn't effective with neuro-typical kids either.

Recovering Noah said...

Oh my gosh, I love you!!! This list is great. I'm going to laminate it and put it on my fridge. Am also thinking of doing the consequence jar... although I'm afraid my kids will find the jar to be funny and do *bad* things in order to get a Skittle...

Funny you posted this... I just called Christine up two days ago after one child punched his/her sibling in the face twice - in front of me - to get back at me for not buying him/her a Happy Meal 6 hours earlier. Yep, good times. Anyway, I was seething with rage and just wanted to punish the child... but I knew that punishment didn't work. Christine had to talk me off the ledge.. because I was about to snap.

Can't tell you how much I appreciate this post!!
Seriously, thank you!


One Future At A Time said...

We here at OFAAT are in total agreement with you, Lisa. Our secret document is coming along rather well, by the way.

Great to see different approached to RAD children. My hat goes off to you.


One Future At A Time said...

We are in total agreement Lisa, wonderful post.

Shall we do a collaberative cause/vs effect model to highlight your points of view?


sarsmile said...

I don't remember ever being punished as a kid, and I turned out ok. This sounds more like redirection to me, which as someone said is what we do with toddlers. And they eventually figure it out, so...

I've always liked the way you talk to J about "changing it up". Seems like all of us get stuck in a rut once in awhile.

One question though...I like the idea of providing something positive at the end of the consequence, but would worry a little about using candy. Partly for general sugar reduction reasons (although I realize it's only one skittle, but seems like it could add up - plus what happens if teeth have already been brushed at night?). Partly because of the potential challenges for folks who come to associate food with reward/reassurance. I'd be tempted to substitute hugs/verbal reassurance - but I know with some RAD kids those can be scary things, whereas sugar is just sweet. It may be that you just have to pick your battles, and it makes most sense to give up that one in the name of greater healing, but I'm curious if you (or others) have thought about that, or considered/tried other 'sweet' options?

Carol said...

This was the most timely post. DD (16) (unsure about RAD but sure about FASD and ODD) has suddenly started throwing temper tantrums that would put a 3 year old to shame. Kicking, screaming at the top of her lungs, etc., mostly all I do is try to stay calm and fantasize about awful things....your post kind of helped me get back into the "Why am I doing this" state of mind....because I truly didn't set out to do it for my own gratification and remembering that can help me handle things in a more effective way :-) I'm printing off your consequences, too--thanks!

We also (when DD was younger) used to have a list of 20 consequences. We also had a 20-sided dice (from my DH's Dungeons and Dragons years). So when a consequence was needed, she would have to roll the dice to see what she had to do. But they were nowhere as good as your consequences :-)

Anonymous said...

I have to show this to Mr. Crabbypants. He thinks I am crazy when I suggest stuff like this. Like the boys really went at it today, punching each other and other stuff and I suggested we have a Peace and Family day. He wanted nothing to do with it. I will be printing your list out. Thank you for the backup. Also, I am posting about what we have been discussing...not so good.

J. said...

That's how we work around here too, at least we try, we also add writing lines as anohter, it's good with school ages kids for all sorts od reasons but we like it because it gives them soemthing else to focus on

Hannah_Rae said...

A couple of questions:
1. Could you please provide a sample scenario and how it plays out? I am having a hard time picturing how this works.
2. How does this work with non-RAD kids? Our youngest is (thankfully) very healthy attachment wise, and negative consequences seem to work well for him. This seems a little condescending for an emotionally healthy 10 year old.
3. I am concerned about the manipulation factor. How do you prevent children doing negative behaviors in order to get time in and good consequences?

Thanks for the great post. Can't wait to read more. :)



Ashley said...

Miss Lisa, this is amazing...

All I have ever seen negative consequences do is engender fear....

Jillene said...

I think that each child is different and you have to do what works best for them. I make my kids sing a family or love song to each others faces and it works everytime.

Deborah said...

Any thoughts about what ages these work best for, and how to adapt to kids of other ages?

This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I sort of have to echo what Hannah Rae said- I'm not sure I can visualize actual scenarios (at least in our house, with our particular child) where this would be totally effective. Our daughter lost her birth mother, but was NEVER in a situation where she was abused or did not have her needs met- I can totally visualize how these methods would be perfect for children with a different past though. Our daughter also has a dual diagnosis RAD PLUS either scizophrenia or bi polar disorder. I'm concerned about reacting to violence in particular- we make her apologize and then pay restitution. We always do this calmly and logically- our belief has always been that making her say "sorry" trains her to say it and learn typical social cues (even though there is NO real feeling behind it), and hopefull paying restitution helps her begin to identify the feelings? Our daughter is downright abusive to her younger sister on a fairly regular basis, so like Hannah said, I confused about how this type of reaction would be read by both my girls (why is she getting a skittle, she just shut the van door on me etc.)

AGAIN, I applaude your success in finding a solution for your kids, AND I applaud you- I know as a fellow mom that you must be incredibly strong and devoted to keep your cool and follow this system- bravo!

Please do let me know, if any of what I said relates your kids- do yours not present these types of behavior? If they do, can you explain how this system seems to be processed by them?


ali said...

lol well.. to each his own i guess. i'd have 4 other kids here saying "uh... HUH???" when someone is in my closet chopping up all my jeans, they have, unfortunately, earned a bigger consequence than to go find me a leaf! beatings? NO. but i take away his favorite things until he can show me a good week. whether it "works" or not, in my mind, cant be known until he grows up and moves out anyway. im not all about whats "fair to the other kids" either, every child is different,.. but... that just cant work here. he is not my only child and might as well know that now. when he is picked up by the cops for stealing/fighting whatever, they will not ask him to go find a leaf.
BUT! ....i am glad its working for your family and that you see great progress!

Nichole said...

Thanks for sharing this. That's a wonderful list to keep around.

Vicki said...

This is awesome. I'm going to print it out too for quick reference. :)

reikichris said...

And all of this is why you are such a fantastic mom - for any kids , but especially RAD kids. Keep on keeping on :)


Anonymous said...

Huh. I'm definitely going to have to think about this one for a while.

My first inclination is to agree with ali.. I just can't see how it would work. And I don't like the idea that giving Mom a hug or a handrub or a massage is a consequence... I just don't want to send that message, even if that IS how my kid perceives it. Or that being nice to Mom in ANY capacity is a consequence.

It definitely flies in the face of what we teach our kids in general.. that when you make good choices, good things happen, and when you make bad choices, there are consequences that result.

But who knows.

sarsmile said...

A few of the comments above made me think. J seems fairly invested in the idea of helping other families have 'awesome mom's for RAD kids too, at least from her blog. Any chance she would be enthusiastic about the two of you acting out a little skit for us? She pretends to misbehave, you model how you respond, she models doing her consequence, getting her skittle, etc. Show us how the whole thing works surrounding a particular incident? And then video the skit, of course, and post it for us to see? Seems like she might actually enjoy sharing her tools with us, and I know I'm not the only one who would get a lot out of watching it.

BT said...

Wow! My husband and I loved this post, and I am really appreciating everyone's comments. We have been using a mix of positive and negative consequences, along the lines of something Corey mentioned. We've been trying to get the idea across that, in life, just about every choice conveys a consequence. Good choices tend to produce good consequences, and bad choices tend to produce bad consequences. We are huge fans of natural consequences (both good and bad) and rarely stand in the way of their unfolding! When no negative natural consequence is likely to result in a meaningful time frame for a bad choice (e.g., derailing the get-out-the-door routine at daycare), we tend to bring in an invented negative consequence such as temporary loss of a privilege. We are four years in, however, and lucky to have a kid who has shown remarkable investment in his own healing and his/our work appears to be yielding very good progress. We measure progress first by his emotional/psychological state over time and second by his behaviours. On both fronts, we are lucky to see remarkable progress (along with ongoing challenges and, of course, the occasional regressions). We have been at this actively for almost 2.5 years now, and in the beginning once we understood his RAD state and started to consider how his brain worked, we mostly did not use negative consequences except mild ones such as you list -- our foremost goal was to get him to feel safe and learn that we would approach him in a gentle fashion. (Easier said than done, and I always look back and wish we'd been totally true to that but we are nowhere near perfect.) Also, it has been crucial -- an on a continuing basis -- for him to have developed a mindset that he is worthy of good things coming his way, so that he will go ahead and make those good choices in the belief that he deserves the good consequences that can follow. This has maybe been the hardest challenge, getting him to believe in his own self-worth at the most basic level. After about 1.5 years, we started introducing loss of privileges. It seemed his cause-and-effect thinking had developed sufficiently to allow for this, and it is something we are comfortable with, and it did not seem that is posed any threats to his developing sense of self-worth. He now moderates his own behaviour a lot of the time, generally makes good choices, and we are looking for a system to transition to that is maybe not such hypervigilant parenting. We are thinking of taking two to three months and trying your "program" exclusively and seeing what happens. The key thing I like about your ideas is that they do not in any way threaten a RADish's probably fragile sense of self-worth. Also, the fun that is inherent in them.

I would greatly appreciate if you would consider a follow-up post providing your thoughts on the questions people have asked. I am particularly interested in what you think about the type of scenario posed by Ali. For extremely damaging RAD behaviours, such as shredding a closet full of clothes or ripping all the carpet off the stairs, or sneaking into the school building during recess (day after day after day) and stealing treats from classmates' lunchboxes. I have been there, and of course one is always nervous about the possibility of returnign there! Finally, in the fallout from J and SK victimizing each other and all the restrictions tha tyou imposed following that, how did you present all of that to the girls? In our household, we may have phrased that as "consequences" so I'm really curious as to your thoughts on that.

Thanks, Lisa, for this great post and blog!!!

Linda B said...

I'm amazed at how you figured this out for your kids. I picture mine misusing it to get something good like the skittles. Does that mean they are truely not RAD? I am confused about it. I certainly don't think you are off your rocker though! DQ has done such serious things I'm having a hard time seeing how this approach could work for her. Perhaps when she was a toddler before we knew she had attachment issues. Oh dang, this is hard.

Christine said...

I'm chuckling. You had a list of almost 30 items, and everyone is stuck on the Skittles! :)

I think what we're forgetting is Lisa is not handing over a Skittle each time. She's always changing it up. My kids are old enough now to verbalize, "We HATE it how you always give different consequences, because we want you to stick with one we don't mind so much!!"

Today Mar asked if she could help with lunch. I said, "No. I already have the help I need, but I'll let you know if I need you later." Now, I know she asked, because it was obvious the kitchen was full. She set me up.

Sure enough, she decided she would start her chores EARLY (ya' know ... cause that's what she does *COUGH*). Doing her chores would mean climbing over all the bags of groceries to get to the spray bottle of cleaner.

I just smiled and said, "Someone is mad at me because they couldn't help get things put away for lunch. Of course, you offered to help when you knew I would say no. (pause - little lift of my eyebrows) And now you're perturbed because I figured it all out!"

She was kinda' stunned. "Alright, why don't you jump in place about 15 times for me."

After she was done, "Alright, what was it you did?" "That's right. If it creeps up again, I'm sure we can find something else to help you get it all out, instead of making a bad choice."

When I find her destroying something, my favorite thing to do is put her in a giant bear hug and start singing 80's love songs (ya' know - when I AM FINALLY REGULATED!!). She starts screaming right away, but eventually calms and we can talk. We don't talk restitution until she's regulated.

What I think we should be focusing on in the list above is how it all brings our children closer to us in some way, or helps their brains regulate ... which then helps them to draw closer to us again.

My kids won't manipulate me so they can jump in place 15 times again. You change it up all. the. time. Having a shocker of a Skittle now and then will bring surprise and warmth and love. I make sure I have one shocker-consequence at least once a week, dripping with lots of verbal lovin'.