Help. I needz it.

As Vista gets older and is able to communicate more, we discover more and more about her and the weird and wonderful ways that her little brain processes things.

Our latest discovery is the fact that consequence or cause and effect part of her brain doesn’t work. It’s just not there. She has absolutely no grasp of one thing affecting another. You cannot use ‘if/then’ statements with her.

Think about how much of our parenting is based on consequence reaction.

‘Stop hitting your brother OR you’ll get a time out’
‘Eat one more bite of dinner THEN you’ll get desert’

or our personal favorite

‘If you take your meds like a big girl, THEN you get *insert anything here*’

Vista’s comprehends none of it.

And we’re not sure if that’s just the way it’s going to be or if it’s something we’ll be able to teach her.

Right now, we suspect that may just be the way it is.

So dear internet people, I, once again, need your help.

How do you discipline a child who doesn’t understand consequences?
How do you cajole a child into doing what you need them to do when they don’t understand ‘action/reward’?

Help. I needz it.

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17 Responses to Help. I needz it.

  • Leigh-Anne says:

    Well doesn’t that pose an interesting question.

    I have no words of wisdom… other than to tell you that I am confident that you will make it work. I’ll give it some brain power this week and see what I come up with… loveya!!

  • cindy w says:

    Well, if she doesn’t understand cause/effect when you SAY it, what about if she SEES it? Like, using a reward chart or something? I mean, if signing helped her with communication, she might be a visual learner, so I guess that could help. Other than that… yeah. You stumped me.

    P.S. If you want me to send you all the details of how we did the reward system with Catie, let me know. I basically just ripped it off from Supernanny.

  • Michelle P. says:

    I don’t have much advice myself, but I sent you a note.

  • Cranky Sarah says:

    I’ve not no experience in this, but does she understand sequencing? It may be a language barrier in her noggin, sequences can be used similarly but stimulate a different part of the brain than if/then statements – I THINK. Also, I’m not sure how old Vista is, if she’s still 3 (as noted in your about page) part of it could be that she’s still learning this. I know my 3yo doesn’t always remember the consequences he’s been told. I do believe that if/then isn’t fairly well adopted into their thought process until they’re a bit older. Then they hit puberty and forget it all over again.
    Parenting my kids doesn’t have the same challenges and I still have a hard time finding effective discipline. I hope you report back to us.

  • This sounds similar to what we go through with my daughter. With her, the consequences have to be immediate, as do the rewards. This gives her immediate feedback and she can then (at least in theory) equate the two.

    For example, last year getting her dressed in the morning was a total pia. So, I started giving her a piece of gum to chew on the way to school if she got dressed with one or zero reminders. I had a chart, but quite frankly when we were in the midst of battles, no one had time for charts.

    Now, when she does something, she gets an immediate reward or punishment. She hits her brother, her MP3 player goes into my room. She has to see it happening.

    Does this help at all? If so, let me know and I can give more info! Good luck – it take a TON of perseverance on your guys part, but we do what we hafta do, don’t we?

  • Bil Simser says:

    We really do appreciate all the help and advice and hopefully we’ll come to some kind of resolution soon (it’s driving us bonkers as we have to literally pin her down, inject 3ml into her, then get her to wash it down with a drink before she coughs it back up).

    One of the problems with this issue is that no matter how quick or grand or consistent the reward is, she just isn’t making the connection. I’ve had conversations with her where she agrees she wants to be a “big girl” and will take her meds, but then when the time comes and we remind her of that discussion and talk about the rewards that will come immediately after, she tightens up, brings her hands to her face, and does everything to fight it.

    The biggest concern we have is wondering if this is neural pathways that are not there (i.e. does a chemical reaction have to happen when someone makes a consequence/reward connection) or if we can teach her this through repitition or something (pavlovs dog approach). If it’s not something we can teach her, we have some deep concerns for her later in life as the implications can be much more far reaching than taking medication.

    Glass half full, hopefully something we can work with will evolve. Thanks for everyone’s support!

    Heather Reply:

    @Bil Simser, and Jenn:

    For awhile we had the Gestapo coming to our house to teach me how to deal with all the same things with Jack. It took me like an entire week to do, but she had us literally take pictures of what we do every single day. Getting up, brushing teeth, meds, breakfast, play, etc…all through the day. We also had a picture of a sad face next to the time out chair. When he did something wrong or mean or hit or whatever, we would take the picture from the time out spot, and put it on our daily lineup. He would then have to sit in time out for like 2 minutes. Eventually, he got the correlation between me moving the sign and him being in trouble. He still doesn’t get it all the time, but he knows when he’s going to time out for sure!

  • Lisa says:

    Hmmm, I’ve got nothing. I like Cindy’s idea of the rewards chart. Maybe having a visual will help her. Hugs mama.

  • dad says:

    About what Bil had to say about neural pathways – not knowing if the pathway is there or not isn’t the only possibility to consider. I think you should also consider that her neural pathway could be built differently.

    Are there any alternative aural or visual stimuli that can be used to help her understand cause and effect? Or at the very least, help *you* understand how she might be perceiving cause and effect?

    Bil Simser Reply:

    @dad, That’s one of the underlying problems to this issue. We don’t know how she perceives this, let alone what it takes to get her to adjust to it. People have been suggesting visual charts so that might be an option. Certainly talking to her and even getting her agreement isn’t working. Time out doesn’t work because she doesn’t make the connection between time out and whatever it was that she did to get the time out. In fact, she doesn’t even perceive time out to be a bad thing. “Oh, I have to sit here for 1 minute/hour/day”. She does. She’ll just sit there doing nothing until we say the time out is over. Then it’s as if nothing happened and she goes back to playing or whatever.

  • Melissa Palmer says:

    Hmmm – Vista is very big on how things feel, maybe something using that realm might help? I have no idea how this would actually work, as you don’t want to cause bigger melt-downs…


  • Melissa Palmer says:

    I got it! She has to wear polyester if she is bad, silk/cashmere if she’s good!

    I need help… no really, I do.

  • *sigh* i wish i had suggestions for you. i do so badly.

    i only have hugs and a hand to hold.

    you and bil are such great parents.

  • Dre says:

    I’m so sorry that I don’t have any wisdom to share. What a difficult challenge. I’ll think on it some and let you know if I come up with anything! xoxo

  • Dre says:

    Oh my goodness, so YES, idea comes 2 minutes afer I post my comment.

    When Alison was around age 3, she was, shall we say…. difficult when it came time to transition from one thing to the next during the day. So we made what we called her “journal” that had dividers for “Morning” “Afternoon” and “Evening”.

    Over two days, I took photos of her doing the tasks, then printed them and taped them onto pages I had labeled with the name of the task. Then I put them into page protectors and stuck them in a binder – one she had chosen all by herself at the store, and so she loved it.

    Every morning, Afternoon, and Evening, we would say, “it’s time to check your journal!” and we would take a dry-erase marker and mark off each task as she completed it. It worked really, really well, to the point that she started getting the journal out herself and completing the tasks. That might work for Vista – worth a try, anyway!

  • paula schuck says:

    Wow! I just read this and I think we have a lot in common. Are you an adoptive parent? What is Vista’s Diagnosis?

    My Daughter Ainsley is 6 and she has SPD and FASD and there is no connection of logic and consequences and etc. I can tell you categorically that rewrad charts etc. never did a thing. That pt of her brain doesn’t work. All I have ever been able to do with Ainsley is calm her down (time in not time out) and then when calm try to approach strategies to not do thing next time. Last night for instance she kicked her Dad in the (not so nice place). It was super duper frustrating for her. She was frustrated to being with and that’s why she did it. He was tired and kind of sick of my two kids being so amped up with BtS crazies. Anyways they approached each other completely in the wrong frame of mind emotionally and he ended up nursing a sore pair while she ended up screaming blue murder as he placed her in her room and hollered some crap about her never coming out again. I took her for a bike ride even though I didn’t see a darn thing that happened. Most people would think I was nuts but my kids needed to be moving and doing and getting the crazies out and then lo and behold we came back and they were all tired and they crashed. But not before she came to the realization on her own calmly right before bed. “I am so sorry I kicked you Dad.” And she meant it that time. So that is that. Lesson learned, but will she kick again. Of course she will. She has FASD. As for the meds, she takes them in the a.m. now and has needed to from time she was 5. They work and we occasionally fight. Usually now what I do is “Okay then we’ll talk with your doctor about it.” And she swallows them. Or “Okay. Don’t take them.” I often call Ainsley’s bluff and literally reverse psych works 80 % of the time with her. It’s kind of funny. Or failing that I could now ration with her a bit. Like “you know if you don’t take them it will be really hard to concentrate at school. That’s upto you.” My only consequence I have found ever in the past 5 years that works with this child is okay you have lost tv for one day. Or okay then you have lost Nintendo for a day. It is her immediate currency.

  • paula schuck says:

    I apologize for my spelling. My child is escalating as I type this and now I will go be a buffer between her and the world. Of course I meant reward charts not Rewrad charts. Ugh!

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