Grounded in Reality
My son is normally a gentle, sweet-hearted, curious young man who loves to learn, and be liked and loved, as well as to like and love others. And he revels in it when others learn from him. But sometimes if he gets in a mood where he doesn’t particularly feel like doing something—such as school work or chores—then he will on occasion use manipulation and even become a bit of a bully to attempt shirking the task. While Bill and I both let him know right up front that choosing such behavior won’t be tolerated, he can be intimidating to those who don’t know him so well.
This was the case yesterday when Zach came and Cody was in one of these moods. He was agitated when it was time to make the bed. He hit his head when Zach asked him to vacuum his room. He wouldn’t even look at the dusting wand. He was oppositional about anything and everything Zach asked him to do throughout the day. And as much as Zach tried to get to the bottom of why this was happening, Cody was not very forthcoming with information regarding the matter. He only continued to act out in a way which was stressful for Zach and disappointing to us.
One of the most effective tools of discipline we have found to correct an unseemly attitude is grounding. Grounding for Cody is not the traditional form of grounding other parents might use for their neurotypical children, but we still mean it to refer to a loss of privileges. Neurotypical children might be restricted from using the car on the weekends, going to that concert they had so been looking forward to, or perhaps their cellphones are confiscated for a period of time. But for Cody, grounding is more along the lines of losing access to treats. Instead of having his favorite nightly snack, he might have a choice of carrot sticks or a granola bar. Instead of having his favorite soda, his choices of drink might be limited to milk, juice or water. He might be under direct supervision for a period of time instead of being able to roam about freely. These simple things are quite effective. But it is only things that are privileges which are restricted. Never, ever, would we withhold necessities!
Cody has always been very quick to take it to heart when he knows that we are unsatisfied with his behavior and we know he can do better. Normally, he strives to do well and please us. And he’s very sensitive. So it doesn’t really take much to get the point across.
We use visual cues for many of his daily routines, and we use them for situations like this as well. We wrote on the dry erase board, “Cody is grounded. He must be good to be ungrounded.” When he can see this, we don’t have to verbally remind him all the time. This way he can learn from his mistake, without feeling like we are browbeating him.
Cody is much more apt to remind us that he is having good behavior, which is perfectly fine with me. It tells me he knows that he is putting forth good effort to let us know this is not a circumstance which he is going to dismiss.
By the same token, we also make it visually known that we see his efforts. The next day, Cody’s Nana—Bill’s mother who lives with us—wrote on the board, “Cody has been good all day.” That way, it is like he can see that written down in black and white and see it as a contract of sorts, one in which both parties are doing their utmost to meet the stated agenda.
Tonight, Cody received the news that he is no longer grounded and he is quite the happy guy. He celebrated by having his Honey Bun and Root Beer. As I write, he is roaming about freely and happily talking about his plans with Zach tomorrow to go to one of his favorite restaurants and to a couple of his favorite antique stores. We asked him how he plans to behave when Zach arrives tomorrow morning. With wide eyes and a lively tone in his voice, he enthusiastically replied, “I’ll be good!”