Being a Dad is Hard…Punishing my Autistic Child

September 9, 2013

I am just going to come out and say it.  There are moment’s I hate being a dad.  ZAKSMOM calls me the “fun one” because I am easy going, not a disciplinarian or I just love to get on the floor and roll around with my monkeys.   They don’t get away with murder but I do cut them some slack.  And with Zak, my inner battles are notorious.  I have a hard time disciplining my son.

I don’t think it is because I feel sorry for him or showing pity for his emotional lack of control.  I mean, we are all dealt a hand that keeps us from being absolutely perfect, right?  So why should I cut him a break?  I am, like most parents, just trying to prepare him for adulthood.  Holy crap, this is hard!  Here is my example:  On Saturday, Zak had his personal training session.  A few years back we were able to get him to tell us that he felt like the other kids were better than him and that he hated P.E. because he was not “as fast and as strong as the other kids.”  So, we got Zak a “personal trainer”.  She is wonderful as she works with special needs kids but pushes them to their full potential  She is tough but patient and the results have been great.

See, she doesn’t let him quit and that can set him off.  It is such a fine line with him whether his reaction is a meltdown or simply a tantrum but I can attest, they can be full on meltdowns and holy mother, it ain’t pretty.  I was coming off another conversation with my wife that I am “too easy” on the kids and so with Zak’s reaction came my reaction.  That reaction made matters worse and it finished with one of the ugliest moment’s I have experienced with him.  I did not handle it well.

It is the biggest challenge I face with my son.  His behavior was unacceptable but my reaction cause a simple issue to escalate.  Did I do the right thing though?  Zak should expect a consequence for his behavior, right?  Like any other kid, he needs to know that his actions will cause a reaction and if he wants a positive one, he needs to do the right thing.

However, what I recognize with Zak is that after the fact, he does not know or does not understand he had a meltdown.  He does not correlate a consequence with with the “expected” behavior so does it make sense to punish if he does not put the 2 and 2 together?  Hence why I struggle.  There has to be a way.  Interestingly enough, the same is true in school.  If he has an issue, any consequence does not stop the behavior/meltdown in the future.  Since he cannot control his outburst, he does not understand there will be a consequence.

It is getting better for him though.  He did apologize and asked for another chance.  Something that would have never happened in the past.  He even wrote and apology letter that showed he had remorse.  However, I have a hard time punishing the behavior because I know he can’t control himself.  And there lies my issue.  Being a dad is hard!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

autism care February 6, 2014 at 7:27 PM

An autistic child may throw tantrum or behave aggressively when he is disappointed or frustrated as other children do. But he is not doing it intentionally, because as an autistic child, he is unable to understand that other people have thoughts and feelings. Punishment must fit the crime. Whenever possible, the only punishment should be experiencing the natural and logical consequences of an undesirable action. If an undesirable behavior happens repeatedly, and neither incentives nor disincentives seem to curb it, you should look closer for hidden causes. Behavior analysis techniques can be very useful in this regard.


autism March 2, 2014 at 11:19 PM

It must be so difficult to deal with. I sometimes struggle to discipline my son and just end up getting so frustrated.


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