In Search of a Behavior Program that Works

A mother finds a program that might work for her special needs children.

Sonia Billadeau April 12, 2014
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1319861_children_crossingHaving three special needs kids, I have tried literally dozens of behavior programs over the years, but still haven’t found anything that really works.

The latest idea (from my next door neighbor) was to pay my 8-year-old a nickel every time he did something he was supposed to do and take a nickel away every time he failed to do something or did something naughty. That lasted about a week.

It was great when Justin was getting the nickels, but when he lost a nickel, he became so upset and angry that it was worse than the naughty behavior that lost him the nickel in the first place. If I would tell him that he had lost a nickel for that behavior, it just inflamed him to act naughtier.

At a friend’s house on Saturday, I saw their points-based behavior program on the wall and asked her about it. She said her kids earn points or lose them based on behavior, and they can see for themselves whether they have enough points to play with friends, watch t.v., etc. She likes that they don’t have to ask her so she doesn’t have to play the bad guy.

My first (and probably knee-jerk) reaction was that it wouldn’t work for my kids. To be honest, I’m tired and a little resentful of all the work I have to do to try to facilitate good behavior on their part. It’s completely irrational and unrealistic, but I want to be able to tell them to do something and have them do it. Period.

It seems to me that behavior programs are really for the parents. Am I the only one out there that doesn’t want to be on a behavior program on top of all the other effort involved in parenting special needs kids?? You would think that after 7 1/2 years, I wouldn’t still be bucking the saddle so hard. I wish I could kick myself into gear and just get on with the necessaries.

The other obstacle is that after trying so many behavior programs and still facing such unpleasant behavior, I’m a little cynical that I can find anything that works. I keep asking myself, can kids with impulse control and cognitive disorders really master their performance?

I remember a counselor telling me once that if I was offered a million dollars to translate a latin text, for example, or threatened with death if I failed, I still wouldn’t be able to do it unless I actually had the capability. So I wonder about my kids a lot if they really have the capability to control their emotions, notice their attitudes, stop themselves from lying, or any of their other inappropriate behaviors.

I did call my friend and ask her if we could talk more specifically about how the behavior program works, and I will follow up today. I may whine but sooner or later I do the right thing.

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Sonia Billadeau


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