Thursday, January 19, 2006

Disciplining with Humor

There is an old Yiddish proverb: What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.

I have a son who has Asperger's syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of autism. He is a great kid, but is prone to meltdowns. And he doesn't respond to discipline in the same way his siblings do.

It's all a very long story, and one day I'll write an article about it, but what I want to share with you today is one of many things that I've learned from this child.

Because I cannot be harsh with him, it will only backfire, I've learned to discipline with humor instead. If he starts acting up, I can usually stop it from escalating into a complete meltdown by making him laugh.

For example, I might tell him, "No laughing allowed in this house young man. You better not even think about laughing." And sure enough, his scowl will disappear and he'll start laughing. Then I'll start laughing. And soon everyone's forgotten any anger. Then I take the opportunity to point out that his previous behavior was wrong. If it is called for, he'll receive a punishment. He is attentive to me and receptive to the discipline because now he feels good. If I reproached him as he was melting down, my words and actions would've been for naught.

This approach not only helps him, but me too. I much prefer laughing over yelling.

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