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Discipline with an Aspergers Partner

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

So what are the biggest challenges for discipline in your family?  


This area is probably one of our most challenging.


I am the primary parent.  Early on, most of my approach to our daughter was to do whatever we could to keep her from crying or being upset since that would really be a trigger for DH.  The crying is so hard on his nerves and would make him really upset. But as DD got older it is clear that with discipline you have to be ok with some crying because the world just can't always go her way.  Now I often have to give DH a warning ("there will probably be some screaming soon because DD is continuing to do XYZ and I need to give her some boundaries") so he can prepare himself or leave the room.


The other challenge is with DH's understanding of child development, or lack of it.  He really expects a lot of DD that is beyond her age (she is 4).  I often think that he relates to her more like a 9 year old.  He tries a lot of logic, which just doesn't work usually.  And he also can't understand why she does things that seem obviously wrong to him.  I can understand getting frustrated if we have been guiding her to do or not do something for 10 times.  But he can get really upset the first time, as though she should know automatically what is ok and what is not.  


Overall, he is a good father though.  He tries to make time every day to spend with DD.  And often he can be present and playful with her even when feeling a lot of stress.  I see that he is trying really hard and I love that about him.  But it is still so challenging feeling like all of the parenting and discipline is on my shoulders.  


If only childrearing was a special interest for him!  Then, I'd probably complain that he was doing too much and not leaving me enough space for my ideas.  But it would be so helpful if he at least took a little interest in looking into the hows and whys of raising children.  Instead, he mostly falls back to how he was raised, which wasn't gentle and wasn't very thoughtful.  There can be a lot of yelling.... going immediately to yelling, like 0-60 mph, without trying anything in between.  But this is mostly when under stress.  Other times, when he isn't overloaded, he can be incredibly patient and caring.  I just don't always know what side is going to come out.  So I try to be the primary disciplinarian in order to protect DD from the outbursts and meltdowns.  


I'm wondering if this is similar to other AS families or is it just us?  I wonder also for those who also have AS/autistic children if it is easier for the aspie to discipline and parent that child since they are coming from a similar place?

post #2 of 6

I also have to be the primary parent, but I had a little bit of practice before I had my own children. DH has a daughter from a previous marriage. She was four when he and I moved in together. She would come stay with us on weekends which was new for DH because he had never had her on his own before. When it was his weekend to have her, she would stay at his mother's house and he would sleep over there on a mattress on the floor rather than take her to his apartment and have her to himself for the weekend. His mom would take care of her and he would just sort of be there, not actively parenting.


When we moved in together, it was my very first time being around a young child. I had never been around kids and didn't know the first thing about them or about parenting. We would take her on weekends and, being the new girlfriend, would just let DH take care of the parenting, obviously. She wasn't my kid. It wasn't long at all before I began taking over all of the parenting duties. I LOVED it. LOVE LOVE LOVE. This woman who didn't like children and didn't know the first thing about them suddenly was falling in love with this little girl. <3


DH had only the parenting tools given to him, which is to say that he spanked and yelled at her and mostly ignored her the rest of the time. Obviously, this does not work for children. She needed attention. Things would escalate and it got worse and worse until our entire weekends were just them screaming at each other and her getting spanked. I was abused by my father and this would freak me out so badly until one day, I couldn't take it anymore. I told my then-boyfriend that him spanking her scared me and stressed me out and that if he spanked her again, I would leave and he'd never see me again. I didn't say it in an angry way, I was calm and apologetic. It was the truth. I was suffering from some severe flashbacks from my childhood and I couldn't cope with it mentally anymore.


DH got pretty upset with me for threatening to leave him and said "fine, I won't do anything, but from now on, discipline falls ENTIRELY on you since you think you can do it better." I didn't know what to do. I thought children should be spanked and screamed at because that was how I was raised to think. In desperation, I got online and typed in these words: "discipline without spanking" and that led me on a journey to the natural mama I am today. The first link I pulled up was a site called "Mango Mama's Natural Parenting" (no longer exists) and by the end of my second full day of reading, I was completely converted. I was going to sling my babies (yes, babies I suddenly was passionate about having some day, babies I had never, EVER wanted), breastfeed long-term, EC, birth unassisted, you name it. And I certainly was never going to lay a hand on them.


So our decision for me to be the only one to parent or discipline started with a child that wasn't even mine and then suddenly did become mine every weekend. That set the stage for when  I began having children of my own eight years later. I do it all. DH will occasionally step in with a little help and when I have completely reached the end of my tether, he will occasionally surprise me by chiming in with some gentle approach. He will still be really harsh sometimes and expects too much from DD, but I'm always there to stop him if what he is doing is too harsh.


It's hard sometimes when he uses negative language a lot. He's just being honest, but he can say some hurtful things like calling DD a "liar" when she doesn't tell the truth. He will bring it up again and again later on like "I can't believe you wiped your bottom because you're a liar. You lie," when she isn't lying. He can't generalize situations, so I have to tell him each thing individually. I can't say "please don't call DD a liar" and expect him to understand that he can't call her anything else, either. He just thinks the word "liar" is off-limits so I have to actually say each thing he is not allowed to call her. "Don't call her a baby or a brat or, etc., etc., etc."


Surprisingly, he has learned very well just from watching me! Where before he used to spank, he now is able to use all kinds of gentle parenting tactics that he learned just from watching me. His voice has gentled a lot and he seems more patient. With our first baby, he completely freaked out when the baby would cry. Totally. Freak. Out. It scare me when he would have a temper tantrum because of the baby's crying. With this second baby, he has calmed down so much. I think he sees that I will always take care of the baby and try to stop the crying, so he's not as afraid as he used to be, probably because he and his ex would let their daughter cry for hours and my parenting style was to stop the crying fast by giving baby what she needed right away. This seems to have gone a long way to earning his trust and he's more patient.


But yeah, parenting duties are almost all mine. DH does not discipline. He's the fun one. :)

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

That is a neat story about how you found your way to gentle discipline (and realizing you wanted your own children) through your Dh's daughter.  


Just knowing where the boundaries are with who is disciplining is helpful.  In our situation, I do most of the discipline, but it isn't clear that that is my role.  And DH will criticize me a lot for not being strict enough.  He feels that we need more boundaries.  But really he isn't great about setting them himself and he only says this when he is at his limit.  What I think he means is that DD isn't crying enough when we discipline her to make DH think that it is working.  He also expects that we shouldn't have to tell her things more than once.  


I see discipline as a teaching process.  We are teaching our children how to be in the world and teaching what is ok and what isn't.  I can't expect her to automatically know what is the right behavior.  She has to learn that.  And if I can help her learn by also modeling patience and love, all the better.  I really don't think there have to be tears in order to set boundaries.  Although, tears and tantrums are ok and just come with the territory.  


Because DH can be really scary when he gets angry, I try to make sure he doesn't have to be in that position.  And, yes, let him be the fun one!  I'm ok with that.  But then, when he disagrees with how I approach things, I get frustrated.  


Right now he is away on a business trip.  It is just DD and me.  Just having that space to parent without worrying about how it might effect DH is nice.  I feel a lot more relaxed.  We miss him, too, though.  And I realize how much he really helps with parenting in his own way that I don't always see when we are in the day to day mix.  


I'm so glad to hear that your DH is more relaxed with baby #2.  I'm hoping the same will be true for us and DH will be able to enjoy having an infant a bit more this time around. 

post #4 of 6

Yeah, I also can breathe a sigh of relief when DH is away on business. :) I miss him horribly, but it's nice to know I can stop the car for a little kid potty/nursing/crying break and he won't get frustrated because the car has been stopped. Stopping before reaching our destination is just too much for DH because it interrupts his expectations. He expects to be where he is going.

post #5 of 6

I'm really glad I found this group! DF has Asperger's, and it can be *so* difficult sometimes. Like a previous poster wrote, he goes from 0-60 calm to yelling, and takes things to extremes. I try and do most of the parenting, because he has little to no patience with the kids (DD 6 and DS 3, who are both also on the autism spectrum). Like someone else said, he also holds *very* high expectations for them, like to play without talking at all, or making zero noise. I try telling him that kids have to play, and while even I don't let them be overly loud, they have to be able to talk and make *some* noise. From what I understand, the noise is amplified for him, so when they are whispering/playing so quietly I have a hard time hearing them, it sounds like they're yelling to him. I guess that's a spectrum thing, though, so it's not so easy for me to understand/know those types of things if he doesn't tell me.


I hope y'all don't mind my joining your group, but I never knew anything like this existed.

post #6 of 6

Aloha and welcome! :)

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