Foster parenting training has been a great blessing for Mark and me. We have never had children with autism, but learning the extreme tactics used to teach those kids gives us great ammunition for ours. And the same has been true for what we've learned about parenting kids with attachment disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome, abuse and trauma, etc.
So here's an obedience tactic I picked up from the autism class that we're using to good effect. When you want to issue an instruction, follow this exact procedure:
1. Make a "please" request.
Jesse, please shut the door.
2. Wait 5-10 seconds.
If the child complies, dole out enthusiastic praise and reinforcement. If not, move on to step 3.
3. Make a "you need to" statement.
Jesse, you need to shut the door now.
4. Wait 5-10 seconds.
If the child complies, dole out enthusiastic praise and reinforcement. If not, move on to step 5.
5. Apply a consequence.
Looks unimpressively simple, doesn't it? But it's been very effective for us. We're doing some pretty major obedience training (and power struggles) with Jesse, but still we hardly ever get to step 5.
I think the genius is partly that stating every instruction with a "please" request trains children to respond. It's like a Pavlovian signal to turn on "obey" mode. Also, waiting those several seconds shows kids that this instruction is for real. Sometimes Jesse will immediately say "no," but then obey while I stand silently counting to five.
And to be frank, partly this is training for me. It makes me think about commands before I issue them. Instead of blazing through a room shouting instructions haphazardly, I have to slow down and follow the procedure. If it's not worth enforcing, I shouldn't say it.
So try it for one day, then come back and tell me how it went. I'd love to hear from you!