150: Behavior Charts, Rewards & Punishments, with The Behavior Revolution

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

Listen on Apple Podcasts  |  Google Podcasts  |  Spreaker  |  Spotify  |  iHeart Radio

The common advice from many clinicians for parenting kids with ADHD is to start a behavior chart and reward system to create external motivation. The problem is that these charts and systems often add more work for overwhelmed parents and kids, and often don’t produce results. And in our schools and classrooms, they end up instilling shame, blame, and fear, which is actually harming our children. Tune in to this episode to learn a better way to help our kids do well. After all, kids do well when they can. 


Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

Subscribe to Clarity — my weekly newsletter on what’s working in business right now, delivered free, straight to your inbox.

Work with me to level up your parenting — online parent training and coaching  for neurodiverse families.

My Guest

We’re Penny and Sarah, parenting coaches who help neurodiverse families like yours understand your child’s neurology and behavior, and shift your parenting to help your child thrive — without the frustration of trying to figure it out on your own. We’re also moms of boys with ADHD and/or autism, so we get it. We live it, too.



Sarah Wayland 0:03

Kids do well when they can. And so when they can't, your response is not yell at them. So they will, your response should be what's getting in the way? And why can't they right now? Because they want to do well. And so the question is, how do we help them do well?

Welcome to The Parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD a Holic and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD podcast. I am excited today to bring you a another session on behavior with my very good friend and my co conspirator in many things, especially the behavior revolution, Sarah Wayland, and we're going to talk today about behavior charts, and when they might work, and when and why they so often don't work. And really, sometimes they're very dangerous and damaging to kids. So we're gonna really dive deep on behavior charts today. Sarah, do you want to say anything? Before we jump in?

I did want to say but one reason we decided to talk about this is that, here it is October of 2021. And a lot of kids are back in school. And I'm seeing a lot of behavior charts being used, and a lot of kids freaking out about it. Yeah. And so that's one reason I wanted to, just talk through this today with you.

So when we're talking about behavior charts, we're talking about a myriad of different things can really fall into that category, it could be a token system, like many parenting experts recommend, it could be a color system, like lots of elementary schools use, it could also be just a gold chart in your family or something like that. So we'll talk about the several different types and sort of aspects and, and what might work and what is really harmful. And I think maybe we should start with the one that we hate so much, which is the behavior systems, the public systems that are used in our schools? Do you want to sort of outline that, Sarah?

Sure. You know, what I'm gonna do, I'm going to talk about a classroom observation I did for a client. So they had one of these public charts. And this one was a real simple one, it was a stoplight system. You know, it had green on the bottom, and then yellow, and then red. And the way it worked is if you did something that teacher didn't like, the teacher would ask you to go up to the board, and they had all the kids names, like across the top, move your car, you're supposed to move your card from the green pocket into the yellow pocket or from the yellow pocket into the red pocket. And so it's very public, the other kids are watching you walk over there and move your card. And it's hard for the kids to do in this classroom observation I was doing this poor little girl had major sense of major sensory issues. And she was constantly overwhelmed by this classroom, which had 30 kids in it. And it was a well run classroom. It wasn't, chaotic or overwhelming, but it was just more than she could handle. And I think she wasn't doing her assignment or something. She was off track, she was a little distracted. She wasn't distracting the other kids, she was just kind of spacing out and staring around the room. And the teacher went over and said, you're not doing your work, I need you to go move your card. And she went up to the board. And she walked up at I don't know how to describe this. She was like standing about three feet away from the chart. And she was leaning forward to try to make herself go towards it. And she couldn't move. She was frozen. And she kept trying to lean forward to make herself go for like 30 seconds, just back and forth, back and forth. And then she couldn't do it. And finally the teacher got really fed up and walked over and just move the cart to yell and say go sit down. And I was just and I was sitting in there observing so the teacher knew I was watching this, right? Like that's the thing that got me about it was like, Okay, this kid is really, and the little girl didn't know who I was at all she had never met me before. And so the teacher knew I was in there observing her and observing this little girl and that was what she thought was the right way to help this girl. quote, behave better?

Yeah I think that's the real issue here is that educators are taught to do these things. And, they're taught that this is how you control behavior in a classroom. And if you're a behavior specialist, or you know, you're really into behavior, like you and I are, you know that there's so many negative things, and that can be so harmful. But I really honestly think that most educators don't see that they're using what they're taught to use. And I think that makes it doubly hard for a parent who says, Look, I know this is bad for my kid, and I need you to do something different. And, they're like, Well, this is what this is what we do here. Yeah, when my kids were in elementary school, it was the same system for the entire school, every classroom had the same behavior system, which was very similar, the one you described, they had clips, like clothes, pins on the side, they had to move their close pen, but they did go move your card, go move your clip, they had to move it. And you know, poor Luke, he would be on orange or red every day, every day. And thankfully, he had the most amazing teacher in first grade. And she was willing to do something different for him. And she did and it worked marvelously. But, so many teachers don't recognize that it's an issue for kids who are overly sensitive for kids who really struggle to meet expectations in a classroom, right? Which are the kids we're talking about here.

Yeah. And you know, the thing I read this blog post on this topic, and I can't find it to save my life, but it was a teacher who pointed out that if you went to work every day, and somebody were telling you every little thing you did wrong publicly in front of all your co workers, like how would that feel it would feel horrible?

Yeah. I mean, it's public shaming.

My son calls them public shaming charts.

I don't think that was ever the intention of them? Absolutely not. But that's exactly what it is, is public shaming. And I'm sure you know, it's posted. So the kid can go over and see if they're on target, are they going to, get treasure box, or whatever it is in the classroom. But everyone else can also see it. And they can also see when they are not on target. Oh, haha. John has this card on red every day? Yeah, I mean, it just, it sets them up for failure, and disappointment and heartbreak. And it's just not okay.

And you know, what's so bad Penny is that the focus is not on, why can't the child do that, like this little girl I was describing, she was distracted by all the, sensory stuff going on in the classroom. And, because the school was set up the way it was, she couldn't use a fidget, they wouldn't allow her to use a fidget or anything. And so, they weren't addressing the underlying problem. So all they were doing, they weren't giving her the tools she needed. In order to be successful. They were just focusing on what was going wrong. Yeah. And there was no hope for her to get better.

And you and I know that you have to address why things are happening, or you can't change them. Right? You just can't. And I think that's so very important in the discussion. I'm glad you brought that up, my son's first grade teacher, so she did create something different for him. And he had a goal chart, and it just had two goals on it. That was it. Two things he was working toward, I think one was staying on task to try to get his work done. And the goal wasn't that he completed all the work. It was that he was working on it. Right. He was making the effort. And the other goal, I think, at first was to keep all of his stuff within his rectangle. So he was such a mess. Everything was on the floor. It was like Pigpen, right? Everything was everywhere. There wasn't anything inside the desk. And it was a problem in a little classroom with a lot of people, right. And so she put a masking tape rectangle around his area, bigger than, just the desk in the chair, he had room to move. And as long as this stuff was in the rectangle, he was meeting his expectation at first, that's the first goal. That's awesome. And it was broken down into all the different activity times of their day in their classroom. So, like one lesson, then maybe recess, then maybe lunch, and he would get a sticker when he had met the goal in that time period. He got nothing. If he didn't, there was no X. There was no sadface there was no discussion of it. It was just completely ignored. If he didn't meet the goal. He was already aware he didn't meet the goal. Right. Right. And making him feel bad about is not helping. Making kids feel bad about their shortcomings is not going to change their behavior, right. It's not gonna Change their brain so that they're not distracted by, noise or sensory input or other kids or whatever it is. Right, right. And so she was so good about this, and it sat on his desk, it was in one of those plastic sleeves that the paper slides in and out of. And she would put the stickers in multiple times a day. And every day, he got treasure box that he had a certain number of stickers, whereas the class was a weekly reward. For him, it was daily for a time. And it worked so well, that within just first grade, I think he was meeting goals. And we changed the goals to something new, at least three times in that one school year. And we probably started this two or three months into the school year, because he wasn't diagnosed until November of that school year, it was amazing. And I ended up doing the same sort of chart at home, it's the only one that ever worked for us. Token systems didn't work. Token systems made me want to break down and run away. Right? I mean, they're just too much to manage, especially, I had the hyper list of hyper kids, yeah, I could not add anything else to my orbit without just losing it. And so, we were focused on the goal. And when he didn't meet the goal at a specific time, she was thinking about, Okay, what might have prevented him from being able to mean expectations at this time, and she would adjust, she would try to address those wise as much as she possibly could. And that circles back to your point, that's what we have to be doing. And it was very private, maybe one or two kids saw it on his desk and might have said something, but for the most part, they had no idea something different was going on for him,

My son had, he had a habit that was, he would pick his nose, which is not a good habit. And they really wanted him to stop. And, um, they did a system that actually was, like you said, it was private, like, I don't think anyone else knew it was going on. But what it was, is the teacher had an index card that she just kept in her pocket. And every time she caught him picking his nose, she just pull it out and make a little tear on the edge. And we collected baseline, like how many it was like 20 some odd some things, collected a baseline and sent it home. So I wrote down 22. And the next day, if he went below the previous day's level, then he got to watch a video he really enjoyed. Oh, yeah. Which we normally did not let him watch because we didn't think it was appropriate. So, so the reward was something he really wanted. Yeah. And he was like so into this, and nobody knew it was going on. And he wasn't even aware that he was doing it half the time, he just didn't even notice. And what I realized, actually, when I interviewed Brenda Smith miles, is that that was his rumble. In the rumble rage when he would get anxious, he would start picking his nose. We didn't realize that at the time, because there are lots of ways you can, respond to being anxious besides picking your nose. But anyway, that behavior stopped within I don't know, a week and a half or something. Wow. Because he just didn't even know he was doing it. But we had to give him something else to do. Yeah, right. So replace it. Yeah, he actually had like a chewy on the end of his pencil. And he just started chewing that a lot when he started getting anxious. But anyway,

He's gonna be so pleased that you told the story on the podcast,

I know.

It will be our secret with 10s of 1000s of listeners, It'll be our little secret.

Well, part of the point I wanted to make is there are behaviors that we do need to address somehow. Right? And so what we're not saying is, don't tell the kid that you know, everything they're doing is just fine. Because very often they do things that are really not fine. But getting at the underlying reason. And that's actually why I told that story. Because for the longest time, we're just like, what's with this? It's not an okay, behavior. It's really not. It's socially devastating. It's just not a good thing. And so we really did need him to stop. But truly, it was not until a few years later that I realized, Oh, my, that was his anxiety. Like when he's anxious. That's what he does. And so once I learned to code it as whoops, he's freaking out, as opposed to Ooh gross. Great behavior is horrible. Right? Then my whole approach to it shifted.

You understood the why. Yeah. And you addressed it. Yeah. And that's the whole point. I mean, that's the whole point and all the work we do, and then behavior Evolution as behavior is communication, you must understand that to be able to effectively change behavior. And so where a lot of the reward charts and you know, reward and punishment sort of systems, even in our homes are sort of blame and shame and fear based, that's very destructive. You know, there are many studies that show that kids who grow up super fearful, or you know, are raised under that sort of authoritarian fear based parenting are so much more susceptible to anxiety, depression, different issues as adults, fear is not a parenting tool that we need to be using. It is really, really destructive. And shame and blame, go right there with it. Right?

They do. And, one of the tensions that we feel in my household is that those strategies get you immediate feedback. Like if you yell at your kid to stop, they stop, because fear is a strong motivator for stopping. But they're not stopping because they have thought about the fact that, this is my anxiety response, or I don't know how to do this, and I need to come up with a different strategy or whatever. Instead, it's just oh, I don't want my mom to yell at me. Yeah. And that works, right. And then we get positive. We as the parents get positive feedback. So yell, right, kids, right?

Yeah. Yeah. I had a parent one time say to me in an email, I have to yell at him. That's what he responds to. And I'm like, No,

But he does. Okay, she's right.

She's right. And he responds, but it's also doing a lot of harm underneath. And that's not good. And, when you go to work, your boss isn't just going to yell at you every time they need something done. So you respond, right? Well, if he has to yell a couple times, you're going to be fired, I would imagine, right. And I think it's important to to mention that safety is another issue entirely. If you need to raise your voice that your kid to get their attention as they are trying to run into the street, right? Please do that. I did it many times, my kid never had any awareness outside, in parking lots on sidewalks, none of it. And so my fear wouldn't make me raise my voice at him and say, because he would just start running. I mean, he would just get out of the car and lay gone. I'm like, You can't do that. You're gonna give me a stroke. Don't do that. We have to find a better way. And we worked on it. You know, I'm not saying that yelling was appropriate. There were clearly other strategies we needed to be formulating and working on. But it was sort of at times a safety issue. And I had to be able to get his attention. And when I couldn't reach him anymore. That was what got his attention. Right. So when safety is an issue, you do what you need to do to keep yourself and your child safe. Outside of when safety is an issue is when we're talking about, there being a much better way to go at it besides fear and shame and blame, yeah, and yelling and, punitive punishment, because punitive punishment doesn't work either. That's certainly not the best way. Sometimes that works. I mean, for me, as a kid, it worked, right. But mostly, there's just a better way.

You know, this just brought up for me a memory of my husband when he was very little. So he and his brothers, he has two brothers. So there were three little boys. And they were all born within a year of each other. So they were, they were toddlers, like all at the same time, like it was just crazy town in their house. And one day, his mom needed to go buy school clothes for the oldest brother or something like that. And they went into some department store. And they were shopping there. And she's trying to look for clothes while trying to keep track of three little boys. And it was really impossible. And so they started playing hide and seek in the clothing racks. And so my husband actually went and hid really well inside one of the clothing racks. And nobody could find him for like 45 minutes. And his mom was utterly panicked. And he was just like, hey, this is a really fun hide and seek game. And so after that, she got harnesses for all three of them. And whenever they went out, they were harnesses because it was literally the only way she could figure out to keep them safe. Yeah, and I remember when I heard this, I was in college and dating my husband, I was like, she got them harness. I want him to just get him a leash with like, electric shock on the collar. I just thought it was so awful. The minute I had a toddler in my house, I was like, I get it. What a brilliant woman she was.

Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah, I used to really judge those before I had a wild one. And then I was like, Oh, I totally get it. I made my son right in the cart. Yeah. When it was like, he was so big, it was squeezing him,

You just put him in the basket then?

Penny Williams 20:31

Well, he can jump out of that really easily, though. He didn't want to be in there, really. But yeah, seriously, he was five, six, probably seven. He was riding in the cart, it was the rule, because I couldn't just chase him around everywhere. He was just so hyper. And he was so unaware. So he was touching everything. He was bumping everything. Like it was just so hard. And this was before we had Caroline's carts, where there would have been an easier way right to have an older kid in a car, right. But I did what I had to do right to keep him safe. And I think that's a really important message here is that we're not talking about letting kids run willy nilly, we're not talking about letting them continue inappropriate behavior, we're saying there's a much better way to go about addressing it and helping them and much more effective ways. And I think, as we've said, the first one is understanding it, understanding that it is communicating something to you, that needs to be addressed or changed or a new strategy needs to be formulated or something.

Sarah Wayland 21:35

Well, the other point I was thinking about you in regards to that story I just told is developmentally, it may be that your child cannot understand the message you're trying to convey right then. So my husband, there was no way he was going to understand, what he needed to do. Now she did eventually communicate with him. And I can remember this, even with my younger son, he was like your son, where he would bolt and especially in parking lots or anywhere, there were cars and stuff, he would just bolt for the hills. And so the rule was, if you're out of the car, you have to be holding my hand. That's just the rule. But it takes time to teach the rule. And of course, it's not appropriate to hold, a 13 year olds hand to keep him from bolting. But some kids may need that that may be you know, where they are developmentally. And so you have to figure out how to set boundaries that are, help the child know what's expected of them. That's part of what I'm just trying to point out is that there are some things that your expectations may not be appropriate for your child's developmental level. Yep. So you have to put guardrails in place to make sure that they're going to be safe,

Right. And so your five year old may be functioning more like a two year or three year old in some aspects. And so for two or three year old, of course, you would hold their hand right course, it helps you to shift in your mind, what is appropriate, as far as expectations, what is actually doable for your kid, that developmental age, or understanding where they are developmentally and all of these different, like skills and aspects, then helps you figure out what you need to do to set doable expectations. And you know, what your child needs like my story with a card, I can't tell you how many ugly looks I got for having this big kid in the cart. Right? It seemed so inappropriate. But for my kid, it was actually appropriate, right? Because he developmentally was not the age that he looked on the outside, right? And it's really important for us to know that and then to say, Okay, well, they don't know our story, right? They don't know why my kid needs to sit in this cart. So what does it matter what they think it doesn't, right, which is hard. It's hard to get there in our minds and in our psyche, but it is possible. And that's really what you have to do is just focus on your kid, and what they're needing in that moment. What are they having a hard time with? Right?

Yeah, I actually, I was at a party or a picnic with a group of my husband's work friends, and one of them had a son, who, I think he was three, I'm telling you, this can look like he was in fourth grade. He was huge. Penso he may have still been in the diaper. And, I didn't say anything, but his dad was saying to me, people judge us all the time, because he's so enormous. They think he's a fourth grader. And he's behaving like a toddler. And it's really hard. And so you know, and there's nothing wrong with this kid. Like he was developmentally exactly the appropriate he was behaving the appropriate way he should for his age, but he just looked so much older because he was so tall. So yeah, people judge.

You have to know your child. You have to do what's right for you and your child, your family. And so, going back to behavior charts on what actually works. We definitely You know, positive reinforcement, leaving off the negative because so often our kids already know that they're not meeting the expectation, right. And we know they want to kids do well if they can. And so we know that they want to meet the expectation. And we know that when they don't, there's a reason. And that reason is what will help us to help them to meet the expectation to change that behavior and prevent as much as possible. And so you know, the chart that my son's first grade teacher was working with him on, we started using the same thing at home with different goals, goals for home. And it worked great. He was very, sort of invested in it. He enjoyed going to the chart at night and putting up the stickers for what he had earned. Even though he was like, I think we did it about ages seven to nine. And a lot of times I think a nine year old would be like us too babyish. It wasn't for him brain, and it was in our home and, and we were able to meet goals consistently, and then work on new goals, because we were only working on one or two things at a time. And they were doable. They were doable. He just hadn't gained the skill, or he hadn't sort of mastered it yet, or he hadn't even maybe prioritize doing it in a way that was expected. Right. And sometimes those goals were as simple as, brushing your teeth, when Mom only asked you five times, instead of 10 times, like, you have to start with something that is easily doable, so that they get the reward, they get the positive feedback. If it's still negative, it's not going to do any good.

Yeah, I have a few things. I want to follow through on with that. Yeah. So one is this idea of the positive, like really keeping the focus on the positive, I'm going to tell a story about one of my kids, he was in a fourth grade. Yeah, it was a fourth grade classroom. And they had a reward chart. And it was just what you were talking about earlier, like you, you built up so many stars, and then you got to go grab in a grab bag at the end of the week, or something like that and choose out a toy. And it was positive only. And it worked great. And then starting in March or April, like behavior started sliding, because you know, it was spring and nobody wanted to be there anymore. And so, so all the kids started having a hard time. So the teachers are like, I know, we'll take away points if they misbehave. So up to that point, it had been only positive, you only got a mark, if he did something they liked. And there was no acknowledgement of you know, you're doing something you didn't like, except for reasonable boundaries on behavior. And so they started losing points. And like five of the kids in the class got to the point that they had like negative 40 points, which they could never crawl out of that hole. Right. And so at that point, they were like, Fine, zero incentive to do anything? Well, because I have lost all hope. Wow, did things go off the chain at that point?

Yeah, I was just gonna add that, when you take away a reward, why would you work again, to meet it if you know, it could be taken away from you? Right? And why would you work to earn a reward, could very well disappear?

Well, and especially if it disappeared and sent because of something you can't help? Yeah, right. Exactly. Yeah.

I mean, it's just total common sense. If you think about it, that way, you'll realize why, taking it back is not good. And there's other reasons for that, too, psychologically. But, just for that one reason, you're erasing the motivation, you're erasing the drive to do well, if it's going to disappear.

All right. So two other things I wanted to highlight in what you were talking about. So one was you said, you just had a couple of goals. And I think that's such an important point. Because I think as parents, we often see all the things that our kids to work on, right? So we're like, well, we've got this and this and this and this, and this and this and this, but I can't cannot learn 25 different things at once. And you know, I have this mantra, you can't boil the ocean. And so what I like to do is focus on one or two things, like let's work on brushing your teeth without being reminded, right. And you work on that for a few months until they get it down. But you know, just working on one or two things so that they don't get overwhelmed by all the things. Yeah. And that that one is really important. And I do find what happens with families is they get started on these positive systems and then they they get excited about it because it's working. And then they go bonkers and you know, add 20 things to the list and then the kids like, I can't do that. So That's one thing that I wanted to do. And the other thing is that sometimes I feel like putting together the reward chart, it isn't actually about the chart and the stars and all that. It's actually about clearly communicating to your child, what the expectations are, yeah, in a way that they understand. And I actually find what I, what I will have parents do sometimes is, sit down with their kids and set up what the rules are, whatever, yes, rules, and no rules, no, punching your sister. And definitely do you know, help set the table or whatever. And sometimes I'll have families, like, take pictures of the kids doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing. Yeah. And what I find is, after they go through that exercise, the kids are like, I know exactly what's expected of me. And that's the end of it. Like there's, there's just no more need for discussion, because they just understand what they're supposed to be doing.

Yeah, we're defining it for them in a way that they needed to find, right. And, you brought up something really amazing, which is taking pictures of our kids doing well, yeah, Luke's first grade teacher, again, Miss McGee, who was so wonderful, she had photos of the kids in her class, doing well, like, there was a picture of a kid sitting on the carpet, raising his hand in the group, all of these different expectations. And if they were doing like carpet time, and the kids were starting to talk out of turn, or whatever, she would just raise up that picture and remind them of what it was that she expected, without saying a word, love it. And it was amazing. And she actually created one to wear around her neck, around the school, and around the classroom, for Luke, so that she would have those pictures to use for him, instead of always correcting him verbally, which feels bad, right? If you're that kid, he was getting these picture corrections. And it was very, very clear what was expected. Right? If you see a kid sitting on the carpet with their legs crossed in their arm up raised, waiting their turn, that is a very clear expectation for any kid who's looking at it. And she would change them up. So every kid in the class got the opportunity to be the kids on the arm was it everyone, when when she was changing them out, she would give them the photo, like at the end of the year, Luke brought home the photo of him sitting on the carpet with his hand raised. Oh, just amazing. But you know, those things translate at home to we can do the same things for a long time, I had photographs all over his bedroom of each little area. And what my definition of clean was, when I asked you to clean up your room, this is what it should look like. Because that was what he could understand fully were my definition of clean. And his definition of clean were very, very different. Right. And so that was clearly defining what I expected. And then kids can meet our expectations, right? When we make them clear and doable. And I think it's important to to reiterate that you have to start out with very doable goals. If you're going to use a behavior chart with goals, they have to feel some success starting out, or they're not going to engage with it, you're going to get nowhere. So don't make it like this super end goal of you know, your room is going to be pristinely clean every day. You know, make it like your surface of your desk is going to be 50% cleared off just tiny bits at a time. Make it so much more doable for our kids too.

Oh, my goodness. Yes. And that scaffolding that you were just talking about? Like when you had the example earlier of brushing your teeth with only five reminders? Yeah, yeah, that's a great example of that, like expecting him to brush his teeth with zero reminders right off the bat is silly. But you know, with five, then four, then three, then two, then one, and gradually working your way up to just one reminder. That's awesome. Mm hmm. I think that's such a great example. There are two things I wanted to really spotlight about the beauty of those visual cards that what was her name? Mickey? Mrs. Mickey,

Miss Mickey, Sarah McGee. Yeah.

So one is that there's no language. So she's just communicating entirely visually. Yep. Which for some of our kids is really like that is the language that they speak is seeing what is expected as opposed to hearing you yammer on and on about it. Yeah. And then the second thing is that what I was just saying, like they can see the thing so like when you had the clean room, he could compare what in his room was different from the picture that you were showing him? And so, again, you're not you words to describe it, you're using this visual depiction of what you expect, which for some kids is absolutely the best way to communicate that.

Yeah, I want to point out to you that we're not talking about sort of changing our goals for our kids or letting go of things that aren't appropriate or yes, a societal expectation or whatever. We're not saying just give up. We're saying, slide your expectations, make sure that you are honoring where your kid is, and who they are right at this moment. What is doable for them? And what do they need to improve and work a little bit at a time on it. So where we might expect that you know, our six year old, could get out of the car and walk next to us and go into the store? We're not saying that, we're never going to expect them to be safe in a parking lot. Obviously, we need to do that. Right, right. We're saying we're just sliding that timetable back, where it's actually doable for the kid that we have, with their developmental delay their brain function, the way their brain is wired. And all of those things are being taken into account.

Yeah. And I think sometimes people hear, don't ever punish a kid, as don't ever set reasonable boundaries on behavior. And I think it's a really important point to remember that, of course, we do want to teach our kids something that I do is I like to have parents sort of think forward, in six months, what do I want to see in two years? What do I want to see, in 10 years? What do I want to see? And think about it in the sort of like, a longer timeframe than just this moment in time? Yeah. Because that gives your kid Permission to approach that goal over time, as opposed to having to be better right away?

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, a lot of this is just awareness and compassion, right, where we want to be aware of who our kids are, where they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what the way that we're approaching things is sort of doing to them or the way they interpret it. So, the shame and blame and fear stuff, being aware of that. And focusing on the fact that if we help our kids with skill building, if we help them with what is really the underlying cause of the behavior that we're not enjoying, then we're able to help them in a compassionate and effective way, which is what every parent wants, we have to wrap up. We could talk about this forever. I feel like every podcast episode with that we could talk about this forever, but because we're all so passionate about it, and so many of my guests that are also very passionate about this work with kids like ours. And so what else was there anything else, Sara, that we needed to be sure that we talked about in this episode before we close?

So I think the main takeaway here is that kids do well when they can. And so when they can't, your response is not yell at them. So they will, your response should be what's getting in the way. And why can't they right now? Because they want to do well. And so the question is, how do we help them do well,

Penny Williams 38:20

Yeah, what's getting in the way? And how do we help them right now? Brilliant. It's exactly what we need. And Sara and I will be back once a month, we are going to do these episodes on behavior for all of you. We would love for you, of course, to check out the behavior revolution, which is our initiative to help parents and educators and other caregivers out there to see behavior in a different way and to be able to address it in a much more compassionate way that really sees our kids and honors who they are and allows them to be who they are. We'd love for you to check out that work. We have courses and webinars and our behavior revolution system is now available as well there at the behavior revolution calm, and you can also get the show notes for this episode, in particular at parentingADHDandAutism.com/150 for Episode 150, I cannot believe it, Episode 150 and Sarah and I will see you guys in another month and I will see everyone on the next episode. Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and Mama retreats atparentingADHDandAutism.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That’s what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

Pinpoint the
Help You Need
right now

Take my free quiz to cut through the overwhelm and get focused on the information and resources that will help you and your child RIGHT NOW.

free video series
Quick Start: 3 High-Impact Actions to Transform Behavior

Transforming negative or unwanted behavior is a long and complex process. HOWEVER, there are a few actions you can take right now that will provide a big impact. These 3 high-impact strategies address foundational aspects of behavior, empowering you to help your child feel better so they can do better.



Makes time visual for those with time blindness.


Blends gaming with off-screen activities to teach coping skills through play.


Manage chores and routines while building self-confidence and independence.


A chair that gives kids a sensory hug.

About the show...

I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

Listen on Apple Podcasts  |  Google Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  iHeart Radio

Share your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Start Typing