A rough Tuesday a.m.

We had probably one of the roughest mornings ever here in the Claxton house today.  It began with a conversation at the dinner table Monday night upon my three daughters' return from a week with their mother.  You see, the girls have befriended a lady, whom I do not know, over at their mother's house.  The lady is said to be 31 years old.  The girls call her their "Friend."  Along with my wife, I find this relationship a little odd.  The girls spend the night at this lady's house.  I asked my eldest daughter tonight it they're spending the night there because her mom and step dad have to work or if their mother and step dad are at home and they're just letting them spend the night there.  If it's the prior, that's one thing.  If it's the latter, I continue to reiterate, there is something weird about it.

So began the dinner table discussion last night.  And then still fuming from it this morning, my eldest son, who has Aspergers began asking my eldest daughter what was wrong with her.  Initially, I'm told she blew it off.  Not having the social graces to let ANYTHING go, he kept at it and out popped the conversation from Monday evening, to which the eldest son began with his two cents.  As the diologue billowed into a cloud of verbal nuclear smoke, and the badgering about how the girls shouldn't be friends with a 31-year-old lady, out popped a direct declaration or implication that the 16-year-old was the "R" word.  A word no mother with a special ed son likes to hear, and no one with special disabilities likes to hear. 

So, again, lacking the social graces of a child much older than five at times, our son ran upstairs to tattle, yelling at the top of his lungs that his sister had called him the R word.  And beginning what had to be about 30 reptitions of it over the next 20 minutes.  She called me R, she called me R.  And all the while acting a fool about it.  The more we told him to be quiet and quit yelling, well, the more he belted out that "She called me an R," thereby reinforcing in the minds of anyone within earshot that he was an R, a term that's not nice or appropriate.

And so it went.  He was arguing with me because I kept telling him to be quiet.  He yelled back at my commands to be quiet.  I took him to the den for a paddling for not listening.  He wondered why he was getting paddled and yelled it again, "Why am I getting punished when she called me R." 

And so it continued to go for several minutes more. 

So who was in the wrong? 

My wife and I have repeatedly struggled with what to do about our Aspie son.  We've even done chats here on the Dads Center with other Aspie parents over the past few weeks.  Some cases are worse than ours, others are better. 

Our daughter shouldn't have dropped the R-bomb. That was wrong.  And he reacted negatively to it.  As he should.  But he shouldn't have run through the house reaffirming it.  He shouldn't have been yelling at his parents.  He shouldn't have kept the ball rolling when told to let it go.  He shouldn't have kept back talking.  My daughter left the kitchen to go to her room to get out of the frey.  She did was most people I think  would have done.  She dropped the bomb and then ran for cover. 

As Kari and I talked tonight, we concluded that me and my girls need some coaching on how to deal with our Aspie son.  Kari's two other boys have dealt with our eldest all of their lives.  They're used to it.  But me and my girls are not.  And we've seen a tremendous decline in maturity and behavior over the past couple of months.  I'm coming to the realization that instead of becoming more responsible with age, our son is staying flat in the trend lines, while getting older.  I cannot expect his maturity to improve with his age as I do our other children.  It just isn't happening.  And I don't think I'm getting to the point of where I'm accepting excuses for him.  My thoughts over the past few months were that as he aged, so too should his behavior improve.  But again, it's just not happening.  And so I'm having to change my expectations.

I can tell you without any certainty that in my mind, we won't be talking about driving for this child anywhere in the near future.  His judgment skills just are not there.  He is brilliant at Math and Science, but when it comes down to sense to get out of the rain, or to keep his mouth shut, well, it's just not there.

And so my heart hurts tonight. At dinner time, he kept badgering one of my twins because she wasn't doing her nightly chores to his liking or whatever.  He kept pushing verbally and pushing and instead of using the R word, she called him a Rick James term, without the Super….

And so up came another billowing cloud of a mother already hurting from hearing her son called an R during the day, now being called an F.  Not a good day here.  Should either of the girls said what they did?  No.  But we as parents need to find some new tools for them to use in response to his badgering and taunting and socially reckless activities.  Calling names is wrong.  But so is the behavior that leads to them being used. 

Therein lies our dilema.  Who out there knows what we should do to remedy this kind of thing?  We can't have many more mornings like the one we had today. It's hurting our family.  Blending is hard as it is.  Adding an Aperger's case to the mix is making it harder.  We love all of these kids equally, though it is times like these where Kari and I instinctively side with our own flesh and blood and have difficulties seeing past our own kids' imperfections.  We need some help dear friends.  Any suggestions?


  1. Mom on the Run

    I’m not a child psychologist, but why are you paddling a 16-year-old? When will you stop…17…18? If you paddle the 16 yo why not do the same with the girls. You don’t mention what punishment the girls got. Your son is in the wrong for not stopping the badgering, but no one should use terms to identify disabilities. Perhaps the school counsellor could assist with an inschool lesson on appropriate ways to deal with someone with a disability. The “R” word is never used…alternative term “person wth developmental delays.”
    Does the son with Asperger’s spend time with his dad? You mention that the 16 yo is “our son” but the girls and boys are “mine” and “hers.” Just wanted to clarify.
    Perhaps the 16 yo needs to spend time out of the home to give everyone a break. Does your county have programs for kids who function differently? Perhaps he could get involved with Big Brothers to have an outlet for his energy and petulant behavior. At 16 he could get a job to learn responsibility…I’ll bet you could find a job for him.
    I’m obviously not a professional, nor do I know what it is like living in your house. Just my two cents’ worth.

  2. Danielle

    OK…here’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth..from what I read did anyone validate your son being called the “R” word? Did anyone say “yes I know she did and it was wrong for her to call you that; HOWEVER it is not acceptable for you to continue a conversation that is not your concern” I know paddling makes it stop, but it doesn’t give him the skills to avoid it in the first place…I wish I could be there:) to help you; it’s easy for me to give suggestions, but you really need someone to model correct reinforcement for you…
    the dinnertime issue with him badgering one of the twins..does he have his own job to do at that time that he could focus on? I’m just throwing stuff out here because I don’t know hte context at all, so it’s hard to give suggestions accurately…
    I’m not sure how long you and Kari have been married, but as I’m sure you know, a blended family has majorly disrupted his equilibrium; it seems like he’s trying to find his place among all of the kids and the acting out and being loud ensures that he is getting attention. Do you ever spend time with him 1-1…is that something he would like; or with Kari?
    Sorry, it’s late and I’m probably starting to ramble…let me know what else I can do:)

  3. Shonika Proctor, Teen Biz Coach

    Geezo Meezo…it was a very busy Tuesday I see 🙂 Here are my suggestions:
    1. The girls and the 31 year old lady…it’s good to be concerned but not good to automatically think negatively of this person or the situation. Perhaps she is a confidante who listens to them and she is neutral. However, you need to understand that relationship via your ex. So you should ask the girls who the lady is. If they refuse to answer on the first try, drop the subject. Then the next time the drop off/pick up is made with their mom in a calm tone…you need to ask your ex who the lady is that they are staying with. And the reason why this needs to happen is because your daughters are minors…and together or divorced in fact you are both still responsible until they are of legal age. And if this person is not a blood relative you need to contact whomever establishes your ground rules of visitation rights and make them aware of the situation. BC if something were to happen down the road it would be bad if you were aware of the situation but did not notify ‘authority’.
    2. The name calling. No, it is not good especially the R word and given the situation…but you apparently gave a lot of attention to it. You cannot give them undivided attention (even if it is disciplinary) when they fuss and carry on. You need to put your kids on a schedule. They can have a set time one-on-one with you and their step/mother(they can rotate their days). At that time, they can bring any and all their issues and successes to the table (one on one private time held in confidentiality). And let them present the problem and also let THEM reflect on the solutions (plural). Your solution is not going to be good enough anyway…bc what old people do to fix problems…doesn’t work the same for young people, LOL. Any other time not on scheduled time, they need to work it out on their own. You cannot reflect on questions like how would you feel if someone called you the XYZ word bc it is a given they are going to say they don’t care to all of the above.
    3. Kids/Teens don’t want to be lectured to…they want to be listened to. When adults listen to kids they learn to openly express themselves and say things that are more of substance. And the more they talk, the more they start to figure things out on their own. So sometimes you simply have to talk less and listen more. What they are saying….is not what they are really saying. Ask questions and allow them to respond. Is it something with a peer that is bothering them? At school? What is upsetting them probably has little to do with your household.
    4. More personal time together. After you get the scheduled time down and you begin to build a routine, listen for signs and things that your kids like to do or would be interested in doing and then ask them would they like to do it. They don’t have to invite the others to do it if they don’t want. They need to build independence and maturity. In time on their own resolve they will learn to work with the others. Once you get their interest identified, then transition out of reporting problems time to do mini focus projects with your kids. They can chat and work at the same time. The holidays are coming…so they could bake holiday cookies, 11 yr olds and younger would probably be into it. As for the teens, send them to the local bookstore or wherever to wrap gifts one Saturday afternoon. Let them volunteer independently in a supervised setting with their friends. It is not a choice of whether or not they want to do it, it is only a choice of which things they can choose to volunteer to do. And believe me, they won’t really care that much as long as their parents are not there. It is just that whole indepedence thing.
    5. The kid and the car. Don’t threaten it (i.e. him not being able to have one) or use it as an incentive for him to do things he should already be doing. He is going to talk about it of course. So ask him if he is aware of the expense of the car. Regardless of whether he says yes or no, he needs to research and draft up a list of cars he think is suitable for him, and id the $$$ to purchase, maintenance, gas for the year, insurance. And if he has to go to school, what can he offer in exchange that gives value to your household that would offset its cost in terms of increased responsibility around the house, helping with younger ones, doing the grocery shopping…NOTE: doing one’s best in school is a given. With teen boys I think building hobby cars, boats, motorized cars is ok; camping or any outdoor things; concerts/music festivals; maybe design & build a skateboard deck; assemble a bike; change oil in a car. Are you aware of the Dangerous Book for Boys? It is pricey but could provide tons of things you can do together. And I think they just came out with one for girls…for the younger kids your efforts will probably be easier: puzzles, board games, baking stuff.
    So that’s it for now. Let me know what you come up with. Have faith, it will work itself out.

  4. kristin

    Well here is my thought but keep in mind they are only my thoughts. First, you did a good thing by telling us this story and since you told us even about paddling him I can assume you did not leave much out.
    I think 16 year olds are way to old to be paddled. I have a blended family but ours are now all grown and we are grandparents many times over. I can’t even imagine paddling a child of this age. Next think I wonder is IF he was going to be paddled and his mother was there why she wasn’t the one doing it? I think he is most likely very confused about many things going on in his life. I had 2 boys who were 9-11 when I married my husband almost 20 years ago, I would have never dreamed of allowing him to paddle my children. I was their disciplinarian and if I needed help in that area I took it to their dad who was also very involved with them and would have went through the roof if another man had laid hands on his children. So that is my thought about that part.
    Second calling someone the R word is unexceptable although I do know siblings have habits of doing this but what was her punishment? The way you describe this is that he was called this name and then because he got angry about it, he was paddled. She avoided punishment by running and hiding?
    I don’t envy what you are faced with but there should be clear rules about discipline. I totally agree that you and your girls need some coaching on how to deal with a child who is not perfect.
    Where is his Dad? Does he see this child?

  5. Dominick

    I am the father of a 14 year old with Aspergers. My son sounds remarkably like yours. In fact, tonight, he was running his mouth, loudly and whining. I told him to be quiet and like your son, he back talked. He told me to be quiet, too. In fact, I’m finding it is quite common for Asperger teens to talk back in a manner that mimics their parents because it is pretty much their form of rebellion. Of course, I’ve never paddled my son nor inflicted physical punishment upon him (EVER) save for a little soap in his mouth during a swearing fit (and trust me it worked because he knows if soap is mentioned he doesn’t want it and he often stops swearing).
    I don’t believe in physically punishing someone who has little understanding of social cues. My son is very intelligent and yet he has the judgment of a small child, because that’s what his disability is. It’s a social disability that prohibits an understanding of social cues or common sense reasoning.
    I think that you punished the wrong child. All he saw was that your daughters got away with calling him derogatory names and he was punished for it. I believe he kept yelling about it because he thought you’d punish your daughter, which I believe you should have. He looks to you as the authority figure so when you did nothing, he kept telling you to do something by begging for help in the only way he knew how.
    I believe if you’re going to paddle him then you should have paddled her, as well. Actually, I don’t think anyone should get paddled period, but then I don’t believe in paddling. My point is more if you’re going to punish him for what you believe he did wrong, why let her get away with doing something bad, too? All that teaches your son is that people can call him retard and freak and not get punished for it. This has done more damage to him than good.
    Your son isn’t always in control of his actions. Yes, i know that sometimes Aspergers kids instigate situations. My son’s therapist has talked to him about what is instigating and what is truly out of his control. Sometimes it can be hard to determine what he’s doing on purpose and what is caused by his disability. In this case, it sounds like your son was asking YOU to handle the situation. Unfortunately, to him, you never handled it, because in his mind, the only thing he saw was her doing something bad to him and him getting punished for it.
    I wouldn’t want to be called a retard or a freak. I’d probably create a ruckus, too, but then again, I can fight my own battles. Most kids with Aspergers can’t so they have to turn to their authority figures to help them. The difference between your son and your daughter is that he can’t always control himself (or doesn’t know how). She knew full well what she was doing and said, so why didn’t you punish her, too?
    Aspergers kids are hard to handle. We have daily fights and he gets punished…a lot (loses toys, play time, loses computer time, not being able to do fun stuff, TV time, time outs, etc.), but that doesn’t mean he gets paddled. In fact, in kids with ASDs, paddling, spanking or hitting often makes them more violent and reactive. Nearly any doctor or psychologist can tell you that.
    I think the real issue you have is teaching your other children about sensitivity. It is never right to make fun of anyone who is disabled no matter the reason. Maybe if they stop calling him derogatory names you won’t find a reason to have to paddle him again because he won’t be complaining about being called names in the first place.

  6. gminks

    I agree with the paddling comments. That never worked w my daughter because of her sensory issues, in fact it would make things worse. The drs told me that she was about 7 years behind emotionally, and I can see that (she’s almost 22 and emotionally sometimes acts like she’s 15). So, you have a young man physically (and hormonally) who is 16, but may emotionally act like he’s 9 or 10.
    I can tell you my son would not have stood for being paddled at 16, and I don’t think my brothers would have either. So if you want him to grow emotionally, you have to treat him like he’s a young man not a little kid.
    He was acting pretty Aspie – he wanted to be sure his sister understood what you had told her. Were you super emotional when you were talking to the daughter the first time? You must have said something that really stuck with him, and it sounds like he didn’t feel his sister understood the importance of the issue.
    Does he know he has Asperger’s? My daughter has always known, and sometimes when she starts going on and on and on and on we just tell her: hey you are acting pretty aspie and it’s getting hard for me to listen to this topic.
    When my two would fight, I’d get at them seperately. I’d talk to my son, telling him he HAD to understand his sister thinks differently. He did not like it, and has only just now started to come to terms with it (he’s 19). He thought she always got special treatment, it wasn’t fair, she should just straighten out, etc etc. I’d listen, and see if I could figure out what she was doing to annoy him the most.
    Then I’d talk to my daughter, let her know how her actions affected her brother. We’ve always approached it as a team, me telling her how her actions were being interpreted by everyone else. Then she would try to figure out strategies to fit in. It has always been harder with her brother, because I think she should feel free to be herself in her own house.
    It has always been so much work, and it still is today. It helps to have an outside social skills coach that can work one-on-one with your son to get him to understand how his actions affect everyone else.
    It will all pass, and something else will start up again in a few months. Yay teenagers! 🙂

  7. Bethany

    As a child of divorce, I can tell you this – too much questioning about a child’s activities after they’ve spent time with the other parent can lead to them just flat not telling you anything.
    Better idea? If this new friend is a mature adult, they won’t mind meeting you. When you drop the girls off at their moms, ask them which house it is. Go up, ring the doorbell, and just tell her that you’d like to meet the person who is spending time with your daughters. If she’s reasonable, she’ll see that as a reasonable request. If she’s not, well, you have your answer.
    As for your son, I know my brother – who does not have Aspergers but has significant delays – never really responded to paddling. It doesn’t actually turn the moment into a teaching one.
    So we instituted a rule. You’re only allowed to say something three times, unless the house is on fire, or someone is dying. It cut down on the repetitions, and actually forced him to listen after he got the repeating out of the way. Then came the time to teach.
    At that point, you could’ve pulled the daughter and the son into the same room, calmly, and asked the son to tell you guys – once – why being called that bothers him so much. Then your daughter could explain why his behavior made her annoyed enough to do it.
    It sounds like everyone needs to work on articulating their feelings in a more meaningful, productive way.

  8. LizM

    Just one other observation that doesn’t seem to have been touched on (or I missed it in the comments).
    The 16 year old has had his world turned upside down and sees the girls as a threat. Not physical, but a threat to “his world” and it being the way he is used to it being. Hence the “supervising” chores. He wants to be the boss in what he sees as “his territory” instead of the girls being equal to him. Add the Aspergers to the mix of normal blended family rivalry and you’ve got a powder keg.
    Its gonna take time to even out and with the girls not living with you it will take more time as it reinforces the idea of “visitors” to your son.
    Keep praying!

  9. Dominick

    Repetition is VERY common in kids with Aspergers. It’s one of the things you just have to try and ignore. It’s pretty much uncontrollable in them. For example, today my son heard the mail truck and he said, “The mail’s here.”
    We all heard the mail truck, too, so we didn’t say anything. So, he repeated himself again. “The mail’s here.”
    I was trying to have a serious conversation with him about schoolwork so again I did not respond. His mother was in the other room, so she too did not respond.
    Finally, he peeks around the corner and says, “Mommy the mail is here.”
    So, she said, “I know. I heard it too and you told me three times.”
    That stopped him from saying it again. He had the ‘aha you heard me’ moment. Many times, he will repeat things until we respond back.
    Sometimes, the child will repeat until you flat out tell them, “I know. I heard you. I’m going to handle it.”
    Because the situation wasn’t handled and sister wasn’t punished for doing something he thought was bad, he repeated thinking that “well maybe they didn’t hear what I said, because they aren’t doing anything about it.”

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