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But he started it!!!!

As a Psychologist so often, I have seen children who have been suspended for hitting another kid. When I talk to them about what happened almost always, I get “but he started it". Often that is true, someone has said or done something that triggered the response. So how do you explain that being called “stupid" doesn’t justify punching them in the face? I picked up a great technique from Dr Tony Attwood when attending one of his Autism workshops that works so well to explain this. Kids in general, but especially kids on the Autistic spectrum, respond well to explanations to be more visual rather than just talking to them.

So, start by drawing each of the people involved. They don’t have to be a work of art, stick figures are fine.

Now have some tokens ready. These can be anything, from a board game, pieces of paper, I have even used drawing pins when I was really desperate one time.

Explain that you will be giving each person involved a token for what they had done wrong and you will give how many the action was worth. If we use our original example, let’s say our child was called stupid. So, the other child gets a token.

Maybe the teacher heard it, so they get a token too. By doing this you are showing your child that you believe them and you have an understand as to why they were angry.

But then our child punched them in the face. You then put ALL of the tokens on your child.

You can explain that even though the others had done the wrong thing, because they were physical, the only thing that anyone can see it that they punched someone. You can explain that when you are physical you will always get in more trouble that the others.

Once they understand this you can redo the scenario. Get them to think about what else they could have done and who would have gotten the tokens. For example, if they had called the other person a name too, they probably would have both been in trouble. Or if they had walked away or told a teacher. Try and get them to think of as many options as possible. By doing this you are helping them to see that they have choices when they are angry. This really does help to build problem solving skills and the ability to recognise consequences.

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