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Disciplining My Daughter with Down syndrome

Disciplining My Daughter with Down syndrome

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Somehow, somewhere along the line, I stopped disciplining Moxie the same as I discipline Micah, or rather even, the same as I disciplined Micah when he was Moxie’s age.

And I don’t know what happened exactly to change that.

I suspect that her  inexhaustible appetite for adventure and mischief  had something to do with it – she simply wore me down and I was too tired to muster the energy to do much else but sigh.

I suspect that her relentless adorability, the fact that her eyes take up about half of her face, her precious pout and infectious giggle had something else to do with it.

meriah nichols_

But I also think Down syndrome had a part in this.

Not disciplining Moxie because she has Down syndrome

I know Moxie is clever and yet I’ve caught myself wondering if she understands what exactly is going on, if disciplining her is going to work.

My Mom called me on it – she has been here at the training center with us, watching the kidlets the entire time that I am in training with my hearing service dog. On break one day, I was helping out, Moxie did something she wasn’t supposed to and I just started cleaning, maybe after saying, “noooooooooooooooooooooooo Moxieeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

My Mom asked me why I wasn’t doing anything about it, that she saw that expression in Moxie’s eyes of, “oh YAY! got away!” At first I denied that I was letting her get away with it, but thought about it all for about two whole minutes and knew that my Mom had hit the nail on its head: I was totally letting Moxie get away with it. 

No way in high hell would I have let Micah dump a cup of milk on the floor and not have a time out AND clean up his mess. No way would I let ANY kid do that; why on earth was I letting Moxie out of a discipline?

Huh. Oh, hi there, Down syndrome. 

I’ve revved it all up about 50 million notches and Moxie’s getting immediate time outs for the things that she knows very well that she is not to do. She dumped a cup of milk in the kitchen last night and I said, “no!”(- firmly, clearly, without the drawing out of the “noooooooooooooo”) then placed her in a 3 minute time out. When the time out was over, I went to her, looked at her in the eye while crouching down in front of her and said, “no dumping milk, Moxie. No. Say you are sorry.” – she signed “sorry” “now clean up this mess, Moxie” – I gave her a towel and she got up and cleaned the whole mess up.

Every little bit of milk.

://the end

meriah nichols_-2



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Friday 13th of September 2019

I love reading all the situations and comments. I just entered into a relationship and he has a 13 year old with DS. I notice her bad behavior is consistent and he yells at her and she yells back. I feel there is nothing being accomplished. When it’s time for bed she fights him, same with bath time and getting her up for school.


Saturday 14th of September 2019

That sounds like a challenging circle. There are two books which I read which helped get me out of a similar loop: 1) Positive Behavior and 2) The Peace Parent -

I highly, highly recommend reading both; it was life changing for me. xoxo

That Time When I Underestimated My Daughter with Down Syndrome...Again

Sunday 20th of January 2019

[…] I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I wasn’t disciplining her the same as I was my sons. I was honestly surprised to learn that I somehow thought she […]


Friday 25th of July 2014

I have 5 kids with Down syndrome. My bio daughter is 18, then adopted now ages 13, 11, 9, 9. I have learned some things about my parenting in the last few years that I wish I had done when my 18 year old was little. My adopted kids came without knowing any boundaries. I needed to teach them what they can/cannot do. If you don't want your child to do something, do NOT say things like "If you do that a again you will have time out." What you have done is just given the child permission to DO IT AGAIN! Instead, there is am immediate consequence, If they were to throw a plate, x happens immediately. That way they learn VERY quickly, "I don't want to throw my plate. The response is not pleasant!" I did learn something with my daughter though, a technique taught to be by one of her ST's years ago. If I say, "Angela, don't throw your plate." most of what I said gets lost in a jumble of words, with "plate" being the most likely thing she heard. Instead we 1) say her name and nothing more until there is eye contact. Once there is eye contact then, "Throwing your plate is no." The last word she would hear is "NO" and more likely to be processed than the other way around. This worked quite well for her, as well a couple of my adopted kids who have significant problems processing language.


Saturday 26th of July 2014

thank you SO MUCH for sharing that!!! I really appreciate it. It makes so much sense when you write that, but I wouldn't have guessed.

Anna Theurer

Wednesday 25th of June 2014

Meriah, great post! You recognized what you were doing and got down to the root of it. I have no idea what I am doing discipline-wise. I don't necessarily think it is Ds because well, I have no other kid! I try to be firm and consistent, but sadly I fall short many times. Like you, I sometimes wonder if she understands. For me, that is a big motivator to "teach her" that something is not acceptable in hopes that she will soon understand. The dumping drinks is a BIG one. Why why why do our kiddos feel the need to do that?!?!? Sometimes I am having to hand-over-hand make her clean up because she is a stubborn little thing. I have also learned not to threaten her with time-out. She cannot tell the difference between "Time out!" and "do you need a time out". she runs to her room and shuts the door and cries! Discipline is a tough thing and you handled the milk dumping beautifully.


Friday 16th of August 2019

This 37 year old man with down syndrome sat on me at camp,followed me into the girls room,and nearly blinded me fishing and he NEVER gets diciplined and he DOES KNOW BETTER! What the fuck people! Whatever happened to punishing your kids!

Sara Matlin

Monday 23rd of June 2014

Wow. I hope that is "the end." Was it really that easy?

One of the reasons I'm not a parent is that I have such high expectations for parents that I know I'd almost always be compromising. Because I'm exhausted, because s/he's cute, because s/he has special challenges. And that's just me imagining one child. Oof. Best of luck on the continued discipline of all three!

Randy Hackney

Monday 22nd of July 2019

My daughter is 33, Down syndrome angel, whose angel I’m not sure sometimes. She is stubborn and that’s ok, she lies and is manipulative. I don’t believe she is malicious, she just wants her way all the time. She still lives at home with us. She is not violent, just does what she wants, have to threaten her with taking things away if she doesn’t do what we ask. Is there a better way if disciplining her.


Tuesday 24th of June 2014

oh no, it's not really that easy!! but it was also easier than I thought it would be. xoxox

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