Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from K.A., Michigan

I have a six year old daughter with a profound hearing loss. I would like to know of some ways to discipline my child. I would often spank her or give her a time out but she would forget what she was in trouble for and do the same thing the next day.

Question from K.A., Michigan. Posted May 3, 2010.
Response from Jennifer Lukomski and Marc Marschark - Rochester Institute of Technology

Before any answer can be given there are many questions to be answered…although these may help to identify the source of the problem

First and foremost what is her language development  (receptive and expressive skills) in her native language (English, Hindi, and/or sign language)? Second, how good is the communication between you and your daughter? Are your own communication skills sufficient to explain to her when she behaves inappropriately?  Third, but not unrelated, does she have difficulty following classroom behavior management rules? It is not unusual to see children behaving appropriately in school, but not at home. That indicates that the issue is about parent-child interactions and not the child per se. Fourth, does your daughter have any developmental delays that might help to explain her behavior? Is the memory problem only when she gets in trouble? Does her memory seem accurate for other things? What kind of problem solver is she in other domains ?

Finally, how long has this “forgetting” behavior been occurring?  Did this recently start or, has this been the case since she was a toddler? Are there any exceptions to this forgetting behavior?   Are there times when she does remember?

Other questions that might help you to identify the problem include: Were there times in the past where she did learn from her mistakes?  How did she do that? What kind of “trouble” does she repeat?  How many days in a row does this trouble behavior repeat itself? If the behavior is recent, has she or the family experienced any recent stressors? How does she get positive attention from family members? What are her strengths? What does she do well? What does she like to do with you? What is her relationship like with her siblings?

Especially if the problem occurs only or primarily at home, you might want to talk to her teacher. Next would be a psychologist or school psychologist. Spanking is not the answer, and hearing parents of deaf children often resort to physical punishment out of frustration and/or an inability to communicate what is expected by way of appropriate behavior. Please be careful and get some additional help.