Were you actually going to punish her for that?

(1-minute read)

I was working with Esther, a sweet fourth grader, who stayed indoors on weekends and would not go out to play with her neighbors. She gave me lots and lots of reasons why there was no point in even trying. Over the past few months, we had worked on play skills, conversation skills, managing her anxiety, and anything else I could think of that seemed to be getting in her way of being socially successful. We even set up a reward system with a highly desired reward. At some point, I thought she had enough tools in her toolkit to succeed, and she was charming enough that kids would like her. Only her anxiety was getting in the way. And as long as she didn’t try, she would never find out if she could make friends on her block.

Finally, two weeks ago, I told Esther and her mom that from now on, Esther had to go outside to play with at least one neighbor for at least 15-30 minutes on Shabbos (Saturday). Otherwise, she would lose the privilege of joining the weekly family party on Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night) or Sunday.

This week, mom came back and told me that she hardly saw her daughter all week! Since Shabbos, she has been playing outside every free moment. In fact, it was hard to get her to do her homework during the week for a change.

It seemed harsh to give such a strong consequence for not socializing. But the reward system I had set up was not strong enough to make her overcome her fear. When the punishment was put into place, it jolted her into action. She then discovered how much fun it was to make new friends!

And, yes! She is also getting that special reward for playing with the kids each weekend.

Enjoy the sunshine!


Dr. Devora

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