The Sleepover Incident – Please Weigh In

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter, who is 5, has a best friend whose parents are extremely religious (Christians). I allowed my daughter to have her first sleepover with her best friend last weekend. In the house were the two girls, and the friend’s older brother, who is autistic. I do not have an autistic child, but I realize they can sometimes be difficult to handle. I also realize that they are very sensitive and need special care when it comes to behavior.

When we were getting ready for bed the next evening, my daughter began using the word “paddle,” as in “spank.” She told her stuffed animals that they were bad and were being “paddled” and sent to their rooms. She began to spank them on the bottom and tossed them onto her bed. My husband was in the room and promptly stopped the behavior, asking her where she heard the word “paddle.” It’s not a word we use. In fact, we rarely spank at all and had recently decided that we were going to stop spanking completely. We never tell her she is “bad,” so this was not something she got from us.

She explained to my husband that she learned this while playing with her best friend. Then she told him a story about the brother. She said that the brother was bothering the girls in their room, and that the boy’s father came to get him. When he wouldn’t listen to his father, the father slapped the boy in the face…within the sight of my daughter and his. Now, I’m not an expert, but there are several things that bothered me (and my husband) about this story.

First, I can’t believe he slapped a child of no older than 8. Secondly, I can’t believe he thinks it’s ok to deal with an autistic child’s behavior this way. Thirdly, I can’t believe he allowed my child to witness it. It obviously made an impact on her because she felt compelled to tell us.

I’ve heard stories of Christian parents being abusive, but have never witnessed it. I was spanked with a belt as a child and vowed never to spank my children in that way. They never explained what I did wrong or how to correct it, and as I got older I realized the ineffectiveness of this mode of punishment. So, I ask you, readers, what would you do? Would you allow your child to see her friend again? Would you allow your child back at this house? Would you tell anyone? Is this abuse? Is this the proper treatment for an autistic child’s behavior (I highly doubt it!)? Does the “paddling” scenario bother you? Am I overreacting?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I’m so torn because my daughter loves her friend. But I don’t want her to be around violence toward children, especially those that cannot help their behavior. I also don’t want to get a family in trouble if they don’t deserve it, but my gut tells me that I should speak up. Please weigh in.

4 Thoughts on “The Sleepover Incident – Please Weigh In

  1. It’s perfectly reasonable to be bothered by the situation, because it is a difficult one. How I would personally handle it is to not completely keep her from interacting with her friend’s family and let things continue under heightened scrutiny.
    If anything this would be an opportunity to teach an important lesson. I assume you have talked to your daughter about how you feel about this sort of punishment. But did that include discussing how to handle adults threatening or performing such actions on her? This lesson would give her a basis of how to deal with or inform you about any situation with authority figures that she finds inappropriate.
    You may consider inserting yourself into her time spent with them so you can directly assess the situation. If you feel the need to address a problem and they are open to discussing their son’s autism, you could possibly pose suggestions for books or other sources on behavioral problems with autistic children, rather than confronting them or involving any authorities.

  2. Thank you so much for your input.We did talk to her about our feelings toward this kind of punishment, but I didn’t even think that they might try to punish her this way! I will definitely address that. We were thinking we would have her friend over to our house so we can get to know her. I don’t think our daughter will be going back to their house without us, however.

  3. I remember when I was in 4th grade and tried to sleep over a friend’s house who was extremely religious and home schooled. When I say tried to sleep over it means I freaked out when I saw the mom walking up and down the hall with a ridiculously long “switch” in her hand and intended to use it on anyone who wouldn’t go to sleep. I immediately called my mom and told her to walk up the street to come and get me.

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