Discipline and the Special Needs Child
|May 14, 2009||Posted by healthsmartmom under Healthy Kids|
Discipline is a hard issue for many parents. What do you do when a child throws a tantrum? The answer may escape us but when the child is a physically challenged loved one, we are often even more at a loss for what to do.
It is not uncommon for children to have tantrums when they become toddlers. In fact, we have heard so much about the “terrible twos” that we wait expectantly for the first one to occur. Tantrums are a discipline issue that parents face and there are no rule books to guide us.
With any tantrum or disciplinary issue, the first step centers around finding the root cause of the behavior. For a child, it could be an unwillingness to share their toys with others, hunger, tiredness, or testing the boundaries of their behavior. The test for parents is whether they can contain their frustration long enough to solve the tantrum before exploding.
Perhaps surprisingly, the reasons for tantrums in physically challenged children are often similar to the reasons for tantrums in children without them. A physically challenged child still gets frustrated, tired, hungry, and ornery. The difference lies in the feelings of the parents. Some parents feel guilt because of their child’s condition and allow certain behaviors to go unchallenged to compensate.
While this is a normal response it is unlikely to help either the child or the parents. Even a physically challenged child is a blank slate. They learn their behavior, values, and sense of self-worth from their parents. We owe them the best that we can give to enhance their lives, and that includes discipline.
The last thing that parents need is getting caught up in the tantrum by letting their tantrum raise your blood pressure, cause embarrassment (in a public place, good luck), or result in shouting and anger. Remain calm as if the tantrum isn’t taking place. This gives you time to assess the situation.
Try to provide what the child needs. Carrying snacks in your purse or pocket can stop hypoglycemia in its tracks. A tired child will cry and fight sleep even though that is what they need. Put them to bed. Ignore the pleading to be let out of their bed because they will eventually fall asleep. Whenever you respond to your child, speak in a calm, level voice.
When the physically challenged child is testing their boundaries, a similar response is needed. They need discipline to learn that this is not acceptable behavior. Try the timeout corner.
Let them sit there without moving for three or four minutes. Have the child in view but don’t look directly at them. Do this several times until the child responds by not throwing another tantrum.
This also works for older physically challenged children. Administer discipline when the tantrum occurs. Trying to discipline them later will result in confusion for any child.
It is not easy to deal with tantrums, especially with a physically challenged child. Overrule any guilt or fear you may be feeling and remember the commitment of love we make when we have a child. They need discipline to grow up strong and wise.