Problems with behaviour can be one of the hardest things to deal with when you have a child with special needs
Unfortunately children with special needs often have behaviour challenges attached, and this can make life a nightmare for you the parent, because not only are you trying to do your best for your child on a daily basis, you are then confronted constantly with behaviour that can be just horrendous to try and deal with.
And you need to ignore all those friends and family members who constantly try and give you parenting advice on how to discipline your child.
I can’t even count the amount of times friends have told me I’m too soft, too strict or getting it wrong in some way or other.
But the proof is in the pudding as they say, and Lachlan, for a child with ‘severe’ ADHD is now extremely well behaved and is improving every day, because of these methods.
The first thing you need to do is have a great deal of patience.
I know this is hard when you have a child who is spitting and kicking at you. But it is vitally important that at these times you remain calm.
With children with special needs, getting the positive / negative reinforcement balance right is key.
Although it is important to discipline a child who has bad behaviour. It is also important that you give them mountains and mountains of praise when they do something good.
Related Article: How to Build Self Confidence in Your Child
For children with special needs you need to be aiming for 80% praise 20% discipline. So, yes give them appropriate discipline if they behave badly, by giving them a time-out or making them miss out on something they would’ve like to do. But, the majority of your focus needs to be on praising them.
Even the tiny things they do need to be praised, such as just saying please or thank you, or putting something where you asked them to, or being kind to someone.
And if they do something good, make a big deal out of it, really boost them up by telling them, super enthusiastically, what a good boy / girl they are, or how proud you are.
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When you are disciplining your child, try and keep discipline for only the important things. If they do something wrong and it’s quite a small thing, try to simply ignore it. If they are violent or do something particularly bad then time-out usually works best.
On a side note; time-out can be tricky if you’ve never used it before and can take a while to get them to the point where they will stay there. But it’s really important that you don’t give up and keep putting them back in time-out until they stay for their allotted time. They will soon realise that the time will keep starting over and over again until they stay put. (The time they stay in time-out should be 1 minute per year of their life, so a 5 year old would stay in time-out for 5 minutes).
Getting the ratio between praise and discipline right isn’t an easy balance to master.
We are raised with everything being the other way round 80% discipline 20% praise. And on top of this all our friends and family will see your child misbehaving and will tell you or even just look at you in a way that says ‘you are too soft, this behaviour is your fault’.
Because of these judgements and society’s beliefs, we often do the opposite of what we should, and we discipline more and praise less.
So, from now on I want you to make a promise to yourself that you’re going to try really hard to get that 20% discipline and 80% praise balance.
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I do want to point out though, that this doesn’t mean you should ignore it if your child does something really bad.
The other day I watched a child spit in his mother’s face and the mother simply said “please don’t do that” to the child. Now spitting, along with violence and other highly disrespectful or aggressive behaviour is something that should be disciplined and time-out might be a good option for something like that.
Nevertheless, praise every good act no matter how small.
Please note, you must never use any form of violence or abusive language against your child. And when disciplining your child it is really important that you don’t get personal. Don’t put them down or say things like “you’re such a naughty little …”. This just pulls their self esteem down even lower than it probably already is and will cause them to rebel even more.
Just remember praise, praise, praise. Loads of it, for every tiny thing they do right.
If you are stuck with any of the tips in this article or if you’d like my help with how best to implement time-out or how or when to offer praise. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to use the ‘contact me’ form.
I’d love to hear your comments below on how praise has worked for you or how your child reacts to praise.