How can I discipline a seriously ill child?

Q: Our youngest child has had two heart transplants and her prognosis is uncertain. I find it difficult to discipline her, and I know her older sisters resent this. Do you have any suggestions?

A: This has to be an incredibly tough time for your family and it's natural to want to let your daughter's behavior slide when she's suffering so profoundly. However, experts agree that you shouldn't confuse your feelings about the hand your daughter has been dealt with the insignificance of everyday discipline, like being forced to clean up after herself, just like her siblings do. When you're tempted to give her special consideration because of how unfair life has treated her, say to yourself, "We can't do anything about that. But we can do something about her room, her behavior, and so on." And consider this: If you act as though saying no to your daughter is the end of the world, she'll come to believe that every little disappointment is as big a deal as her illness -- and that's not good for her or anyone else in your family. Reminding your daughter what's expected of her will bring a sense of normalcy back to your home and everyone in it.

Copyright © 2005. Updated 2009