How Do You Discipline A Child With Special Needs?
“It’s not fair!” wails my 7-year-old, Sabrina. “Max never gets punishments!”
I’ve just told her that as a punishment for talking back to me, she won’t be having a playdate with a friend on the weekend. I don’t have this problem with Max, who’s 9. He doesn’t talk back to me and if he did, I’d do cartwheels. He has cerebral palsy and he has a lot of trouble speaking.
Sabrina’s right on both counts: Max doesn’t get punishments. And it’s not fair. And it’s not good. And I know it.
Typically, Max is typically a well-behaved child who does as he’s asked. On the rare occasion when he he doesn’t listen to me—say, I’ve told him that he needs to quit watching YouTube clips of Cars 2 and he refuses—I’ll take his iPad away from him. Sometimes he’ll proceed to act out, swiping a pile of papers off a table. Usually I’ll repeatedly say “Max, that’s not OK!” But punishment? No.
Thing is, Max isn’t yet at the cognitive point where he understands concepts such as being denied treats or activities for doing wrong. When he was younger and misbehaved, I’d try a time out but he’d refuse to sit on the chair and I’d have to forcefully hold him there which made him hysterical, and then I’d just end up holding and consoling him.
I know, of course, what you’re thinking. It’s the same thing I’m thinking: All children need discipline.
Yet this is something that stumps me, doling out discipline to a child who does not necessarily understand punishment. I’m sure a therapist would tell me that I also feel guilty punishing Max because of all that he’s been through. Heck, I don’t need a shrink to tell me that, because it’s true.
I can push past those feelings but then, figuring out how to discipline Max in a meaningful way eludes me.
If you have a kid with special needs, how do you handle discipline?
From my other blog
Image of little girl sitting in time out chair via Shutterstock