Special Needs Parenting
It’s often lamented that children don’t come with instruction manuals. Parenting is tough and we all try our absolute best. A reactive style of parenting, however, may actually be working against our best intentions. Even though there isn’t an official booklet to explain how to raise a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted child, these seven simple steps will help you become the master parent you always knew you could be.
Teach your children to respect limits and responsibilities with these three parenting tactics.
- 1. Game theory is a problem-solving method that pits players against each other in a motivation-based race to success. Parents can use game theory to reduce arguments and increase voluntary cooperation almost instantly. Use a “chore auction” to solve dilemmas between competing siblings. Young ones who want to watch different shows at the same time, for example, can bid for the privilege by offering to do extra chores. The one who is willing to give the most effort receives the reward.
- Establish a list of family rules. Include corresponding consequences for breaching those standards. Post these lists together where everyone in the family can see them. An appropriate consequence for a child who refuses to do his chores would be the loss of his gaming system for a short period.
- Boundary issues are a huge driver of family disagreements. Help your child understand the importance of respecting others’ boundaries by emphasizing empathy. Talk to them about their own emotions and how their actions affect other people.
Communication Is Key Help your young one express their complex emotions with these simple adjustments to your daily routine.
- Spend unstructured alone time with your child on a regular basis. Talk about what interests them, how they’re doing in school, and other topics they enjoy. The only agenda during this time is to make a real connection with your child. According to a recent study, it doesn’t matter how long your special time lasts. The important thing is that you remain focused on your child as an independent person.
- Hold periodic family meetings to discuss common issues like chore assignments, scheduling, and dinner plans. Give everyone a voice and a responsibility during these meetings. Younger children can gather up writing supplies while teens assist in recording vital meeting data.
- Even in extreme situations, listen to your child’s point of view. What we see as a foolish decision may actually be a brave attempt at something new. If you need to, walk away or take a few deep breathes to steady yourself before responding to a disobedient child.
Be Consistent! The single most important tool any parent can have in their kit is consistency. Being consistent with rules, consequences, and expectations eliminate confusion and build a sense of stability and safety. Parents who stick to their word experience less obstinate or unwanted behaviors. No one is perfect. However, as you grow and evolve with your child, these simple steps will reduce conflict in your family and make parenting easier and more enjoyable.
- Prioritize Private TimeAs adults, we understand the importance of quiet time to decompress and readjust. This coping mechanism works for children too. Solo play helps children develop in important ways
- Encourages independence. Children who know how to entertain themselves won’t need others to do it. This reduces the chances of a fight because someone won’t follow the rules.
- Improves imagination. Bored children will use any means of stimulation available, including picking on siblings. Solo imaginative play gives them something unique and interesting to share.
- Teaches independence. If a child knows he doesn’t have to play with another to be happy, they are more likely to walk away when conflict starts.
- Solo play gives children the opportunity to understand themselves and their needs better. This leads to clearer verbal communication and less fighting.
Yelling, hitting, and fighting between siblings is a natural part of growing up. According to the Mayo Clinic, occasional bickering and name-calling prove that a child is learning to speak up for themselves. Excess confrontations or physical violence, however, can affect the whole family. Constant fighting causes emotional rifts that erode relationships.
Anger and resentment spread through a family like fire, claiming the peace of other members. Frequent fighting may be hiding a more serious issue. Sibling bullying affects self-confidence in younger children that can continue into their adult years. How can parents help children learn to resolve interpersonal conflicts without verbal or physical violence?
- Encourage Cooperation
- Teach your children how to communicate and compromise to reduce conflict.
- Create opportunities for cooperative play. Build something from wood or cardboard, make a dessert, or design Halloween costumes together. The goal is to have all the children use their talents to help the group achieve a goal. Define each person’s role clearly before beginning the activity.
- Keep things fair. Make sure there is always enough space, materials, and time for everyone to participate in group activities. Use a small timer for sharing limited resources. Establish consequences for children that insist on more than their share. Explain these consequences before the activity begins.
- Teach conflict resolution. For younger ones, a game of rock, paper, scissors can be a quick way of resolving issues. If compromise can’t be achieved, let them know to seek an adult to mediate before the situation gets out of control.
- Prioritize Private Time
Real World Value
- Sibling rivalry is more than a family issue. The abilities to compromise, cooperate, and communicate are skills they will need through life. Motivate your child to use positive interpersonal skills outside of the home.
- Model desired behaviors by treating other adults in your community with respect.
- Ask for your child’s opinion when possible, so they know their thoughts are important.
- Encourage children to use conflict resolution skills with peers.
Helping your children learn healthy ways to express their needs and resolve differences takes patience, time, and consistency. It’s tough, but the effort you put into sharing positive interpersonal skills with your young ones will continue to bring them countless benefits as they grow.
Rules make modern life possible. Without restrictions on how we use common resources, communicate, and work together, a civilized society could not exist.
Your family unit is a miniature reflection of the greater social structure. Without order, your little society can fall apart. Setting healthy limits and establishing consequences for crossing them is necessary to keep all family members working together for the greatest benefit of the group.
Defining Limits and Consequences
Limits are guidelines for expected behaviors. They teach children how to act in various situations. Telling your toddler to put candy wrappers in the trash rather than on the floor is a limit.
Consequences are the events caused by an action. As a consequence of throwing the wrappers on the floor, your toddler will not be allowed to have any more candy.
Limits and consequences grant caregivers the ability to shape a child’s decision-making process by helping them understand that their actions have meaning and affect more than just one person. By learning to live by a set of standards, children become self-disciplined, avoid risky behaviors, and become better able to handle difficult emotions.
Drawing the Lines
How does a family of different people and personalities set limits and consequences that work for everyone?
- Be as consistent as possible. Age differences, disabilities, and other challenges make it difficult to hold every person to the same standard. Expectations may need to be adjusted for individual ability levels. You may not expect your three-year-old to clear the whole table after dinner like the eight-year-old, but he can help gather utensils and scrape plates.
- Lead by example. Children are experts at detecting hypocrisy. If no food is allowed outside of the kitchen, how will you justify eating a sandwich on the couch? Emphasize family unity by being the chief rule-follower.
- Explain the limit’s purpose. Older children will appreciate the time you take to talk about the benefits of their limits. Tweens and young adults are more likely to stick to an established boundary if they believe it’s for their own good.
- Regulate behavior, not emotion. Children are people too. Like adults, they have good and bad days. Allow them to feel disappointment, anger, or sadness. However, their feelings should not be an excuse for disruptive behaviors.
- Make the consequence fit the behavior. Overreaction can cause a child to withdraw and lose trust in their adult guardian. Underreaction encourages the child to take rules less seriously.
Display house rules prominently. A dry-erase board lets you easily update written guidelines, so they’re always relevant and understood.
If life is a garden, parents are the caretakers of a precious future crop. Careful use of limits and consequences has the effect of a gardener’s thoughtful sheers pruning away excess limbs and growths. Far from being an act of control or restraint, limits and consequences help children reach their highest potential.