7 Musts for Misbehavior of Children with Special Needs
“Shut up! I hate you! You’re stupid!”–Of course, these words aren’t spewing through the hallways, doors, and windows of a Muslim family home. Muslims don’t talk like that. And they certainly must not be firing out of the mouth of a Muslim child. Muslim children respect their parents.
Fortunately, the average Muslim parent will never have to bear such inappropriate words issuing from the mouth of their child. But not all Muslim families are average. Not all Muslim families have children with a rational mind or sensible temperament. Some Muslim families have children who are autistic, others have children with ADHD, and some have children with cognitive disabilities (mental retardation). “Meaningless labels and unacceptable excuses,” some of you might be saying with disdain.
But I’m certain there are handfuls of parents out there who know just what I’m talking about — with certainty, they know their child is not like the average child. For this special child, the abnormal can be expected –not, accepted, but expected.
- Children with special needs often experience an extraordinary number of stresses on a daily basis. Some children are clumsier than others and have frequent spills or injuries. Others do poorly in school and have difficulty understanding lessons. This can result in your child having very low self-esteem. As a result, your child might act out inappropriately either for attention or due to his feelings of inadequacy. Keep this in mind when your child is unruly. Maybe you need to address his emotions and the causes of them before you address his misconduct.
- Due to your child’s eccentric behaviors, you might find yourself reprimanding your child more often than the average parent. Be aware that recurrent scolding can lead to your child feeling unloved and unwanted. These feelings can lead to further improper conduct. This is why it is extremely critical that you express and reinforce to your child often your love for him or her. Do this with words, hugs, and kisses. Also, consistently provide your child with the personal attention he needs on a regular basis.
- Children with special needs starve for positive strokes and approval. So provide them with it regularly. Praise your child for effort not only achievement. If you know your child studied hard for a test but he failed it anyway or received a low grade, let him know how proud you are that he put in the effort to study and do the best he could. Help build your child’s self-confidence by letting him know that he is capable of achieving success, even if it is a different standard than the average child.
- Avoid calling your child derogatory names or using insulting remarks when you are upset with him. “You idiot.” “Can’t you do anything right?” “Where’s your brain?” “I can’t stand looking at you!” Allah says in Quran -“And do not insult one another, and do not call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (Surah Al Hujarat, 49: 11) Demeaning your child only lowers his self-dignity. When your child has a poor self-image of himself, he has a greater tendency to act out aggressively and inappropriately because of his anger and bitter feelings. Another thing name calling does is it prevents you and your child from developing a loving relationship. When you lack a mutually kind and loving relationship with your child, you will have greater difficulty getting him to follow your requests.
- Developing a positive and loving relationship with your child is essential if you want to make it easier for him to obey your rules and demands. It is much easier to follow the orders of someone you have affection for than someone you despise. Having an amiable relationship can help prevent or minimize major flare-ups with your child too. For instance, let’s say you want to remind your 14-year-old who has ADHD and an aggressive personality that you need him to talk to you in a kinder tone and with respectful words, he will be more inclined toward suppressing his outbursts rather than acting upon them if you two have a pleasant relationship.
- Avoid using corporal punishment. Hitting can be counterproductive for children with special needs. It can also become a major problem for the parent. Many special needs children are corrected frequently throughout the day for their undesirable behavior. If your primary discipline method is hitting, what becomes of your child? She becomes a child who is smacked regularly and grows to feel abused and unloved. To make matters worse, these children often infuriate their parents to an enormous level. What better way to release your pent up anger than to wail away at what you deem the cause of it—your child. This is not the proper way to discipline your child. In fact, it can lead to your being unjust and possibly answerable to Allah on the Day of Judgment for your actions.
- Try keeping things in perspective. Although you might feel like whacking her across the room or grounding her for a month for talking to you rudely, what benefit would it serve? Will it stop her from repeating such spiteful words in the future? Instead of reacting impulsively, wait until she has calmed down, and then direct her to apologize. If she refuses, calmly let her know she won’t’ be able to use her favorite form of entertainment until she does. Later, inform her of her penalty for speaking to you disrespectfully. You can withhold a special treat that she likes, refuse to allow her to use a favorite form of entertainment, or prevent her from going on an outing that she was looking forward to, etc. The penalty will depend upon the severity of her offense and the circumstances surrounding it, of course.
Raising a special needs child can be one of the most challenging jobs a parent can have. No one knows the frustrations and demands that such a job places upon the parent except others who have experienced it firsthand. And of course, our Lord who is aware of everything. In fact, He tests those He loves. So if you feel you are one of those who is being tested by Allah with a difficult or unique child, perhaps you are one of the dear loved ones of Allah.
Can you think of any more tips to deal with misbehavior issues? Please share with us in the comments section below