Dealing with a special needs child is hard enough.
You are likely dealing with a shocking and life-changing revelation and trying hard to come to terms with it. There are times when you may be provoked into fiercely protecting your child’s dignity or dealing with strange glances at the supermarket – the rollercoaster is both physically and emotionally draining. What you don’t want on your plate is the added frustration of not being able to make sense of the endless paperwork, or miss out great opportunities for your child because you didn’t know they existed.
Katherine Kanaaneh, the author of the book, “Autism with HEART” has done a great service to all other parents, teachers, counselors, friends – basically, anyone who needs to understand an autistic person’s worldview. That makes it a book for well – everyone! We all know someone who needs that extra support. Her book is sensitive, honest, deeply empathetic and most importantly- extremely practical.
The book starts with her own struggles as a parent of an autistic child and unravels her learnings and she goes one step after another on her journey. She throws a fresh perspective on the many lives affected by autism in a family.
The book’s message is clear- Katherine urges you to refuse to be defeated by the condition and offers practical advice on things like –
1. How to organize your autism-related paperwork: She not only tells you what absolutely needs to be done, but adds a lot of information on the resources and agencies that you can reach out to for help with sorting it all out. She provides a ton of information on discounts on important services and apps, handouts and helpful checklists. (Personally, I think this bit makes the book really stand out and it’s no surprise that it’s already hit the Best Seller list on Amazon.)
2. Preventing Burnout: The book offers techniques for gaining mental and emotional strength, through support groups and mental discipline.
3. Leveraging the power of routines: The book walks us through a number of ideas for staying organised with everyday life, that can save us a lot of frustration.
4. Teaching life skills: The best gift that we can give a child is to teach him to fish instead of feeding him fish every day. Katherine has a ton of real-life examples on how to do just this for a special needs child.
5. Maintaining the quality of your own life: While the author never underestimates the value of support and empathy to an affected child, she gives clear guidelines on how to make time for other important things in your life – for example, quality time spent with your spouse. She emphasizes that these little but treasured family moments can go a long way in replenishing your energy for the challenges ahead.
The book will leave you feeling positive, hopeful, energized and a feeling that you can do it!
This review appeared first on the Huffington Post and is NOT a sponsored review.
About the author:
Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder of Kidskintha- a site dedicated to helping millennial parents raise happy kids. She believes that growing up well and happy is a function of growing up with well-informed adults. This site aims to deliver research-grounded and bite-sized pieces of information on two important facets of a child’s life- parenting and education. You can find her voice on the Huffington Post, Addicted2Success, TinyBuddha, Citizen Matters , Nectar and Lies About Parenting.
One evening, as I was propping some old shutters behind my son’s bed, I was hardly aware that I was to encounter a classic “difficult child” moment. It started as an innocent conversation when he asked, “What are you doing, Mama?” I told him I was thinking about making him a headboard out of the old wood. I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun? You can pick the color you want to paint it.” He beamed with pride and chose without hesitation, “Rainbow. I want to paint it rainbow. Right now.”
“It’s 7:00 pm, Love. We’re about to get a bath and get ready for bed, but we can go to the store in the morning.” That’s when his meltdown began. He cried on and on, trying to convince me to get rainbow paint that very instant.
My son is four, and I’ve grown accustomed to the big emotions and impatience of toddlers. Although I’ve endured plenty of whining, yelling, and collapsing, these behaviors have a way of slowly stripping away the sanity of even the most patient parents. I value parenting in gentle ways, but I’ve lost my cool plenty of times. Throwing adult tantrums in response to his is never good, because it models poor behavior, expresses defeat, and fails to give him what he really needs from me in these trying moments.
Uh, Oh. Was he beginning to show the difficult child symptoms?
As he wept over rainbow paint, I stayed unemotional, not only through practice but with awareness of his needs that brought forth this meltdown.
Because I have understood that a difficult child is anything but that. They are difficult because they are having a hard time themselves.
Below are six things your ‘difficult child’ want us to know:
They want boundaries
Undoubtedly, toddlers and preschoolers test limits. While it might seem like they want to be in charge, pushing boundaries is often their way of asking for more. Dr. Marianne Neifert, a pediatrician and parenting expert, says in her article “Why Kids Need Rules,” “No matter how often children act as if they want to be in control, having too much power is frightening. They intuitively know that they need an adult to be in charge, and they count on their parents to guide their behavior.”
They want to be heard
Simply letting my child know I understand exactly what he’s feeling is enough to help him. I sat beside him and said calmly, “You want to go out and get the paint right now. I understand. That’d be fun. You’re upset because we have to wait till tomorrow.” Even though I didn’t change my stance, and go out for the paint, he calmed a little just by being acknowledged. Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Toddler on the Block, says the best way to talk to anyone who is upset is to repeat what he said (with sincerity) before saying what you think. He states, “The best communicators show they truly understand someone’s feelings before expecting that person to be able to hear their advice.”
All parents know that tired or hungry children are prone to fussiness. When my son’s upsets seem a little irrational, I always look for a potential unmet need that’s triggering him. On the day of the rainbow paint situation, my son wasn’t feeling well. He was cooped up and in front of the TV for way too long by himself. Knowing this doesn’t excuse his behavior, but helps me meet his need. We took a little walk outside together, and he calmed down quickly.
I’m sure I’m not the only parent who’s gotten angry or frustrated in response to my children’s meltdowns. However, maintaining the right perspective helps me be the leader he needs me to be. Janet Lansbury, child development expert and author of ‘No Bad Kids‘ writes in an article, “When we remind ourselves repeatedly that challenging behavior is a little lost child’s call for help, we begin to see the ridiculousness of taking this behavior personally. We recognize the absurdity of reactions like, “How could you treat me like this after all I do for you?! Why don’t you listen?” Perspective gives us the patience, confidence and the calm demeanor we need to be able to help.”
There is no ‘difficult child’- only different
Kids test limits; it’s what they’re wired to do. They have meltdowns because they are emotionally-charged and express themselves in immature ways. Children who are being difficult are not naughty or bad. Dr. Peggy Drexler, a research psychologist, says in the article “Don’t Shame Children in Pursuit of Discipline,” “[Children] act out as they learn how to get their desires met; all kids, at one point or another, will express a feeling or need in a socially unacceptable way. The job of the parent is to help children develop positive strategies for expressing those feelings and needs.” She continues to say that shaming, even in its most subtle form is ineffective and destructive because children don’t distinguish their impulses from their selves. Rather than condemn the behavior, shaming ends up condemning the child and making him feel bad about himself.
Don’t withhold it as a punishment. Dr. Drexler says positive discipline is so effective because rather than reprimanding to intimidate or to evoke fear, an incident can be an opportunity for connection. The parent shouldn’t punish by shaming, hitting, or belittling, but use redirection and discussion to teach appropriate conduct. Through conversation, the parent discovers the motivation behind unwanted behaviors and earns greater insight into her child.
Dr. Charlotte Reznick, a child educational psychologist, says in “The Heart of Discipline” that although there are numerous books and classes on the topic of raising children, parents are still at a loss for how to discipline. She explains that parents are missing something critical, “They are forgetting their heart. Forgetting that love is not just a noun, but also a verb. That means acting lovingly, with kindness and awareness.”
It’s not always easy to remain centered and calm when our buttons and being pushed. I, personally, have Irish blood that is quick to boil. However, with focus and practice, we can rewire our responses. We can learn to take a time out for ourselves, do some breathing, and always let love guide our parenting.
Switching to parenting in a more gentle way isn’t always comfortable. It’s not a quick fix and comes with doubt at first. I found myself wondering if I was doing what I needed to in response to my child’s outbursts. I believed in affording my toddler the freedom to express his feelings, yet every time he carried on in front of other people I felt self-conscious. I wondered if I was taking enough action. I worried that people would think I was a pushover. Maybe they’d consider my kid was a brat and believe that it’s my fault. However, when we push aside outside pressures and turn inward, we do what truly feels right to us.
Rebecca Eanes, the author of Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, says, “I believe the relationship we have with our children is the most important element of parenting. It is the value of our connection that determines how well they listen to us, accept our limits and values, and cooperate.”
Parenting from the heart isn’t only the most sensitive, but the most effective. Messages get distorted and lost in anger, frustration, and the need to control. But through connection, they are clear. However, none of us are perfect. We all lose our cool at some point, and we shouldn’t get down on ourselves. These are opportunities for teaching and learning humility and reconciliation.
When my son threw a fit because I wouldn’t take him to the store for rainbow paint, I could have gotten flustered and aggravated. However, I knew he wasn’t giving me a hard time- he was having one. His cries were a request for guidance and a call for understanding. With this perspective, I didn’t overreact. I didn’t yell, hit, or threaten. I made it clear I knew what he wanted, then told him I’d be willing to talk to him more once he calmed down. He had the freedom to cry, and when he was done, we agreed to go to the store the following day. I knew that what he really needed was to get out of the house and connect with his family. When the storm passed, we took a stroll around our neighborhood, with our dignity and relationship intact.
Amanda Elder is a writer with a background in education and child development. She now prides herself in also being a professional diaper-changer and sword-fighter. She mostly writes about parenting, marriage, and women’s issues. She lives in Orlando, FL with her two sons and husband who is a resident physician. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Her writing has appeared on Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, Parent.co and several other places. She blogs on http://www.stayathomepanda.com/.
Like a hazy picture conjured up by a frightened mind, the vividness of the episode is something I will never forget; Me, lean and small, frightfully inadequate to face him. Him, large, and tall, the menacing look of a 4-year old sending shivers down my spine. And yet, I had to face him, confront him for a reason I cannot now clearly remember. All I can remember though, is me pummelling this big little giant till I actually bled, surrounded by my little friends cheering me on, but satisfied at seeing that he didn’t get away from calling me names and using his frame to scare me down.
It wasn’t until many years later, that what I had experienced when I was little, (a memory so vivid that I still wonder from where I got my guts), was actually ‘Bullying’. I don’t remember what triggered it, what angered the boy enough to become a threat to me! What I do remember however, is the fear that I’d experience every morning when school hour drew near, of hiding and looking inconspicuous everytime I saw him and behaving invisible whenever he appeared.
There are cases of bullying that have deep psych-social impact, affecting the child’s ability to communicate, socialize and make friends, in turn leading to withdrawal disorders, depression and self-imposed exile.
Fascinating facts on bullying
My conversation with people over several years has revealed some fascinating facts on bullying:
Children get bullied irrespective of their size or where they come from. Kids who were huge and looked threatening were as prone to being bullied as those of smaller built. Noisy over-the-top teenagers also suffered bullying at the hands of their quieter counterparts (yes, totally contrary to the nerdy, geeky stereotype).
Bullying almost always stemmed from a sense of establishing power, of showing ‘Who’s the Boss’. Yet, there were many instances of bullying that rose from feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, a way to ‘Draw Attention’ or even in some cases as a ‘Cry for Help’. When children were unable to cope or handle a personal, family situation or a part of it themselves, their way of working around it was to get aggressive or transfer their negative feelings on to siblings or other children.
Bullying almost ALWAYS affected both the parties involved. The impact as most cases show, was almost always negative.
Depression and feelings of inadequacy in adults, extensive research has shown, have strong links to bullying in childhood.
Support your child!
How to provide the right support to our kids when it comes to bullying
Although Bullying is inevitable and an essential part of growing up and coping with the world, kids need to be taught how to handle it, and we as parents need to know how to provide the right support and lessen the lasting impact.
Understanding signs and handling it– Unless a child shows visible bruise marks or tells you something first-hand, it is not easy to identify bullying. Some signs that you need to note are; your child’s change in behaviour, eating and sleeping habits or moodiness and avoidance of certain situations (like going to school). If you suspect bullying, an easy way of making your child open up is by asking open-ended questions or those as a conversation starter, “I haven’t been getting great sleep but notice you are having the same problem too, do you know why?” or “Have you ever had someone make fun of you?” . Let your child know that whatever is happening to him needs to be shared with someone, whether the parent, teacher or even a sibling.
Keeping Calm:Listen to your child calmly, without getting upset and angry, and offer support and comfort. Tell them it is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
Pat her back: Praise your child for opening up, reassure them that it’s not their fault, and remind them that they are not alone and many people get bullied at some point of time in their lives.
Consult them: Ask them how they want to take it forward, so that they don’t feel excluded from the situation.
Seek Help:Approach the bully’s parents only if you feel that the bullying may get worse or that your child’s complaint may get them serious retribution. Always have a school counsellor or teacher to mediate. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy and offer peer support. These range from a warning, talking to the bully’s parents and detention to internal exclusion within the school, fixed term exclusion and permanent exclusion, depending on severity.
Find alternatives:Advise your child to avoid confronting the bully, hit or shout back which doesn’t solve the problem, and instead buddy up with a friend. He needs to reign in his anger (which is what bullies thrive on) and avoid retaliation as much as possible. Cooling tactics like Counting till 10, taking deep breaths or walking away also help. Advise the kid to keep a ‘poker face’, act brave or ignore the bully altogether.
Don’t be dismissive: Finally, never dismiss their experience altogether. If your child has plucked up courage to tell you that he’s being bullied, it is crushing when he’s told, ‘sort it out yourself’ or ‘it’s all part of growing up’. Telling them to ignore it only means teaching them that bullying has to be tolerated, rather than stopped, setting them up for further bullying in the future.
– Charmaine Kenita Rathish
About the Author: Charmaine Kenita Rathish is a Creative Writer, Blogger and Social Media expert who runs www.outoboxcontent.in. She shares her opinion on topics as diverse as Food, Fashion, Education and Children’s Health through blogs and other web content. An artist, waste recycler, singer and avid reader. Parenting, she says, has made her slow down, broaden her view, helping her see and understand life and its experiences through her little one’s eyes.
A little boy, James comes home to his mother everyday and narrates the escapades of his classmate Charlie. Charlie does the most unimaginable of things: goes out for a stroll in the garden in the middle of a class, plays in a fountain of water at school, punches big, bad boys. Of course, he never does homework.
One day, James’ mom goes to meet the teachers and exclaims, “It sure must be quite a task to handle Charlie. Have you talked to his parents about him yet?”
The teacher looks surprised and says, “We do not have a Charlie in our class.”
It’s the mom’s turn to be surprised. Turns out that James created a character to do all the things he himself wanted to.
This was just a faraway story I had read sometime till our daughter entered a phase where she could form a thing purely in her mind and articulate it to us. She would come back from school with a new pencil and say an angel gave it to her. When my parents had their new home painted, she looked at the murals on the roof and said, “I made those!”
In more common parlance, she had started lying; she was 4.
I was starting to freak out when both my mother and my mother-in-law played out their wisdom and said, “It is simply a part of growing up. “
In a study by developmental psychologist Kang Lee at the University of Toronto, lying marks an important cognitive developmental milestone and begins to develop around the age of 3. This is when a child is able to see beyond what is in front of her eyes and dig into the recesses of the mind to reconstruct and reproduce it later.
A classic study (first conducted in 1989 and replicated by Dr. Kang Lee and in 2002 ) where the children were prohibited from peeking into a toy unravels some of the mysteries of children lying. About 36 percent of 3-year-old children lied about the peeking and majority of kids between 4 and 7 lied about it.
A more interesting finding was that the 3-year-olds were not successful in hiding their lies and they described the toy when asked to do so. This could explain why we hear so many “characters” playing out in their narrations. The older kids who lied were able to stick to their lies and feigned ignorance about the appearance of the toy. The study also supports that cultural factors are also important factors in helping the child understand what is really acceptable to say. For example, children would be prodded to say they like a gift even they do not- only to appear polite.
In the book Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Volume 40, Dr. Angela Crossman and Dr. Victoria Talwar explain that children with higher IQs are likely to lie more. These children are also more likely to have good social skills as adolescents.
It is only natural that parents will find it hard to take that our children do not speak the truth entirely. However, it is indisputable there are hardly any adults you will find that do not lie. In fact, Social Psychologist Dan Ariely’s book, “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty” talks about all the quirky reasons and ways we lie to others and to ourselves. Lie detection is a complete and fascinating field of study by itself.
While it is important to understand that lying is not only common, but inevitable, there are a few things that will fundamentally veer the child towards preferring to speak the truth. It is also common sense to admit that the reasons a child will lie are not very different from the reasons an adult will lie.
1. Children lie because they fear the consequences of speaking the truth.Younger children lie because they fear physical punishment. Older children lie due to fear of punishment AND the fear of being misunderstood and trivialized. Moderation is really the word here.
2. Children are confused when they realize that what they hear from their parents and what they see them doing are two different things. Sample this:
The dad receives a phone call. He looks at the phone and realizes that it is someone he cannot talk to. He gestures to his wife to respond saying he is not at home.
Scenario 2: The mom asks the dad, “Did you find the stuff I asked you for?” He realizes he has forgotten about it, but says, “I looked but it was out of stock.”
Scenario 3: Dysfunctional families can take their toll on kids in more ways than we can imagine. The mom does something the dad doesn’t approve of simply because their beliefs don’t match. She doesn’t want to go through the rigmarole of the trying to convince him one more time. Not again after that scene the last time! She does what she wants anyway and then tells the kids, “If your dad happens to ask, say this!”
This could be replayed in innumerable situations even between extended families with the children being an audience to all of it. Even worse, being forced to be a part of it!
3. Children lie when they realize that their priorities do not match with that of the parents. For example, a teenager’s top priority is to fit into the peer mold which could be emotionally draining. But when parents fail to accommodate that in a non-combative manner, the child will simply choose to take the easier route and lie about it. The mantra is: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let them be.
4. Lastly, if you do catch the child lying, let go of the urge to overreact.Instead, reinforce that you understand the reasons behind the lying. A few words of love and understanding have the power the transform anybody.
Who can argue that it won’t be so for your own child?
If you use ingenious methods to help your child be truthful, let us know in the comments below!
If you liked this article, don’t miss our next articles in the upcoming ‘Awesome Parenting’ series.