Special Needs Parenting Tips: Four Worthwhile Approaches to a Happier Home


No parent has all of the answers for how to handle raising a child with Special Needs and sometimes it can feel like you’re flailing out at sea.   Behavior Management is structured to prepare you to handle/react to unruly, disturbing and/or upsetting situations in a way that allows you to remain calm, consistent and reduce your stress levels. In addition, it eliminates unexpected reactions that can cause your child to increase their level of upset that could lead to tantrums or meltdowns. 

Here are 4 approaches to parenting a child with Special Needs that can benefit you, and your child, and impact your home life in functionally healthy ways.  

  1. Organizing your environment
  2. Encouraging independence
  3. Wanting to eliminate, “No,” “Stop,” “Wrong” and “Bad” from our vocabulary 
  4. Guiding and changing behaviors requires 3 things:
  • Time
  • Patience (includes calm on the outside)
  • Consistency: you have to approach behaviors the same way each time

Organizing your environment

Limiting distractions from your environment that might lead to anxiety and stress for your child, and keeping that environment as consistent as possible, is an important first step towards a happier home life.  Organizing can be initially challenging, and the sooner you proceed, the greater the advantage you’ll have.  You cannot predict everything but do your research and ask those who know.  The benefits for investing the time into this important aspect of raising your child will outweigh the chore of making it happen.   *Any changes (and this relates to every situation where you have some control over what is happening) are helped by sharing with your child beforehand so there are no big surprises. 

Encouraging independence

As parents it is easy to “do” for your child.  However, many kids might want to do more but don’t know how to go about it, are unaware or aren’t given the chance.  Learn your child’s capabilities and limits, and don’t be afraid to ask them to do something, safe and within reason, that you might have considered not a “doable” activity for  your child.  Something seemingly elementary to us, like folding a kitchen towel, can be a huge accomplishment for your child and allows them to contribute to the family while offering them an opportunity to feel a great sense of self.   Find your “kitchen towel activity.”  The worst that can happen is that it’s not a good fit and you can try something else.  But don’t let your own fears limit what your child can do.  

For example, I worked with a teenager on the spectrum, who used to contribute little to nothing to the home, and who’s acting out might deter any parent from risking to offer any chore responsibility.  However,  we (the family and I) dared to introduce him to doing his own laundry.  Not only did it work out, over a brief trial and practice period, but now he does the laundry for the family and his grandparents on occasion. 

Wanting to eliminate, “No,” “Stop,” “Wrong” and “Bad” from your vocabulary 

Any negative language directed at us has the potential to do damage to our self worth.  If you are constantly being told that you are “wrong” or that what you did was “bad,”  it makes sense that you might  begin to believe that you can do no “right” and that you are not “good.”  Your sense of self and where you belong (as opposed to knowing that we all belong) can suffer. 

And when we are constantly told “no” and “stop” we might become hesitant to take chances or believe in our ability to make good choices.   So don’t be fooled by your child’s inability to communicate their feelings on this.  They suffer, like all of us, at the hands of negativity.  

Our language choices make all the difference in the world in how we interact within it.  We are a civilization of language and communication and our word choices help to create and impact our immediate environments.  I suggest, as the rules for making rules provide, to use positive, forward thinking word empowerment and guidance.  For example, instead of, “Don’t hit!”  we can say, “Quiet hands,” or “Kind touching,”  followed by modeling.  Instead of, “Don’t yell!” We can say, “Use your quiet voice” or “inside voice,” again followed by sharing an example. 

Instead of, “no,” we can direct and model the preferred way to do something; “Let me show you how to …” Or, “A better choice might be…” If someone does something wrong, take the time to explain why it’s wrong instead of calling them out.  

Guiding and changing behaviors requires 3 things.

  1. Time
  2. Patience (includes a steady calm on the outside)
  3. Consistency: approach behaviors the same way each time

All of the previous approaches take time and patience; particularly at the start.  It takes a mindful approach and a commitment to consistency.   But the return on your investment is the diminishing of negative behaviors and the lessening need to have to teach right from wrong and yes from no. 

I am aware that time can be a limited commodity and patience is sometimes lying DEEP in the well of our being. However, making the commitment to using your time constructively and scouring the well for extra drops of patience is so worth the effort and the sacrifices.  And again, the payoff is the lessening need for time and patience to achieve your goals with your child. 

For more information on “Mindful Parenting,” check out my earlier blog post on the subject.  

And if you have further questions or would like to work with me on how to implement these approaches, please contact me directly via email below.  

Peace and Keep Rising!


Published by riseup20

I am a retired teacher with a creative bent and I am excited to bring attention and assistance to parents and caregivers of children with special needs. Mark

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