Parenting can be taxing, but especially when you are parenting a child with special needs. And there may come a time when managing challenging behaviors will come into play. These times can often be stressful and difficult, leaving you feeling beat down, overwhelmed and frustrated. Even when you feel loss and do not know where to turn to for help, you may ask “how can I discipline my child when they have so many challenges already?” Feelings of guilt or thoughts that you are punishing your child may occur, but know, disciplining or showing your child what is right and wrong is a great way to communicate appropriate expectations and acceptable behaviors. And, this is one of the best ways that you can show your child that you love and care about them.
When you are ready to manage your child’s behaviors, one of the main things to understand is to start as soon as you see any inappropriate behaviors. The longer you wait to change a behavior, the more intense the behavior could become and the harder it will be to change the behavior. In order to begin to change any negative behaviors, it is important to understand what behavior is and the reasons why children behave in a certain way.
Common Reasons for Behavior
There can be many reasons why a behavior is occurring. Here are some of the most common ones:
Transitions are a part of life. And for children with special needs, transitions can be challenging and uncomfortable. Whether they are moving from activity to activity or transitioning from preschool to Kindergarten, you should prepare them well in advance and remind them along the way. The key to managing transitions is to provide them with the support that they need until they are able to handle the transition. One way to do this is to use social stories.
Children like routines, especially children with disabilities. When a routine changes unexpectedly, a meltdown can be triggered. Even though a change may occur unexpectedly, you can still help them through changes by telling them as soon as you know of the change, read them a social story and/or give them a comforting item (i.e. toy or book).
Has there been a lot changes? Are there a lot of new people around? Is the atmosphere too loud or noisy? All of these circumstances can overstimulate a child. To learn your child’s triggers and threshold of stimulation, carefully observe them. Learn what they can handle and what may be too much. This way, you will know what to do during activities or when you take them out to events.
Obtaining desired outcome
Children want what they want. And some of time, they will exhibit behaviors to gain access to their desires. Children learn that as long as they exhibit certain behaviors, they will get the attention that they need.
Escaping a situation
Many times, a behavior will occur when your child wants to get away from something or when they want to avoid an activity altogether. You may see this occur, if your child does not want to participate in a non-preferred activity.
Some behaviors are self-stimulating behaviors. They serve the purpose of internally pleasing your child in some way. Whether, it is rocking back and forth or flapping their arms when they are excited or biting themselves when they are angry or frustrated, these behaviors typically do not occur because of avoidance or to gain someone’s attention.
So how do you go about managing challenging behaviors?
There are many resources that I have used in my classroom that has helped to manage challenging behaviors. But first, the two most important things to remember is to stay calm and stay consistent. This is where I see parents fail. First, staying calm helps you keep your emotions at bay and allows you to focus on the situation at hand, while being consistent teaches your children that you will not budge from your set boundaries and procedures. In addition to these two strategies, here are a few resources that I have used that have worked to manage behavior.
Visual timers are recommended for children with autism and ADHD and can help with transitioning between activities.
Behavior charts will help you remain consistent and reward good behavior. Behavior charts are a great way reward your child, while setting clear expectations. There are many places on the internet where you can create your own behavior chart for free. However, if you would like to purchase one, here are some great examples.
A lot of times, behavior stems for sensory related issues. If you are experiencing these issues with your child, you will find many resources here to help with sensory stimulated behaviors.
Remember all children have moments when they display inappropriate behaviors. However, it is important act on the behaviors when they occur and not to wait until the behavior(s) becomes unmanageable. Even though some behaviors may get worse before they become better, you have to stay consistent and keep implementing the strategies that you have in place. When parents apply effective strategies towards their child’s challenging behaviors, the parent-child relationship strengthens; thus creating a more peaceful home environment.
What challenging behaviors have you experienced?
A QUICK NOTE!
If your child is experiencing severe behavior issues in the classroom, they should have a Behavior Intervention Plan in their IEP. Find out more here and grab your FREE workbook to learn more about FBAs and BIPs!