Discipline — 5 Minutes for Special Needs



I was sifting through my pile of papers this evening in preparation for our IEP meeting next week. It’s been a while since I’ve really taken the time to go through everything and get organized. We’ve had a relatively easy stretch for the last year or so, and I admit I have let things slide quite a bit. Well, we had a little reality check last week when the child had an hour long meltdown with a babysitter present. Time to gear up again.

I think I know why I deferred looking at all of these forms and reports. Reading through all of the paperwork brings back memories of the really scary times parenting this child. The times when I was trying my hardest but still failing to crack the code. You know – the secret code to helping her be happy and learning. There are memories of inexplicable aggression, marathon IEP meetings, behavior support plans, and many tears. I do not want to go back there…not even to the edges of it.

I’m making myself focus on what I already know to do for her:

  • Praise
  • Calm environment
  • Meaningful engagement
  • Calm mama

Those memories can’t haunt me if I also remember what I learned from them. I want to make some more good memories.


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The (Not So) Fine Art of Negotiating With My Tween’s Bipolar

We’re getting ready to go to the beach. It’s New Year’s Day. (Yes, I know I’m lucky. Truly grateful!) While I’m packing, my daughter with anxiety disorder and Bipolar is escalating. She follows me around the house as I collect towels, bathing suits, beach shoes.

“You threw out my old swim suit?!” She accuses, screaming at me.

“Last time you wore it, I told you the suit was finished. It had holes.” I reply.

“It was FINE. And you KNOW it! You want me to look ugly and all my friends are going to laugh!” She yells.

(None of her friends are coming, but you and I know that’s not really the point.)

“I’ll talk to you when you’re calm and respectful, honey.” I remind.

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Truth or Dare

We’ve hit another strange milestone. I think the child has learned how to lie. Not that she does it well, mind you. Previously she has been honest to a fault:

Why is your brother crying?

Because I hit him…

Ah. Whether I liked the answer or not, at least I knew it was true.

There is a part of me that knows this new skill is a “good” sign. It means she is learning that other people have different thoughts, different ideas, different knowledge. It’s a developmental stage, but not one I’ve been overly eager to get to. Two recent conversations illustrate her new skill.

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Homework Strategies for Moody Kids

A few weeks back in school and all the old frustrations are in full swing.

The pencil-breaking. The paper-ripping. The weeping. The gnashing of teeth. You’d think schoolwork was, in fact, hell on earth. But really it’s just hell to a child with a learning disability. Especially one that’s at the mercy of bipolar mood swings.

My 4th grader, on an IEP for auditory processing and working memory difficulties, made great strides last year with her resource specialist’s help. That was after 3 years of working with her on homework, only to have her shred her assignment and stomp off, screaming, to her room.

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Raising Cheerleaders

I am about as introverted as people come. I am also chronically clumsy, and average looking at best. I was never cheerleader material. I wasn’t even interested. It never mattered until a couple of years ago when my husband and I were blessed to sit in on a behavior management class, which we desperately needed. The child was perpetually un-regulated, and it showed in every setting that she entered. Our first assignment in this class was to slather on the praise…not “good job” but truly effective, effusive, pre-emptive, affectionate praise. The directions were to find a moderately challenging situation (I think we picked toothbrushing) and see how different it would be if we praised our child for what they WERE doing instead of nagging them about what they weren’t doing.

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The Bright Spot

Yesterday was rough all over. I’m still recovering from our trip last week – behind on everything. My semi-chronic neck pain is back with a vengeance thanks to the long hours of driving. I barked at the kids about little stuff but didn’t have the energy to keep them occupied and out of trouble. I even burned the broccoli. I turned on the burner to let the broccoli steam, then went to check my e-mail which hadn’t been working earlier in the day. While I was doing that I noticed a long overdue project sitting on my desk and started working on that.

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What are your favorite parenting books?

My friends and I get together twice a month to just be. Be ourselves and not always mom or caregiver or advocate. Just us.

Recently we were all talking about books and resources we’ve found helpful as parents. Some of us have kids with tough behaviors. My own kids have bipolar and struggle with behaviors connected with their early life in foster care. It’s not always easy to find good resources for the tough behavior issues. So I made up a list of what I’ve found most helpful over the years. Here’s what I use, and what I often share when I’m speaking at parent groups.

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