“Shut up!” “I hate you!” “You’re stupid!” Of course these words aren’t spewing through the hallways, doors and windows of a regular Muslim family’s home… our kids don’t talk like that, and it most certainly should not be firing from the mouth of a Muslim child. Muslim children are supposed to respect their parents!
Fortunately, the average Muslim family will never experience a parent having to bear such words spewing from the mouth of their child, but not all Muslim families are average. Not all Muslim families have children with a rational or sensible mind. Some Muslim families have children who are autistic, others have children with ADHD, and some have children with mental retardation. “Unacceptable excuses”, some of you might be thinking, but I’m certain there are a handful of parents out there, who know with certainty that their child is not like the average child. For their special child, this unlikely behavior can be EXPECTED – not ACCEPTED.
I write this article for parents who have a special needs child, and want solutions on how to manage their child’s behavior with less stress.
What You Need to Remember
1. A special needs child experiences disappointments on a greater level
Special needs children experience disappointments and the stresses of failure on a greater level than the average child. For this reason, they often have more anger, lower self-esteem, and greater anxiety than the average child. When dealing with your child’s misbehavior, focus on calming him down, allaying his insecurities, or dispensing with his anger prior to resolving his behavior issue. Once your child has calmed down, he will be more able to focus on your instructions. He will also be more inclined toward following your suggestions.
2. A special needs child experiences many failures 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. They starve for positive attention and approval, so provide them with positive attention often. 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 with a different standard than the average child.
3. A special needs child sometimes acts out inappropriately
Because many special needs children sometimes act out inappropriately, either for attention or due to their low self-esteem, they are reprimanded frequently for their behavior. Frequent scolding can lead to your child feeling as though you don’t love or want her. This feeling they have, can lead to further improper conduct. This is why it is extremely critical that you express to your child often, that you love her. Do this with words, hugs, and kisses. Also provide her with the personal attention she needs from you regularly. According to hadith,
The Prophet (saw ) showed affection to his children by kissing them and saying that he loved them. He is the best example for us to follow.
What You Need To Avoid
1. Avoid derogatory remarks
Avoid calling your child derogatory names or using degrading remarks when you are upset with them such as, “You idiot.” “Can’t you do anything right?” “Where’s your brain?” “I can’t stand looking at you!”. A good Muslim is someone, whom people are safe from his words and his hands. Using such words with your child only lowers his self dignity. When your child has a poor self-image of herself, she has a greater tendency to act out aggressively and inappropriately because of her anger and bitter feelings. Another thing name calling does, is prevent you and your child from developing a loving relationship. When you lack a mutually kind and loving relationship you will have greater difficulty getting your child to follow your requests.
2. Avoid negative relationships
Developing a positive and loving relationship with your child is essential if you want to make it easier for your child to obey your rules and demands. When you have affection toward someone, it is much easier to follow their orders than when you despise them. This amiable relationship can help prevent or minimize major flare-ups with your child. For instance, when you 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.
3. Avoid unfair consequences
Be fair to your child when dispensing penalties. Let the punishment fit the crime. Your 20-year-old daughter with a cognitive disability (mental retardation), may shout at you that she hates you. Yes it’s wrong, no she shouldn’t say that. Try to understand what is underlying her extreme feelings. After all, her body and age are that of an adult, but her mind is that of a young child. Try to keep things in perspective. Although you might feel like whacking her, or grounding her for a month, what benefit would it serve? Will it stop her from repeating such nasty words in the future?
If she feels you are unfair to her with penalties, she will only take it out by mistreating the other siblings or ratcheting up her misbehavior. Instead, wait until she has calmed down. Ask her to apologize. If she refuses, calmly let her know she wont’ be able to use her favorite item until she does. Later, inform her of her penalty for speaking to you inappropriately. You could withhold a special treat that she likes or prevent her from going on an outing that she was looking forward to etc.
3. Avoid Corporal Punishment
Avoid using corporal punishment. Hitting is the last thing special needs children need. It can become a major problem for the parent, as well. Many special needs children have to be corrected for their undesirable behavior frequently throughout the day. If your primary discipline method is hitting, what becomes of your child? She becomes a child who is smacked often 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 Muslim child. In fact, it can lead to you being unjust and possibly having to answer on the Day of Judgment for your actions.
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 on the parent except those who have experienced it firsthand, and of course our Lord is aware of everything — He tests those whom He loves. So if you feel you are one of those who are being tested by Allah with a difficult or unique child, perhaps you are one of the Dear loved ones of Allah.