Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The hard part of being a parent

Everyone will agree that it takes a lot of patience and hard work to raise a child. It's even more challenging when your child is a special needs child. Whether they have Down Syndrome, a Birth injury, Speech Delay, or whatever, it is harder.

My current problem with Charlie is that he is 2 1/2. So not only is he trying to figure out our complex language that we call English, but he is also trying to figure out how to deal with things that frustrate him. Lately he has taken to hitting. It is frustrating to everyone involved, but mostly to Charlie. I know that when Charlie hits me while it's not okay, I understand that he is frustrated, and he is trying to tell me something, and my job as his Mother and Teacher, I have to figure it out and arm him with the words/tools to tell me what is wrong. Unfortunately Little Miss Amelia is getting the brunt of Charlie's frustrations. I try to stop the problem before it starts, but there are times where he hits her because she is just simply there.

I understand this is a normal 2 year old behavior. They are trying to figure out the ways of the world, and hitting, kicking, and biting is all part of it. But how do you discipline a child that doesn't understand WHY they can't hit? I have posted on Facebook my dilemma and I have gotten some great answers. Some friend suggested giving him something else to hit. Telling him he can't hit Amelia and redirect him to the pillow or punching bag. Some said to give him time outs, make him say sorry, and hug Amelia. While I agree these are all wonderful ideas, I don't know how well they would work with Charlie.

I know that what I am currently doing is not working. Here is a typical scene. Charlie is "Playing" with his cars and Amelia walks/crawls up to him. Usually before she has a chance to reach he yells "NO!" and then slaps her. While he is doing a great job telling her no, the hitting part is obviously not okay. So usually I remove Amelia, Calm her down, and give her her own car. I then try and tell Charlie that we don't hit. Hitting hurts and it's not okay. When he is a repeat offender I will put him in time out on the third time of hitting. I try to give him room to think about his actions, but it doesn't seem to be working. Yesterday I had a moment of when I just saw red. Same scene, but Charlie hit Amelia with a car. I was so frustrated at that point that I told him we don't hit and then I spanked him. I felt SO horrible. I didn't spank him hard, but he was shocked and ran. I know that it was VERY wrong of me. And I told him I was sorry. It defiantly doesn't take back what I did, nor does it make it okay. But at least I am honest with myself and know what I did was wrong. After all, why would you hit a child and tell them "No hitting!" Totally doesn't make sense!

I know there is something I am missing here. There has to be a way for him to understand we don't hit. He is so incredibility smart that I am amazed with the things he can do. There just has to be a way to get it to him. To relay the message. But how?

Another issue that we are having, that we didn't realize until recently is that we provide Charlie with more one on one then we do Amelia. It really is heart breaking. We have been working with Charlie so hard to get him to talk, communicate, and function, that we have put Amelia on the side. This is also SOOOO not okay. I told myself when I had her, that she wouldn't be forgotten. I would spend equal time with each child. Unfortunately the ugly truth is, is when you have a special needs child, they tend to require more attention. I am thankful that Brian and I are more observant about the whole picture, and when we realized Amelia wasn't where she needed to be, we equally split the attention and started working with her. Now I don't want you to think we neglected Amelia, because that is FAR from the truth. For us it was easier to grab her something, or anticipate what she wanted, instead of waiting for her to ask for it. We weren't allowing her to get upset, or have the opportunity to learn. If anything we were a little over the top.

Stepping back and looking at the situation, Amelia is a product of her environment. We are changing this every day. I do not want Amelia to grow up thinking she is less than Charlie, or she isn't good enough. I have gotten the kids on different nap schedules, so there are at least 2 hours during the day they have alone time with mommy. We play, learn, and have fun. At night they both go to bed around the same time, but Brian is home so they get alone time with either mommy or daddy. We switch every night so they feel like they get equal time.

Being a parent is hard work, especially when you have more than one child, but I must say, that it is COMPLETELY worth it. Nothing is better than snuggling in bed with your children and husband at night watching a movie.


  1. Tantrumming and aggression are normal for two-year-olds, to an extent, but most kids at this age are learning to replace these behaviors with using their words, which is (a) more effective and (b) more socially acceptable. But if for any reason there is a delay in learning to talk, the frustration increases and so does the acting out.

    You're right, being a parent is hard. It sounds like you are doing a lot of things right.

    Here's an idea, for what it's worth. When your son hits his sister, direct all your attention to her, and none to him. Pick her up and comfort her, make a fuss over her if she's crying, etc. Do all this with your back turned to your son (assuming it's safe). He gets no talk, no eye contact, no attention of any kind. Not even a talk about how we don't hit. It sounds cruel, but it's not. The message you are sending is that he doesn't get attention by hitting.

    Of course, this will be most effective if it's paired with positive attention when he does act appropriately. For example, if little sister is getting in his way and he says "No," let him know immediately that you understand what his wishes are--"Charlie says, 'No.' Amelia needs to do something else," and intervene if necessary to redirect her to something else.

    Be prepared--if you take this approach, you may see an escalation in his tantrums at first. Your little social scientist is testing the hypothesis that he'll get your attention back by turning up the volume. If you cave at this point, you will prove that his hypothisis is correct. It takes a lot of will power to disprove this hypothesis, and it will only work if you're committed and willing to feel like the world's biggest ogre. When my kids were going through this, my mantra was "My name is Shrek. My name is Shrek. My name is Shrek."

    As I said, you're already doing a lot of things right, so give yourself a pat on the back. You've got some lucky kids! Best of luck to all of you.

  2. Thank you Robert! I am a bit concern about ignoring him, but it does make sense! I will try this!