The Difficulties of Disciplining a Child With Special Needs

The Difficulties of Disciplining a Child With Special Needs -, -
2 min read


How do I discipline my son with special needs?

Over the years, disciplining or correcting Nate has been a difficult task for me. Deciding what was the proper method, left me frustrated. I simply didn’t know what to do since my son is intellectually disabled. I always believed that his level of understanding was limited, and disciplining him was not possible.

While raising Nate, we had an overwhelming time controlling his behavior. There were times he would lash out at me and anyone who encountered him. When he would hit, it was as if he knew he was causing someone pain. Then afterward, he would put his head on my lap as his way of saying that he was sorry. This would make me question if my son “knew better” and could determine that his actions were wrong.

I have often sat crying in frustration, wondering what to do. So, I went to counseling for help. I was given the bible verse, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” In this case, I didn’t agree that a “rod” was the correct form of discipline for a child that is intellectually disabled. Actually it is not!

So, I went on a mission to find help for my child. I wanted a plan for Nate that would address his individual needs. So my son was assessed and immediately following he was given a Behavior Specialist that developed a plan with strategies and a reward system. Nate also had a Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS worker) at home and at school to aid with eliminating the unwanted behaviors.

Through the years there was some success with these programs. However, it did not completely end Nate’s problems. It continues to be a work in progress.

As Nate has grown older, I realized that disciplining or correcting a child with special needs is not easy.  It requires a lot of patience. Sometimes I had to show Nate a millions times (exaggerated) that his behaviors were wrong, which can be frustrating. At other times, it felt as if this was all in vain and it was not working.

Then there were the times that I noticed a difference. Nate was correcting himself.  He was calmer and not lashing out as often. These moments made my heart smile.  And I began to understand that no matter how frustrating it was or how many times I had to redirect him….helping my son was well worth it. - -






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  1. 1

    I cannot even imagine the challenge. Finding a way to discipline kids without special needs is difficult enough, with a bazillion contradictory ideas out there. I am so glad you didn’t listen to the spare the rod notion.

  2. 3

    I can imagine each instance being unique. With ADHD and BPD consistency was sometimes helpful, but not always. I deeply appreciate your candid insight.

  3. 5
    Gina Paquet

    Kudos to you, Charlene! I am in a similar situation, and it does require so much patience; patience that we just don’t have some days. I’m glad you see progress. I speak from experience when I say that maturity helps eventually, as well. And by the way, it has been explained to me that “spare the rod, spoil the child” doesn’t necessarily mean spanking or physical punishment, but the rod could refer to a shepherd’s staff, as a means of guiding children in the right direction as you would a heard of sheep. I like that explanation better; especially when dealing with kiddos with special challenges.

    • 6

      Yes, I like that explanation better, “but the rod could refer to a shepherd’s staff, as a means of guiding children in the right direction as you would a heard of sheep.” Thank you for sharing that and thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

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