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Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

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Emotional Problems and Character Development  

By Tom and Sherry Bushnell

        RAD - Reactive Attachment Disorder is a blend of damaged emotions, lack of self-control, and conscience. Our daughters, who are now 14 and 11, are pleasant to live with and do exhibit sweet qualities that we had imagined they would have when we first adopted them. However, the first years were very difficult. Even now, we would say that they are not totally healed, but have learned to cope with their strong desire to monopolize the attention of strangers, lie when in trouble, and shred and rip things to bits. These and many more are behaviors of children who did not form attachments in childhood. Our girls still struggle in areas, but teaching them to use self-control has curbed many of those behaviors that were socially inappropriate.

    RAD, Fetal Alcohol Effect, Depression, Bipolar emotions and hyperactivity are all excellent examples of why children with special needs should have parents that pay extra attention to teaching self-control and the idea of putting others first. Parents may need to act as their child’s “conscience” for many years. Does it work? We have seen with our own eyes the result of consistent love and discipline in a loving (meaningful) way. Tough love. Tough on parents.

        Some parents have taken to giving children who cannot seem to comprehend a taste of their own damaging actions and attitudes. One older child with RAD had a habit of throwing up at his adoptive mother’s feet whenever she would confront him with a wrong doing. She got a barf baggie from the local airlines and the next time she confronted him, she handed him the bag and said, put it in here. I’m tired of cleaning up the mess. He never threw up on her again. Tough love.

        One child kept peeing their pants when asked to do a chore or something they did not want to do. The mother drank huge glasses of water until she couldn’t hold any more. She called her child over to help with the dished and before the child could wet on the floor, she let her bladder go. The shocked child was so surprised and disgusted that there never was a wet pair of pants again.

        A habit of lying was particularly annoying in another child with RAD to her adoptive parents. It seemed that even in small, things would not have ordinarily mattered, lying was her way of manipulating the situation or getting out of trouble. Her parents decided to play her own game. Setting her up for a wonderful day at the zoo, skating park and out to dinner, they all dressed up and packed a snack. They all went out to the car and sat in their seats. This girl was so excited she could hardly contain it. She bounced up and down in excitement and chattered happily about all the great fun she was going to have. Then mom and dad did something strange. They nonchalantly got out of the car and walked back into the house. Their daughter sat impatiently in the seat, looking out the back window. After a while she got too up and went in the house. When asked why they were not getting back in the car, they used her own lines on her....”They forgot”. “They did not really mean what they said about going.” “It was all a joke”. This girl was stunned. She really improved in her lying after this. It made such an impression on her that she never forgot.

        Now this may not be a great method for every family, yet the idea of helping our children to taste their annoying behavior in a tangible way does bring results for children who will not bend to the will of their parents. Control is a form of rebellion that some never get over. Controlling mothers and fathers rear controlling children.

Children who suffer from seizures and memory loss can really benefit from a consistent example from parents and siblings about how to interact in a Christ-like manner from early on. If putting others first is second nature and the idea that others may have needs along with theirs is in their hearts, even if their needs are great, they are a pleasure to be around. We know that parents who hold their children accountable for wrong and expect the best (Godly behavior) will reap blessings and children who rise up to call them as parents blessed. This can really be hard when it seems there is something wrong in the emotional center of the brain. But in reality, what choice do we have? Should we give up? Never. God never gives up on us.

How about a child who is severely handicapped?

Let’s say a child has seizures (many daily), is blind, mentally 6 months, and not interactive. How can this child benefit from character development? I want to assure you that the word of God does not return void. This means that scripture in song, Bible verses read by a loving voice and a consistent example of a Christ-like attitude will go a long way in ministering to the heart of a child like this. (It goes a long way in ministering to the heart of ANY child!) A peaceful heart full of gentleness with daily prayer to Our Savior is an excellent way to live. No, it may not make the seizures go away and the constant care, feeding, cleaning, can be exhausting, but with the Lord standing beside us, a special strength beyond understanding is ours for the asking.

Irrational Fears or Bad Behavior

    Perhaps you are dealing with a child who has autism, anxiety attacks or another challenge that creates unfounded fear reactions. Sometimes children who respond in this way get into a habit of using this as a means of getting control or their way in a situation. How can we tell if our children are having an irrational fear or just manipulating?

    When our daughter who was 6 years old and has autism, we were careful to take note of what things set her off. She was afraid of the brown chair (we never did figure out why). She was scared of the grass on the lawn because her brother was stung by a bee and screamed one day several months before. She did not like to sit at the table with everyone at meal time. Many other fears made her life a literal gauntlet from one end of the house to another. We resolved to make her life more relaxed by settling in her mid that nothing was out to get her. She could not understand our explanations and our comforting efforts, such as holding her, patting her on the back.

    We decided to purposely put her in those areas she was afraid and let her see for herself that nothing was going to hurt her. We set her on a blanket in the grass on the lawn and sat beside her. We read a book, she screamed. For a half hour she yelled her agony. Mad as the hornet that had stung her brother, she was certain the end was near. After 30 minutes of eyes closed she peered out from soaked eye lashes and looked around, still sobbing. Obviously she was being given a second chance in life. 10 minutes later she was playing with a toy and even plucking at the grass tentatively. We did this with each irrational fear that she displayed. At age 10 she does not have any irrational fears and we can reassure her if she does look like she is panicking.

How Do We Know When Our Children Can Hear Us or Understand our Requests?

    We give the ice-cream test. When our children are lagging in “understanding” or seem not to hear us when we are asking them to do something, we use a verbal request that we know they should be able to hear. We might say, “Jordan, would you like some ice-cream?” If our child looks up and responds, we know that their hearning is fine.

    If we are not sure whether our child can understand us, we will use a similar request of the same level of comprehension and give it at another time.

Resources For Character Development in Children

    No Greater Joy To Train Up a Child - A book geared for parents who want a refreshingly practical attitude toward raising children. Get quicker response, spank less. Michael and Debbie Pearl's book is sure to bring about nods of understanding and smiles of relief. 1000 Pearl Rd, Pleasantville, TN 37033

Too Wise To Be Mistaken, Too Good To Be Unkind

By Cathy Steere

Grace and Truth Books

3406 Summit Boulevard

Sand Springs, OK 74063

(918) 245-1500

A family dealing with autism, professionals, homeschooling and successfully using Biblical Child Training.



Child Training Tips by Reb Bradley - Can children obey when spoken to calmly and only one time? What is a child-run” home? How can parental control be regained? Can different children be held to a same standard? How can a parents determine if a toddler understands simple directions? These and many more questions answered.