Lovingly Guiding Their Footsteps Review
© Tom Bushnell - NATHHAN NEWS Winter 1995\96
(Editor's Note: This article is taken from the booklet, Lovingly Guiding Their Footsteps. It is available from NATHHAN for $3.75 PP. See information at the end of this article.)
There is a real dearth of Godly child training material that give the actual "how-to's" on teaching special needs children to "come", "stay in your seat", "no" and any other simple command. Instead there are bookstores filled with "Christian" child training philosophy, worldly behavior modification techniques, and placating encouragement.
Parents are being told to be content with cultural examples, not God's standards. Colossians 2:8 says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ."
It would seem that a lot of folks upon receiving the gift of a child, promptly loose the 'how-to" manual!
Parents are encouraged to ignore tantrums, screaming, greediness, and general misbehavior as "your disabled child's way of expressing him or herself." Bad behavior by children with special needs is often excused away with comments such as, "It's all part of the syndrome or disability."
The Bible has only one direct command to children. Ephesians 6:1 and 2 says, "Children obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy Father and Mother; which is the first commandment with promise."
As parents we need to keep this in mind. Our Heavenly Father, in His wisdom has really made it simple for us weary parents!
While it is true that our children will never be "normal" they can be trained to obey simple requests with a good attitude, as much as they are physically and mentally capable.
Scripture states in Proverbs 22:6 NASB - "Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it."
Our special needs children are a precious gift from the Lord. With these blessings come an important responsibility we must not fail in: Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
Parents that have a working relationship with their child can read their child's emotions like a book. Loving parents know (or can learn to know) what their children are capable of......unless they have been blinded or tricked into thinking they cannot.
Our responsibility is two fold:
To train our children in the way they should go.....AND not to exasperate them by asking too much of them or something they are not capable of.
We have known children that are in constant pain....who have been taught to have cheerful hearts. They love life anyway!
We know children that have hundreds of seizures a day, still displaying a willing attitude towards learning milestones over and over again.
We know children who can do nothing but sit in a supported seat, that are a pleasure to be around.
We know moderately mentally challenged children (developmental ages 1 to 5) who have been taught to obey simple requests, and to control their tempers.
Training our special needs children to be cheerfully obedient and a pleasure to be around, is the kindest thing we can do for them.
Unfortunately the horror stories many of us have heard of some social service agents over stepping their bounds, are true. But as parents, we do have rights. Know them. Do not let a social service agent into your home without a search warrant. Be a wise parent, always on the look out. Be careful where you discipline your children and who is listening.
Having special needs children who comprehend instructions more slowly can be a real testing ground for a parent's patience. Do not despair, do not give up. If you are in doubt as to whether your child is understanding what you are asking, it is time for training....NOT REACTING.
Don't be a General Couch Potato. Don't ask your children to do something, unless you intend enforce your request.
TAKING THE TIME TO TRAIN
As busy fathers and mothers, we can't afford not to teach our children to obey us. Taking time out is a must!
THE HARDEST PART
The hardest part is not the actual teaching comprehension of simple commands. It's the enforcing of them consistently. It needs to be natural for our children to happily obey without reservation. If we take time to train our children, we will actually be disciplining less.
The key to training is consistency and loving objectivity. Stay in control. If you let your child get away with not obeying you twice out of every five times, you will have a child who will learn to assess your sincerity, and make his own judgment calls depending on how serious he feels you are. You can train your child to come on the fourth request, or the first, it's up to you!
Deliberate defiance from a child (even those with special needs) calls for a calm, loving parent, who's goal is not to produce comfort for themselves, but to help their child learn self control. A cheerful, obedient, child loves life and is a pleasure to be around. A willful, stubborn, child, bent on leading a life of self gratification, dislikes himself and is a real torture to live with.
IS IT TOO LATE?
Training the developmentally older child (age 4-10) to obey simple commands, (unless there has been a real lack of actual training), is more attitudinal training than anything else. They more than likely understand what you want, it's just that your request doesn't fit on their agenda!
After you are certain your child understands what you want from them in attitude,
HOLD THEM TO IT.
Do not stand for selective deafness, whining, arguing, cajoling, stomps of the feet, pouting, rolling of the eyes, angry sighing or any other signs of rebellion.
To our older mentally challenged children, we give a verbal warning to "change your attitude," taking into account low blood sugar, frustration levels because of lack of communication, or weariness. A key to not frustrating our children is to ask ourselves this question: is this an out-of-character attitude or action our child is displaying? If so, find out why. If it has become a habit, correct it.
Our older children are expected to obey with good attitudes consistently. Habits like whining die hard. If we parents have been neglectful and our children have developed a habit that is not on our list of acceptable behavior, we should work with the child, spending several days consistently correcting the behavior until it is not a habit any more. Children will rise to the occasion every time. Set a standard. Keep to it.
Accepting angry outbursts and tantrums from our children as an acceptable means of communicating actually prevents him or her from learning to associate with others in an appropriate manner. If our developmentally 4 year old is having out bursts of anger when things don't go his way, he is using anger as a way to manipulate those around him. Nobody wants to play with him. He becomes a torment to others and himself. Out of love for our child, we train him not be be angry.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
Being inconsistent in keeping our word, once a child understands what we want, causes him or her to have a confused world view, or paradigm. In other words,
lazy, haphazard disciplining creates, insolent, rebellious, children. The Bible says in Matthew 5:37 (NIV) "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' be 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."
Without proper boundaries, our children are insecure. It is even more important, when raising and training children who are developmentally delayed, that we take care to allow them to discover the true consequences to their actions.
This does not mean letting our toddler play outside without a coat in freezing weather. If we take care to discipline appropriately each time they do not come when we call them, their world view becomes broadened to include, "If I do not come when called, I will suffer."
If our "no" means maybe, our children will understand that "no" means to badger mom or dad until they give in.
If our children are displaying negative behavior, it not because we have a "bad apple," they are simply dutifully following our lack of consistent, responsible, cause and effect training.
You have probably heard the old adage, children may not know what the word "hypocrite" means, but they sure can spot a "two-face" when they see one. For example: If we hold our children responsible for a clean room, our room must be as clean or cleaner than theirs.
If we do not want our children to argue with us. We must not argue with our spouse.
It helps to look in the mirror when our children are displaying actions or attitudes that are particularly annoying to us.
Husbands and wives, approaching Godly child behavior modification as a team, send a clear message to our children: WE LOVE YOU AND WANT YOU TO CHANGE. The Bible is particularly clear about being of one mind.
1 Peter 3: 8 says, "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful (tenderhearted), be courteous."
Allowing children to pit one parent against another with their affection or obedience is simple manipulation. Nobody wins, especially the child. Becoming Heirs Together In the Grace of Life by Jeff and Marge Barth is an encouraging, book for husbands and wives to read.
Punishment that children don't mind, isn't punishment at all. Sending a child to their room simply allows them to pout and stew or become distracted with toys. Oh, sure, sooner or later their attitude changes......until they are crossed again.
We have found that children much prefer to be disciplined, get it over with, be forgiven, making relationships right and happily moving on with their day.
IS IT TOO LATE?
Hebrews 13:5 "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
The Lord never gives up on us. We should never give up on our children either. If we have failed in some way in training a child, we have not only sinned against our child, but against the Lord also. The first step is asking forgiveness from our Creator and our child. If it is a broad area, such as sloppiness, whining, or sarcasm, approach it with, "let's work together on this area." Working together is a time honored, successful, way of changing hearts and attitudes in older children. Our youngsters simply follow our example and keep us on track when we know they are watching us!