A mother of two special needs kids faces challenges with her “regular” child. Show Notes

Thursday, May 01, 2014 Host(s): Dr. Bill Maier
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Dear Dr. Bill,

I’m writing about my 6 year old daughter, who’s between our two special-needs children.  Our eldest daughter is 8 and autistic and our 5-year-old son is severely delayed in his language.  My middle child often feels like she needs to misbehave or cry over every little thing to get my attention — and I can’t figure out why.  My husband and I are both very involved in each of our children’s lives, and I make an extra effort to treat each child the same and do special things for them individually.  What do you advise?  

--Christine

Dear Christine,

It’s not surprising that your daughter is seeking extra attention from you.  Obviously your two special needs kids require a great deal of your time, and she’s probably feeling left out.  She may be the type of child who would need more attention even if your other two kids didn’t have disabilities.  Unfortunately, she’s now acting out to get your attention.   After all, negative attention is better than no attention at all.

I’d begin working to “catch your daughter being good.”  When she cooperates, is helpful, or shows kindness to her brother and sister, make sure you praise her, and give her a smile and a hug.  Be specific with your praise, such as “I really like the way you played quietly while I was talking on the telephone,” or “Honey, I’m so proud of the way you read a book to your brother and helped him with his words!”

The flip side is that you need to IGNORE her when she whines, complains, or begs.  If you repeatedly scold, nag, or lecture her, you are giving her exactly what she wants, your undivided attention.  When kids are acting out in order to get attention, I always tell parents, “Don’t get mad, get boring.”  

Eventually your daughter will learn that GOOD behavior gets rewarded by praise and approval, while crying and whining gets her no attention at all.  Also, continue to do special activities with her individually, apart from the other kids.  

Thanks for writing, Christine.  I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.
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