Tips for working with a special-needs child

As the population of special need children’s continues to grow, increasing number of people find themselves working with these children for the first time. Many of them are family members or volunteers who generously give their time; others may be highly trained in their particular field, but with little or no knowledge special-need care.
Here are some tips you may utilize or pass on to those who provide such care:

1. Interact

The biggest mistake that adults make when they meet someone with special needs is ‘failing to interact with him/her’.  Usually they try asking a question (s/he hates questions, therefore s/he won’t answer), then they give up and start talking to parents. Actually, the same rules as of polite conversation apply to these children.  First, introduce yourself and explain how you are connected to the child.  Depending on the child’s special needs, it may be necessary to take the child’s hand, place a hand on the child’s shoulder or even touch each other’s face to make a proper introduction. Then explain the activity that you will be doing with the child.  Explain the different steps of the activity, including the beginning, middle and the end – while making as much eye contact as possible.

2. Observe

Some children with special needs identify sensory input in different ways and may be unable to express discomfort.  Remember that all behavior is communication.  Always keep a lookout for these differences and think about what the child’s behavior is communicating to you.  If you’re not sure what you’re seeing, ask the child’s parents or other adults for advice and more information.

3. Use Common Sense

Take an example – Suppose there were children in the swimming class, ranged in age from 3 to 18, and two instructors had the children sit on the edge of the pool, with latter’s feet in the water; while instructors took turns working individually with each child. There are several problems with this plan. First, the water was deep and the children sitting at the edge were in constant danger of falling in.  Second, the children were shivering while they waited for their turn, which heightened their anxiety and overall discomfort.  Third, the younger children all cried when one of the instructors swam up and suddenly scooped them into the water away from their parents. All of these problems could have been avoided easily with common sense: put safety first and arrange the environment for physical and emotional comfort.

4. Be Flexible

Some volunteers/trained individuals say that they won’t change the way they do things to accommodate one person in a group.  But the whole point of teaching is to use a variety of methods to help the other person understand and master new skills.  For example, if a child refuses to let go of a parent, bring the parent into the activity for a few minutes to reduce anxiety, then, fade out the parent. If a child does not have the proper motor skills for an activity, help the child go through the motions and assign a buddy to help the child practice on the sidelines for a few minutes.  In a religious education class, a child may have difficulty understanding some concepts; but when those same concepts are presented in a game or hands-on art project, they make more sense.

5. Be Consistent

If a set of rules is presented to the group, apply those rules consistently to everyone. Mostly on the first day of martial arts class., the instructor explains to students and parents that if a child is having any type of behavior issue, he would ask the parent to sit with the child. Throughout the lesson, if student had difficulty understanding the rapid directions, wait for the instructor to wave you in.  Instead the instructor had to say to the student that s/he would have to leave the class if s/he can’t sit still.  After class you can have a private conversation with the instructor about his inconsistency.

6. Use visual, auditory or tactile cues

Having the right clues in an environment can mean the difference between participation and non-participation for many children with special needs.  Use index cards with simple written instructions to help the child to remember the rules for appropriate behavior – if the child does not read, substitute a hand-drawn cartoon or other picture for words. I once heard a first grade teacher softly singing instructions to her students.  As soon as she started singing, every single student became quiet and attentive.  Other auditory cues are clapping, snapping or whistling. Tactile cues such as gently touching a person’s shoulder, offering a blanket or other soft fabric, or providing silly putty are easy ways to mark a transition and get a person’s attention.

7. Have a plan A.  And a plan B ready

You know what they say about the best-laid plans.  In the world of special needs, there is always a Plan B, and usually a Plan C.  Make sure that there is space to calm down and move freely if things go badly.  Think about what each participant can do instead of focusing on what they can’t contribute.

8. Be Positive

A positive attitude is the single most important quality for anyone who works with children with special needs.  I’ve seen highly trained specialists unable to interact with child because of their negative attitude and assumptions.  But some people with no experience or knowledge of this disability have jumped right in and changed lives for the better.  That’s why we keep signing up for more activities.  We might even end up in an activity for special need kids with you someday.

Seven Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma

Living with a mental health illness can be challenging. Add to that having to deal with the misconceptions, stereotypical ideas and blatantly outrageous beliefs that many people in society hold about mental health, and one can be left feeling overwhelmed and rejected.

Common mental health preconceptions include; “If you have schizophrenia you must be violent and dangerous.” “Why do you have happy days when you’re suffering with depression? Shouldn’t you always be depressed?” and perhaps the classic; “Oh just get over it, it’s all in your head anyway!”

Preconceptions like these are called mental health stigma and unless society as a whole stand up and challenge these ideas and beliefs, mental health stigma will continue to shame people living with a mental health illness and perpetuate a misunderstanding over the broader concept of mental health.

Following is a list of seven ways you can fight mental health stigma:

  1. Join a support group

Support groups abound in this day and age and there are plenty of good support groups out there for people with mental health issues. Large organisations, such as Mind often run online support groups, and your local newspapers are a good source to locate support groups. Support groups are often chaired by people who have either lived with a mental health issues, or are experienced and qualified to support you.

  1. Take comfort in friends and family

One of the most insidious aspects of mental health stigma is its ability to undermine, belittle and create doubt in the minds and hearts of those on the other end of hurtful misconceptions. After being misconstrued as ‘crazy’ or ‘it’s all in your head’, there is no better way to fortify yourself than by taking comfort in family and friends; people who really know what your mental health illness is all about.  

  1. Talk to your therapist

Therapists are not only invaluable to help you deal with your mental health illness, but are a wonderful sounding board to discuss any mental health stigma that you may have been exposed to. Not only will they have an armload of tricks and tips to help get you through, the therapy itself promotes the legitimacy of mental health as a medical and social issue widespread in society.

  1. Practice Positive Self-Talk and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques

Mental health stigma has the potential to leave the person being stigmatised vulnerable to self-doubt and insecurity. Behavioural interventions such as positive self-talk and cognitive behavioural therapy help people to recognise and challenge damaging negative talk and unhelpful patterns or beliefs. By using these techniques you are empowered to acknowledge then challenge these beliefs instead of simply internalising them.

  1. Stay connected

After a hurtful experience where mental health stigma has made you feel inferior or ashamed, a natural inclination may be to retreat; to hide from the world which has so callously rejected you. Resist! Don’t slink into the shadows where your mental health illness can manifest and brood, go out amongst people, show yourself off, say “I am here and I don’t care what you think!” And try to find as many like-minded friends to join you. Unite and stay connected.

  1. Start a blog and educate people

Linking in with the previous tip, you can fight mental health stigma by staying connected while also educating society on some of the truths of mental health illness. It’s one thing for myths and preconceptions to be tossed around, but why can’t the truth? If you’re courageous enough, start a blog and share your story with a little tongue-in-cheek humour like

  1. Zero Tolerance policy

The final tip you can employ to join in the fight against mental health stigma is to adopt a zero tolerance policy. Hear someone saying something about anxiety that you know is untrue? Challenge them! Read something misleading about borderline personality disorder? Write to the editor! Take up the zero tolerance policy attitude and stand up for mental health awareness.

Article by Raunak Karim.

Stress-free Parenting with easy 8 steps

Stress free parenting with 8 East Steps

The fact about being a parent is that our children are always watching us, taking their cues about how to manage life’s ups and downs from what they observe us doing. Whether we’re gripping the steering wheel on a red light because we’re running late, or shouting at someone who took the parking space we had our eye on, our kids are always observing. Whenever we manage stress in unhealthy ways – with anger, blame, yelling and so forth – basically we are teaching our children to do the same. Sometimes it is hard to manage life’s difficult moments but we should always look for healthier ways to relieve of your stress. Below are some tips that should help to reduce your stress:

  1. Make your life simple: Most of the time we take on more than what we can handle, and then feel stressful about having said “yes” when we wanted to say “no.” Trimming your commitments down to those that are either important, bring you pleasure or satisfaction of some kind.
  1. Don’t take it personally: Have you ever thought why a particular incident can cause one person to feel awfully hurt, while another thinks it off as no big deal? People who are more laid-back don’t take things as personally, and are less caught up in winning approval. Rather than letting your blood boil when your mother-in-law suggests that she never had problems getting her children to clean up their toys (really?), allow her comments to roll off your back without turning them into a assertion about your worth as a mother.
  1. Get good sleep: One of the best ways to increase your ability to deal with stress is to get more rest. The average person needs 7 to 8 hours a sleep to recharge. When we don’t get enough sleep, we can experience problems with mood swings, focus, memory, tiredness and stress. If you need to take an afternoon nap with your toddler instead of tackling the dirty dishes, take the nap. The more rested you feel, the better you’ll be able to deal with life’s challenges. 
  1. Be social and get help: For many parents, the tasks involved with raising children are never-ending and makes them keep running from morning to night. If you’re tired, exhausted or need a break, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Meet a few other parents who will swap school drop offs, pick ups, or even join a rotating homework club that moves from house to house. We are meant to raise children in a tribe or with the support of an extended family. If you don’t have a network of helpful, trustworthy people to depend upon, sure it’s time to create one.
  1. One thing at a time: Many of us as parents try to juggle far too many errands at once, in the name of efficiency. Slow down and focus on the one thing you’re doing at a given time – whether it’s serving a meal or giving a bath to your toddler. Even more important to give your children your undivided attention for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day when you aren’t trying to get them to do something. Getting your positive attention will have the extra benefit of motivating your children to be more supportive.
  1. Exercise and long breathing: One of the best ways to strengthen you against stress is to exercise regularly. I understand not all of us can make it to gym, but think about what you loved to do when you were a child. Did you like to jump rope? Ride your bike? Choose something that you really enjoy, and consider finding an exercise buddy to make it more fun. A few slow, long and calming breaths can immediately reset your stress-clock. Some people like to recite a word or phrase like Ommmm… or Buzzzz.. or sing while breathing deeply. You may want to explore meditation as well. Whatever gets you breathing and physically relaxed will help you manage your difficult moments with more grace and peace. Not only will you be better able to manage with stress – you’ll be in better health, too.
  1. Play with your kids: Remember your childhood what it was like to have fun? For many parents, life is about crossing things off a to-do list. Without time built into each day for nourishing our spirit, we become more vulnerable to frustration and stress. Laugh, tell jokes, draw, have a dance contest with your children. These small acts can make a big difference in your stress level by helping you reconnect with the playful and happy parts of yourself that can get buried under the list of things-to-do.
  1. Imperfection is ok: Most of us have internalized someone else’s voice in our head – a critical teacher or parent, perhaps – and feel that we’re never good enough. Aiming for constant perfection creates constant stress. If you’re too tired to clean your house before your guests come for dinner, allow your best to be good enough.

In today’s fast-paced world – life can wear you down, causing you to be ever more helpless to stress as you feel burdened by the never-ending demands placed upon you.  Consider these steps and take time to reconsider where you can make adjustments in your daily life that will help you handle those difficult experiences more easily. You’ll not only be doing yourself a favor – your children will benefit from seeing their mom and dad takes care of themselves. Teach them they can also learn to manage life’s frustrations in much healthier ways.

Signs you are unhappy at work


How can you tell that you’re unhappy at work? That something may not be right and that it’s time to either make some changes at work, or move on to a new job? As part of my work, I talk to a lot of people who are not happy with their jobs. Here are the top symptoms of unhappiness at work that I continue to observe. How many apply to you?

1: You start to procrastinate
You really, honestly try to get some work done. But somehow you never really get around to it. Or you only do it at the last possible moment and then only do a half-baked effort.

Many people view procrastination as a personal weakness. To me, it’s one of the strongest warning signs of unhappiness at work.

2: You can’t stand the Monday morning
Some people don’t sleep on Sunday night very well because I’m worried about going to work on Monday morning. One of the worst things about being unhappy at work is that the unhappiness eats into your free/personal time. If you have a lousy day or week at work, it’s difficult to go home and still have a fun, relaxed, carefree weekend.

3: You are ambitious about salary and title
Sometimes you don’t like the job itself, so you focus much more on salary or perks. Those unhappy at work get a lot more competitive, for a simple reason: When work does not give happiness and enjoyment, people want to get something else out of it to make it even. That’s when they focus on compensation and promotions.

4: You don’t feel like helping co-workers or care about anything
When we are in a bad mood, we are much less likely to help others. This is the common psychological response. So you casually pass by a coworker who is trying to balance a heavy box.

You just care about your own paycheck while things may go wrong for your workplace.

5: You make no friends at workplace
Friends at work? When people can’t connect with coworkers for whatever reasons, work becomes mechanic and people become unhappy. Mind longs for workplace engagement.

6: Small things annoy you
Small annoyances bug you out of all proportion. Like someone taking up too much talking loudly, air conditioning too high or low, someone taking long at coffee machine.

When you’re unhappy you have much thinner skin and a shorter fuse. It takes a lot less to annoy you.

7: You’re suspicious of other people’s motives
No matter what people do, your first thought always is “what are they up to?” Whether it is good, bad or routine, all decisions and actions made by your managers or co-workers are seen as negative. You are suspicious of others when unhappy.

8: Physical symptoms
You suffer from insomnia, headaches, low energy, muscle tension and/or other physical symptoms. When you’re unhappy at work you’re more prone to experience these physical stress symptoms. This may lead to high cortisol hormone level and weaker immune system.

How do you measure up?

How many of these symptoms apply to you in your current job?

Job stress making us sick?

Researchers analyzed data from about 12,000 workers in Sweden. High levels of job stress increase the risk of sick leave due to mental health disorders, a new study suggests.


  • Over five years, about 8 percent of the workers took mental health sick leave. Three-quarters of those who took mental health sick leave were women.
  • Workers with demanding jobs, high job strain and little social support at work were at greater risk for mental health sick leave, as were those with unhealthy lifestyles.
  • Smoking was also cited as a significant risk factor for mental health sick leave, but alcohol use was not.
  • High levels of physical activity reduced the risk of mental health sick leave, according to the study in the August issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Take steps and avoid these circumstances.

Monotonous, routine work

Sometimes we engage in tasks at work every day that we could do in our sleep. Sometimes we stick to same position for three to five years without any new possibilities or opportunities to grow. Sometimes it’s important to keep on the cutting edge and to keep your intellect engaged on the job. Because in this economy, most industries are innovating rapidly. Be inspired rather than be bored.

Bad workplace

Sometimes you are unable to complete a task uninterrupted because others invade your workspace. Sometimes workplace is driven by gossip, back-stabbing, favoritism or nepotism. Chances are you can do little to change environment where these problems exist. Such offices with boundary violations are typically headed up by those who have bad boundaries themselves, and the behavior bleeds down from the top. Save yourself.

Physical or emotional signs of stress

Sometimes we tolerate high-stress jobs for so long that we literally become ill, suffering from physical conditions such as stomach ulcers, hair loss, or emotional conditions such as depression or severe anxiety. Sometimes we self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Get out now. No job is worth your health — even if high-paying, powerful. Staying put in such circumstances, and it only gets worse. Strive for a life in balance. Resolve to get it.

Emotionless boss

Sometimes even senior executives tolerate abusive behavior from their higher ups on a daily basis. Sometimes abusive behavior continues and constitutes screaming at you, throwing things, belittling and humiliation in front of others, or threatening your job routinely.

Shun the abuse and the abuser. You have options. Repair your self-esteem if you have internalized any of the abuse to which you’ve been subjected to. Then start taking action to get out. Revise your resume and start sending out applications.

Conclusion: Making the choice to move on from job that no longer serves you is important for greater balance, success and joy in life. Be open to new possibilities and take action. With the right skills, dedication and perseverance, you can find what you would like to do next.

5 Steps to Keep Your Child Disciplined yet happy

Discipline is as much an important ingredient of having happy children as nurturing. As a counselor I see so many problems are the result of parents not implementing consistent rules and consequences. The boundaries created by rules and structure help make kids feel safe, as much at age 16, as at age 2. Another problem happens when a parent is so sensitive to discipline that the parent’s feelings of frustration build up. And then parent ends up yelling at the child or even spanking him/her, and nothing makes a child feel more inferior, than, being yelled at or being spanked. Here are five steps for healthy discipline along with love and nurturing — they are essential ingredients to a child’s happiness and growth.

1) Parents should have same views on disciplining their children
Most couples, when they get married, don’t discuss their views on disciplining their children. So they often find that they have different parenting styles, with one of them fairly strict and the other more soft and easygoing. Sometimes it takes family therapy or marriage counseling for parents to agree on how to discipline their children. Having parents who aren’t on the same page is a major cause of childhood and teenager behavior problems. Parents need to set rules together about meals, bedtime, homework, sleepover etc.

2) Discipline peacefully without raising your voice
Giving children a count of 3 to do what you are asking is a good way to avoid raising your voice. The child will probably test the count of 3 but if parents are following the rules and give the child a time out or other penalty after the count of 3, then the child will learn that the parents are serious about following the guidelines they set.

3) Age appropriate rewards and timeouts for their behaviors
Rewards for toddlers/preschoolers can often benefit e.g. simple sticker charts. School going children can benefit from knowing that if they earn enough points they get to choose to read to someone, can go to playground or monitor the class. For older kids have the privilege of spending time with friends on the weekends. Only allow a teen to borrow the car if he has done all of his chores on time throughout the week.

Time-out area should be easily accessible and in such a location that the child can be easily monitored while in time-out. Generally for younger kids it is considered more effective to have short period of time-out (about 5-10 minutes), rather than long periods such as half an hour to one hour.

4) The “3 Fs” of positive discipline outcome
 Rules should be clearly stated and then followed when the inappropriate behaviors occurs. For example: Giving children a “count of three” to do what you are asking is a good way to avoid problems. The child will probably test the “count of three”. (Our kids would push us to 2 ½, 2 5/8, and so forth). But if parents are consistent, and give the child a time out or other consequence after the count of 3, the child will learn that his parents mean business.

FAIR: The punishment should fit the crime. Also in the case of inappropriate behavior, penalty should be stated in advance so the child knows what to expect. Harsh punishment is not necessary. Using a simple Time Out can be successful when it is used every time the inappropriate behavior occurs.

FRIENDLY: Use a friendly but firm message when letting a child know they have misbehaved. Encourage them to try to remember what they should do instead to avoid future penalty. Work at “catching them being good” and praise them for appropriate behavior.

5) Don’t pressure anything that you can’t implement:
When a parent creates pressure out of anger such as “You are stuck for the rest of the summer,” it is unrealistic. When parents calm down and think about what penalty they can practically implement (e.g. “You are grounded this weekend”), discipline will be more consistent. Use helping chores as penalty when your child misbehaves. Children and especially teenagers expect to be punished when they break the rules. They will actually feel better when they know they are helping their mother with her household chores.

1-on-1 time with your child

‘One on one time’ means, spending quality time with just one child, making time to connect, giving them personal attention and filling their emotional bucket. It has proved to be the best parenting tools. When a child is out of sorts, struggling, pushing buttons, or losing it left and right – even if you can’t figure what is going on and how to fix it – understand that “one on one” time will help to communicate, and deal with issues before they become overwhelming for the family.

Apart from being a great parenting tool, it’s also enjoyable. I like my children (even when they are driving me crazy), I like spending time with them especially without the interruption of others.

The more kids you have the more important one on one time is. So start making that calendar. Start planning that ‘Mom and son date night’, and that day out for your daughter. It doesn’t have to take lots of preparation, cost money, or even take hours of your time. It can be just as valuable in small snippets, as part of daily life.

5 ways to spend 1-on-1 time with our children, despite other commitments.

1) Take Your Child’s help.
No one said one on one time had to be all outdoor fun and playing board games, and just because you really need to make dinner or do the grocery shopping doesn’t mean you don’t have time for a little quality time with your child.

One of my favorite one on one time activities is to take one child with me to do the grocery shopping. I get a helper, we get uninterrupted time to talk while we drive, they get the perk of choosing what food we buy, and we enjoy time just the two of us.

Cooking meals together is another good one on one time. Folding the washing works too, even if you are the one doing it and putting it away while your child sits and chats next to you, that still counts as one on one time.

2) It Doesn’t take Lot of Time.
Spending ten minutes with each child at bed time is my secret parenting weapon. I have a chance to check in with each child, talk about the good stuff from that day, and the not so good stuff, and just generally have a snuggle and reconnect. I know bedtime can be hectic but for us ten minutes each night is time well spent.

Look for other snippets of time during the day – a few minutes snuggle on the couch, ten minutes outside throwing a ball, a quick board game together… none of these things take long but they all add up.

3) Driving Time is the Best.
When there isn’t much quiet time to talk, driving my children somewhere is the perfect time for a talk. On the way to an appointment, a quick trip into town, on the way to school or an activity or play date, there is something about sitting in the warm, quiet car together that always gets my kids chatting. Or sometimes we just turn up a favorite song really loud and sing at the top of our lungs!

4) Family members Help.
Sometimes, when I can see that one of my children really needs to be looked after and there is just no room in my schedule to manage it, I bring in reinforcements. A day with a grandparents or favorite aunt/uncle can help fill your child’s bucket.

Even though it’s not the same as being with a parent, but it does have it’s own advantages – having adults other that their parents that my kids trust and feel connected to is important and something I want to encourage, and a grandparents always know how to make kids feel special.

5) Just Do It!
We know this one on one time is important, we know it has benefits for all of us, so sometimes, you just need to make it happen. Make it a priority, find time in your schedule, mark it on the calendar and just do it.

When to Reward or Recognize?

You want to motivate and inspire your employees so they’ll want to perform well and be productive members of your firm. Even if your company is small and your budget limited, you can still improve your employee advocacy efforts using reward and/or recognition. Finding a balance between both the two is important. It is usually not an “either or” situation. Let’s understand the key differences between reward and recognition so we can decide what to use in what event:

1. Reward is tangible, recognition is not. Reward is generally monetary such as commission, bonus, salary raise or a gift card. Recognition, on the other hand, is often not visible and yet can be of significant value. It seeks to decorate the achiever. Example: higher title or designation, badge of honor, control.

Rewards are consumable whereas recognition is experienced.

2. Reward is transactional in nature, recognition tends to be relational. If a person or group does “XYZ” then they get “ABC” in return. That is a reward. Recognition is more of a relational exchange between people. From the company’s point of view, rewards are great for attracting people to an organization, and recognition is perfect for keeping them.

3. Reward can be transferred whereas recognition cannot be. Reward has potential to exchange ownership from one person to another. Recognition cannot be removed from the person given to and therefore long lasting.

4. Rewards can be conditional, recognition is usually not. Rewards are a direct result of certain achievement or goal. It is therefore often expected. Recognition can be both – consequence of a fixed result or not a so expected result of prior work and sudden.

In short: Both reward and recognition have positive influence on receiver’s psychology. Reward is economic, short-term therefore less personal. Recognition, on the other hand, celebrates the person or group of people that has attained a certain level or acquired significance as part or result of ongoing effort.

This article was contributed by Reema Mehta.

12 Tips for Positive Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child (Part 2)

.. continued from Part 1

7. Side-step power struggles by letting your child save face.  You don’t have to prove you’re right. You can, and should, set reasonable expectations and enforce them.  But under no circumstances should you try to break your child’s will or force him to acquiesce to your views.  He has to do what you want, but he’s allowed to have his own opinions and feelings about it.

8.  Listen to her. You, as the adult, might reasonably presume you know best.  But your strong-willed child has a strong will partly as a result of her integrity. She has a viewpoint that is making her hold fast to her position, and she is trying to protect something that seems important to her. Only by listening calmly to her and reflecting her words will you come to understand what’s making her oppose you.  A non-judgmental  “I hear that you don’t want to take a bath.  Can you tell me more about why?” might just elicit the information that she’s afraid she’ll go down the drain, like Alice in the song. It may not seem like a good reason to you, but she has a reason.  And you won’t find it out if you get into a clash and order her into the tub. So next time your child balks, say “I hear that you want…..Tell me more…”

9.  See it from his point of view.  For instance, he may be angry because you promised to wash his superman cape and then forgot.  To you, he is being stubborn.  To him, he is justifiably upset, and you are being hypocritical, because he is not allowed to break his promises to you, but you broke yours to him.  How do you clear this up and move on?  You apologize profusely for breaking your promise, you reassure him that you try very hard to keep your promises, and you go, together, to wash the cape.  You might even teach him how to wash his own clothes! Just consider how would you want to be treated, and treat him accordingly.

10. Discipline through the relationship, never through punishment. Kids don’t learn when they’re in the middle of a fight.  Like all of us, that’s when adrenaline is pumping and learning shuts off.  Kids behave because they want to please us.  The more you fight with and punish your child, the more you undermine her desire to please you. If your kid is upset, help her express her hurt, fear or disappointment, so they evaporate. Then she’ll be ready to listen to you when you remind her that in your house, everyone speaks kindly to each other. (Of course, you have to model that. Your child won’t always do what you say, but she will always, eventually, do what you do.)

11. Offer him respect and empathy. Most strong-willed children are fighting for respect.   If you offer it to them, they don’t need to fight to protect their position.  And, like the rest of us, it helps a lot if they feel understood.  If you see his point of view and think he’s wrong — for instance, he wants to wear the superman cape to church and you think that’s inappropriate — you can still offer him empathy and meet him part way while you set the limit. “You love this cape and wish you could wear it, don’t you?  But when we go to services we dress up, so we can’t wear the cape.  I know you’ll miss wearing it.  How about we take it with us so you can wear it on our way home?”

12. Focus on the positive. Instead of getting stuck in your fear about what you don’t want, which just pushes your child into opposing you, focus instead on what you DO want. So instead of saying “NO” or “Don’t” try to rephrase it as “You may do this now” or “Let’s do this” or “I need you to do X so we can then do Y.”

12 Tips for Positive Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child (Part 1)

1. Avoid power struggles by using routines and rules.  That way you are not bossing them around, it’s just that “The schedule is to lights-out at 8pm.  If you finish things in time, we’ll have time for two books,” or “In this house, everyone must finish homework before screen time.”  The parent stops being the bad guy.

2. Remember that strong-willed kids are experiential learners. This means they have to see for themselves if the stove is hot. So unless you’re worried about serious injury, it’s more effective to let them learn through experience, instead of trying to control them. And you can expect your strong-willed child to test your limits repeatedly–that’s how she learns. Once you know that, it’s easier to stay calm and avoid wear and tear on your relationship–and your nerves.

3. Your child wants mastery more than anything.  Let her take charge of her own activities.  Don’t nag at her to clean her desk “Is there anything that needs to be organized before the next day?”  If she looks blank, give her a short list: “Every evening we make beds, clean desk and ready the backpack. Now, what do you still need to do before we hit the bed?”  Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to oppose. They may take responsibility early.

4.  Give your child choices.  If you give orders, he will almost certainly bristle.  If you offer a choice, he feels like the master of his own destiny.  Of course, only offer choices you can live with and don’t let yourself get resentful by handing away your power.  If going to the dentist is non-negotiable and he wants to keep watching tv, an appropriate choice is:  “Do you want to leave now or in ten minutes? Okay, ten minutes then and please no fuss. Hope you will switch tv off 2 minutes early so we are not late.”

5. Give decision-making authority over their body. “I note you don’t want to wear your blazer today.  It’s cold so I am definitely wearing mine. You are your own boss but I’m afraid that you will be cold once we are outside, and I won’t want to come back to the house again. How about I put yours in the backpack in case you change your mind later?”  Once she won’t lose face by wearing her jacket, she’ll be begging for it once she gets cold.  It’s just hard for her to imagine feeling cold when she’s so warm right now in the house, and a jacket seems like such a hassle. You don’t want to undermine that self-confidence, just teach her that there’s no shame in letting new information change her mind.

6. Don’t push him into opposing you. Force always creates “push-back”  – this is true with humans of all ages.  If you take a hard and fast position, you can easily push your child into defying you, just to prove a point.  You’ll know when it’s a power struggle and you’re invested in winning.  Just stop, take a breath, and remind yourself that winning a battle with your child always sets you up to lose what’s most important: the relationship.  When in doubt say “Ok, you can decide this for yourself.”  If he can’t, then say what part of it he can decide, or find another way for him to meet his need for autonomy without compromising his health or safety.

See Part 2