Discipline and the Special Needs Child

I’m kind of a discipline nut. That could easily be misunderstood. I’m not saying that my kids are perfect, but after years of teaching, I actually view discipline as a puzzle. I’m always trying to figure out how I can get my child to act the way I would like. I’ve learned a ton, but still have far to go. One thing I do know for certain and that is: discipline can be tough on mom/dad/teacher too. Enforcing a decision once you’ve made it can make you wish you’d never taken a stand. Really.

I recently had the pleasure of getting to put my handy-dandy discipline knowledge to use, and it was pretty much the suckiest thing I’ve done in ages.

For starters, I was taking all three of my children to the pediatrician’s office. This is pretty much a disaster in the making. Just to get all three into the building I have to strap August to my body and put Louie and Charlie in the jogging stroller. This bad from the start because for some reason, Charlie is frightened of the jogging stroller and I have to basically hold him down to get him strapped in. Once in, he’s still not thrilled.

Once we get into the office–which, holy moly, why do they ALWAYS need to see my insurance cards? It’s not like they get confiscated if we stop paying our premiums. I have a kid strapped to my chest, does it look like it will be easy to fish that thing out of my purse?–I try to get us situated, which mean swapping August for Charlie, so August is in the stroller and Charlie is sitting in a chair.

This particular visit, Charlie would not sit back in his chair. Never mind his deathly fear of the jogging stroller, the office chair was apparently totally safe. So, about five minutes into our wait, one baby starts crying. As I’m digging for the bottle, Charlie leans so far forward in his chair that he falls out. I catch him before he hits the ground, but then he starts crying. Then, the other baby starts crying because everyone else is crying. I had reached the trifecta of tears and screaming.

I also felt like crying, so at that point I decided we were never going to make it to the magical moment where they call us back to sit in a tiny room, so I loaded up my crew and headed out. The twins were in the stroller and I was carrying the still-hysterical Charlie. Let me just say that motherhood has never looked so glamorous.

By the time we exit the building, I’m getting pretty upset. I mean, I had told Charlie to be careful and his general lack of listening had led to his fall, which was not at all painful because I actually caught him before he hit the ground. But still, he was screaming bloody murder in my ear as I started to haul his tiny butt across the parking lot.

That’s when it hit me that this was one of those teaching moments you hear so much about.

So I put Charlie down in the grass and told him I wouldn’t carrying him another inch until he stopped screaming.

He kept screaming.

And screaming.

People walked by and and looked at us out of the corner of their eyes.

I cried.

He kept screaming, but I stuck to my guns. I was a little concerned someone was going to call the cops on me, but I pressed on knowing that if I folded at this point, I’d be folding forever.

After one of the longest 15 minute stretches of my life, the screaming stopped. I picked him and brought him to the car. He made a few squeaks as we walked, but I told him he was going right back down if he started screaming again.

That night I told my husband about the visit. About the warnings, the fall, and how embarrassed I was as Charlie made a scene in front of the medical building.

“Good for you,” he said. And you know? I think I did the right thing. Pretty terrible to endure, but in the end, I still think it was right.

Hopefully Charlie will learn this particular lesson (not screaming in mommy’s ear) pretty quick–if not, I’m pretty sure I’m headed for an early grave. Also, a trip to the hair dresser to cover all this gray.

Sorry no Charlie pics--he was NOT in a picture mood.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Awww. So sorry it was so rough. Good for you sticking to it. I have a hard time sticking to it with Dustyn. I am not to the discipline part with Carsyn yet but I am sure it is coming.

    • I had to start disciplining Charlie not long after his second birthday. He would throw huge fits to get out of speech therapy. Luckily, those session took place at home, so whisking him off to time out was no problemo!

  2. The immediate time-out has become my BFF discipline technique. However, it does suck to be “that” mom. I wish I were bigger than caring…but drat if I’m not.

    You DID do the right thing. And I’m SO happy you shared it because it helps reinforce my heart that I am doing the right thing too!


    • That is my favorite discipline technique as well. Sadly, there’s no time out at the doctor’s office, so I find myself having to improvise, which is never good.

  3. Way to go!

  4. Thanks for posting this Katy. I agree with you 100%! My son Jacob is 12 years old and was born with Congential Hydrocephalus and has CP, Cortival Visual Impairment, GTube, Seizures, speech delays, cognitive delays and other medical challenges over the years. However, he is perfectly aware of how he likes to try and control his environment, through exhibiting his strong personality. In addition, we have a 5 year old little girl and a 8 year old boy who has ADHD. So our life can get pretty stressful if we did not have our “discipline plan” in place. Like you, I had one of those public moments when all 3 kids decided to go crazy and Jacob being my sweet faced 7 year old at the time, was in his wheelchair and decided to have a tantrum of “epic proportion”! I could no longer pretend his behavior was going to get any better. So, I found a bench sat down in front of Jacob and told him (in a strong firm voice, since he couldn’t see my face) we would not move until his crying fit stopped. In his case, Jacob loves to move and that was my small amount of power I felt I had over the situation. So, I said it again, and again until Jacob stopped screaming, thrusting & rocking his body (strapped in a wheelchair). This went on for 30 minutes, but he finally stopped. Plus, I could not believe my other two children sat and waited until their brother calmed down and I did not give in…. This was a huge moment!! Jacob is now 12 (65 lbs and 52 inches )and he knows that if he chooses to have tantrums or misbehaves in a way that is not appropriate, he too will lose privileges like his siblings and understands that he will miss out on some of his favorite activities. Katy, thank you again for posting your story, it is nice to know there are other Special Need moms who understand :))

  5. Of course you did the right thing. And of course it’s hard, but the good things always are.
    Hugs to you all.

  6. Oh my goodness! Your twins are adorable!! I have twin boys who are three years old and both have CP. My son Carter is very mildly affected. Mason is affected much more. He has a severe speech delay, CVI and gross motor delays. I used to take it easier on him when it came to discipline. I’m not sure why. The last few months though I have been stepping up my game. He cries sometimes for no apparent reason or will throw a fit. I started putting him in his room on his bed and I tell him he has to stop crying before he can come out. Sometimes I go get him and he starts to cry again – I ask him if he would like to go back into his bed and he stops. I’m not sure why I waited so long to try discipline methods with him. Good for you for sticking it out – it can be hard sometimes! Also, I just started reading your blog about a month ago and wanted to let you know I really enjoy it :-)

  7. Way to go, Katy! That is a great story. I feel for you with the three screaming kids at the doctor’s office. I would’ve cried too. I also probably would have given up and not followed through with the discipline, which is why my kids don’t always believe what I say when I present consequences. :) I’m super impressed with your follow-through abilities!

  8. I wonder if it’s like this for everyone who teaches before having kids! My mom listens to me talk about tough love at school and has already told me I’m probably going to be a little bit of a mean mom. (My husband will DEFINITELY be the ‘good cop.’) Still… as you know, it’s the right thing to do, even when it’s hard.

    I would much rather see a mom enforcing a consequence in public (even if that means her kid is wailing) instead of seeing a mom give her kid whatever the kid wants! As a teacher… thanks for enforcing consequences with your kids! :)

  9. I think you did the right thing! When I see kids crying their brains out and their parent(s) standing there, quiet, with their hands folded, waiting–I totally get it. I don’t think they are crazy. I’ve done it too.

    It is so NOT fun. But it’s a line you have to draw.

    What’s great is when my kids see it happening to someone else–and we all realize that the child “did not make a good choice”. That phrase seems to resonate well with our family.

  10. You did good. There’s a special place in heaven for you.

  11. I agree with your husband, good for you!! And I would have told you the same thing if I had been around you. I don’t have kids but I work with them, Storytime once a week and 50-60 hours a week baby-sitting an 8 year old.

    Said 8 year old once BAWLED for the entirety of a 15 minute walk because she wasn’t listening and she was being rude so I wouldn’t stop at the library with her. Then we got home and she threw a temper tantrum (NOT appropriate for her age) so she went to her room with no TV and no toys for 10 minutes. We had a much better day after that, but she didn’t like me for a while XD

    I wonder if there is a teacher thing a bit. I once saw a mom put her 4 year old in a time out in my Storytime (nearest corner was the time-out corner) and she was a teacher. (My 7th grade teacher, actually. Small town.)

    Um. I’m rambling, sorry XD TL;DR point of the story: You done good.

  12. Yeah discipline is rough! Three children wailing at the same time is rougher
    so Discipline wins every time for me.
    The boys are sooooo cute!! I find it so funny that like my girls one of your boys looks like you and the other your hubbie 😀

  13. We are at the same point over here. Just in the last 6 months or so have I been able to reason, threaten timeout and get what I want out of the deal without actually having to do timeouts. Our last hold out is bedtime though. Caleigh screams at us the whole time we are getting her ready for bed unless we sing to her. Not cool. So just this week hubs and I sat down and had a long talk with her about it. No more singing, no more beck and call parents, and wouldn’t you know the last 3 nights have been peaceful.

    It’s the small parenting achievements that make me smile. You did do the right thing, and I would have been right there with ya!

  14. Exquisite and eloquent. You the Mom!

    I think people are not likely to call CPS for allowing a child to safely tantrum in a public place while the parent sits nearby. I will try offer the mom a tissue – the next time I pass by this scenario.

  15. I am so glad I ran across your blog, I have a 5 year old with special needs, and two younger children as well, its such a relief to read that I am not the only one who ends up dealing with this.. sometimes it can be so overwelming and so lonely being a mom and especially to a special needs child. Thank you for showing me I am not the only one!

  16. As a mother of 6 may I just say that following through is the absolutely BEST thing you can do. It will get easier. Charlie will know that you will follow through. A huge milestone if you ask me.

    Tammy and Parker
    @ParkerMama on Twitter

  17. Been there, done that. My middle child, born 20 months after my oldest, was born with a loud cry. By loud, I mean she was kicked out of the nursery at the hospital because she was keeping the other babies awake. She had the misfortune of also being born with stomache troubles that kept her fairly miserable for the first year of her life. She hated car rides, overhead lights, loud noises, etc. Frequently when she’d start screaming in the car, my oldest (not much more than a baby herself) would start crying because her ears hurt. Our pediatrition’s office staff became used to us. I was frequently waved by the office with a “we heard you coming” and brought immediately into an exam room that is usually used for storage. A little embarrassing for an incredibly shy and quiet mommy, but it gave me a lot of practice early on ignoring on-lookers and focusing on taking care of what my children needed.

  18. Omg I am DONE with the SHOWING of the INSURANCE CARDS! I have 3 kids (well, really, I should say I have 2 sort of young children and a teenage helper) and I hate going to the doctors office, or anywhere else for that matter, with all of them. I feeeeeel for you. But good job on sticking to your guns with the discipline thing. It so sucks in the moment but it’s better in the long run. As you of course already know. Gosh you are so hardcore.

  19. Oh man, I think we all have to have been there with our kids having a tantrum in public and just wanting to cry. Good for you sticking to your guns! It is important.

  20. I’m just appalled that no one stopped to comfort YOU and see if you needed any help! Good job on the discipline. I only have one and sometimes it’s hard to stick to your guns.

  21. Sylvia Phillips says:

    I am surprised no one offered to help also. My daughter has had seizures in Walmart many times and people pretend they don’t notice. They have actually reached over her to get an item off the shelf she was blocking! I know that they just don’t know how to help so they don’t. I have also been strongly criticized when carrying her out of walmart having a temper tantrum. It is not fun. I think Dad should take them to the Doctor next time!