You often hear the phrase “that kid just needs some tough-love” and they would be right a lot of the time. “Great,” you think, “I’ll do that!” But, what does tough-love look like for children with disabilities and does it apply?
In short, Yes! The way you as a parent or carer go about it may be different to the way “average” parent would go about giving tough love, however, the way you administer it is different for each of your children anyway.
I have included below some of the tough love situations I’ve had to use in dealing with my special needs children, some on a regular basis, others not so much. As you will see each situation has required a different type of tough love and the results are not always what you expect.
No One Likes Chronic Pain
It makes us cranky, irritable, lacking drive and isolated. So, what do you do when your child is the one with chronic pain and the specialists can only give so much advice, treatment and therapy? Believe me, this is a tough one. It’s easy to think you’ll have enough empathy to get through each day with your child and the way they interact with you and their siblings when in pain. But, after weeks, months and sometimes years of putting up with bad pain induced attitudes and behaviour tough love just needs to kick in. the “I can’t go to school/sport/family activities” can only go on for so long before seeing you as a parent also start to lose it.
- Being firm in getting your child, who experiences chronic pain, to complete daily routines such as: getting out of bed and dressed in the mornings, eating breakfast and going to school, was one of the ways we helped our son get on with life and learn to live with his pain.
- Scoring pain out of (or with colours before he could count) also helped all of us to see patterns in when the pain was at its worst and adjust activities to meet these highs and lows.
- Being consistent with our strategy and tough-love has grown my young man to be the determined high-level athlete he is today. Yes, he still lives with chronic pain. Yes, his pain threshold is extremely high, but through tough-love, he has learned to monitor the pain, and now knows when rest is required and when a workout at the gym or a “good push” on the court will help with his pain. Please note that we found regular exercise helped alleviate some of his pain.
If it Doesn’t Make You Laugh, You’ll Cry!
Giving tough-love can sometimes not get the results you are expecting. An example that immediately comes to my mind is when I first practised the ‘naughty-corner’ technique for my eldest son. It worked a treat and he understood why he was being punished and the consequences of his actions. He was four years old. However, my three-year-old son on the autism spectrum absolutely lost it! Not because he was in the naughty-corner and being punished. No. Because his brother was being punished for being naughty! What the?! While #1 son was in the said corner for around 3 minutes, #2 son took just over half an hour to calm down and get back on track with our normal routine.
Now that was unexpected! Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
Tough-love comes in many forms. It’s not easy to give, that’s why it’s called tough-love. It is however rewarding when, while at the time your child may hate you, they come back later (sometimes years later) and thank you. Sometimes they even ask why we weren’t tougher?
We all need boundaries, children especially, this allows them to know they are loved unconditionally. Tough-love is consistently showing unconditional love towards your child.