In families where there is more than one child, trying to be fair when disciplining can be difficult. When one of your children has special needs, it is often necessary to alter your methods of discipline for the child. This can confuse the other children in the family who might feel that they are being treated harsher.
Whether your children are close in age or not, there is always going to be some amount of sibling rivalry and jealousy going on. As a parent, you will probably second-guess yourself about discipline and rightfully so. No parent is perfect. You can do your best to be consistent with following through on punishment for bad behavior but sometimes your children may not agree with your decisions.
With some special needs children, the focus needs to be more on rewarding them for good behavior and lessening up on making too many demands. A sibling might misunderstand this as allowing the child to get away with bad behavior.
This can cause rebellion in the child and with an especially outspoken child, verbal arguments and questioning could follow. When you see it from the child’s point of view, it may appear that you do treat the special needs child with kid gloves.
Perhaps your child’s doctor or therapist has recommended that you approach discipline differently for this child due to a learning disability or mental illness. Even though it is hard to do, remember that the siblings of the special needs child may feel neglected because of the extra time that may have to be spent on the special needs child.
The necessity to treat one child differently than the other (or others) can cause chaos in the home. The best thing to do is to sit down with your children and try to explain why the rules may appear to be easier for one child than they are for them. You do not need to go into extreme explanations about why, just explaining that their sibling has some challenges that they do not have and that is why it may seem like they are treated differently.
Make sure that you make clear behavior rules for all the children in the household and also make clear the consequences for misbehavior. Discipline is a hard part of being a parent and when you are parenting more than one child, you often have to alter your methods according to the child.
Reassure your child that you love them as much as you do their sibling and you are not trying to be harder on them. Depending on what your child’s disability is, sometimes it is best for them to have different rules and consequences. Just as you would give a time out to a two year old but not to a teenager, discipline is always geared towards the age and development level of the child.