Many parents really struggle emotionally when their child has a chronic illness such as arthritis, diabetes, asthma, eczema and so on. As a parent you just want to make it better and fix them. Many parents feel guilty that they have in some way let their child down as though it’s your fault.
You try desperately to try and find a cause. You might feel so sorry and disempowered as their parent that you actually forget to parent and become your child's friend. Now this is where things get very dangerous indeed.
I’m taking you back to a family I knew 10 years ago in Melbourne. Mum had a 10 year old boy who had a chronic health condition. I think it was asthma. She also had a 5 year old little girl and she was a single parent. All her love and attention was given to the boy and she had become very disempowered that she was behaving like their friend and not as a parent.
On the day I visited, within 10 minutes of me being in their home the 5 year old had grabbed a broom handle and bashed her mum over the back with it. ‘Thwak’ what a thud. It really hurt poor mum.
I turned to face mum and asked her what she was going to do with her daughter? ‘Oh I’ll just put the broom handle under my bed, Karen’.
No,’ I replied, ‘what are you going to do with your girl’? She didn’t know.
‘Shall I show you a good way to deal with this?’ I offered. Mum agreed and so I set to doing time out.
It took me 17 times of returning her into time out for this little girl to give in. Some of it was with a limp body, and me unfortunately, having to drag her back to the laundry.
I know how awful it sounds and I’m now going to give you some back story to what happened literally the night before. Little girl, 5 had stood up in the bath and putting her hands on both hips proclaimed to her mum, ‘So you think you’re in charge do you!?’ jutting out her chin and puffing her chest out. Before mum could answer she shouted, ‘Well you’re not because I am!’ I’m sure you can now see, why time out had to happen.
The dynamics of power had shifted and mum was so disempowered. That little girl was actually feeling incredibly stressed. The more children push the boundaries and we go with them the more anxious they feel.
What we’re doing with time out and behavior management is we’re molding behavior and creating rules and giving boundaries. These boundaries create security by decreasing cortisol. Once behavior reaches this point it’s past negotiation and reason. Imagine if the 5 year old child had hit another child with a broom handle? Exactly. Once it’s a safety issue it’s time out.
Time out is not punishment it’s discipline. It gives us all time to calm down. It’s what we call authoritative parenting and it’s based in behavioural psychology. As a parent if you don’t have some rules/boundaries for parenting you risk becoming authoritarian and a smacky, shouty parent. Having some rules and strategies will help your child manage their own emotions. When you have a chronic illness it’s so easy for children to feel overwhelmed and out of control. Decreasing stress is the key to managing chronic health issues.
If you’d like to know about my toddler and child behavior techniques more info can be found at www.nurtureparenting.com.au. My blog has heaps of info about behavior management and all the different strategies I use and there are many more than time out. That is literally the last chance saloon technique. Getting help for your child before it gets to time out level is key and that’s what I like to practice – prevention is key.
If you’re interstate Australia or overseas I do Skype, email and phone consults to help families that can’t have an in-home consultation.