How to discipline a special needs child positively

How to discipline a special needs child positively

No parent or child likes the D word – D for discipline. That said, there are situations when you’ll need to know how to discipline him.

Getting a special needs child to toe the line is more challenging than to persuade a kid without these concerns to do so. It’s difficult to introduce rules to him when he doesn’t connect with them. We have some advice on how to discipline a child with unique needs.

The Meaning of Discipline


The word ‘discipline’ has a negative connotation. Many people mistakenly believe that it means to scold or hit a child to get him to show positive behaviours.

It doesn’t. You can get your child to show desired behaviours by asserting yourself and using positive reinforcement.

What to consider when disciplining a special needs child

how to discipline

1. Reward good behaviours and ignore negative ones

First of all, reinforcements encourage a child to repeat good behaviours. Try to ignore negative ones whenever possible. Some children deliberately do them to seek attention. Giving it to them, even if it’s a reprimand, shows them that showing the behaviour gets them what they want.

2. Determine the cause of the behaviour

A special needs child may have difficulty communicating what he or she wants. He may be frustrated trying to express his needs. Help him, as far as possible, to validate his emotions. Then, assert yourself.

For example, say. ” I know you’re mad that your brother took your toys. You’re not wrong to be angry, but you are wrong to hit him.”

3. Avoid punishment

Research proves that positive discipline works better than corporal punishment in getting children to show desired behaviours.

Don’t hit, but talk. Teach the child which behaviours are acceptable, and which aren’t.

4. Verbalize Feelings

One way to stop children from acting out their frustrations is to teach them how to put these feelings into words. Doing so will get them to manage their anger. Name the feelings as early as possible to help them ease their tension. Teach them more mature ways to deal with it.

It also helps to listen to your child, and ask why he behaved as he did. Explain why he shouldn’t. Doing so will help them to increase his decision-making capabilities.

Address his feelings. Disruptive behaviours have a close association with negative emotions. Acknowledge his hurt and anger.

5. Model good behaviours

To help your special needs child understand what good behaviours are, model them.

A special needs child will mimic what you do. Be aware of actions such as raising your voice when you show these behaviours.

6. Use countdowns

It’s never fun to stop and exciting game halfway. Use timers to remind your child that it’s time to stop play and move on to the next activity, e.g., homework.

7. Give choices

Your child may have to complete an action, but he has a choice as to how to do it. Let him know that if he picks up his toys, he can choose where to put them. If he goes to sleep, he can decide whether to sleep half an hour earlier or later than he usually does.

8. Use relevant consequences

Also, punishment isn’t useful if a child doesn’t understand how it relates to his behaviour. For example, your child won’t understand why throwing his toys is wrong unless the consequence of this action is relevant to it, e.g., He must pick up the toy.

9. Practice consistency

Finally, learning new skills is challenging for a child with special needs. He will test your limits and assert his independence. He will also have occasional meltdowns. The key to decreasing the number is to reinforce your child’s positive behaviour consistently.

In all, there is a positive answer to how to discipline a special needs child. It’s done with a balance of assertiveness, compassion, and a lot of love.