Susan L Crum, Ph.D. 


Behavioral Medicine,


Are You Spoiling Your Special Needs Child?

Posted by cfln4646 on November 8, 2013 at 12:45 AM

Are You Spoiling Your Special Needs Child? 

Sometimes parents of special needs children are so worried about their child that they find it hard to expect them to assume normal age appropriate responsibilities. Sometimes they are afraid of stressing their child. Sometimes they feel sorry for the way their child has to struggle. Sometimes, they feel guilty that they may have smoked or drank during their pregnancy and contributed to their child’s problems. Sometimes, they can’t figure out which behaviors is a result of the disability and which are normal childhood behaviors. For these reasons and many others, parents often make the unintentional mistake of adding to their child’s handicapping condition by spoiling them. This results in a child who not only has a disability to cope with, but who also has a sense of entitlement that causes other to dislike them. By spoiling our special needs child, we are adding an extra burden to their lives by making it hard for them to maintain good relationships with peers, spouses, co-workers and employers in the future. We inadvertently communicate that it’s not their fault and they are owed special treatment; which others don’t appreciate.


So, ask yourself are you spoiling your special needs child. If you answer yes to 3 or more of these questions, you probably are.


1. Have you made your child the center of the world?

Our children are important to all of us, and special needs children usually hold a special place in our hearts. But, if you make your child’s wishes the top priority to the neglect of the needs and wishes of others, you are failing to teach your child to be emphatic, and to give as well as receive.

2. Do you ignore positive behavior?

Are you so busy that you don’t notice when you child plays quietly while you work on the computer, or doesn’t interrupt you while you are on the phone. If you don’t stop to comment on your child’s good behaviors when they happen, you will fail to reinforce those behaviors and fail to increase their frequency of occurrence. Remember; give your child attention when they are being good. An excellent way to do this with young children is to carry around a pocket full of chip and give one along with a comment whenever you “catch your child being good”

3. Do you accidentally reward negative behavior?

Conversely, if you stop what you are doing to tend to a child who interrupts while you are on the phone, or talks while you are reading, or try to calm down a child who whines, you are reinforcing those undesirable behaviors. A better way to handle these situations is to establish expectations before you begin your project, and let them know the consequence of interrupting during your project. For instance, “Bob, I’m going to be on the phone for twenty minutes. If you interrupt, when I get off the phone you will have a time out”.

4. Do you fail to set clear limits?

If you don’t tell your special needs child exactly what you want in terms of good behavior, you are likely to have a child who is rude, uncooperative, annoying and disrespectful. For instance, before going into the grocery store you might want to review the rules: Hold onto the cart. Only touch the squeeze ball I’ve given you. Only speak softly. We only get items on the list.

5. Do you fail to enforce rules consistently?

If you are mushy or inconsistent in enforcing rules by telling them “no” and then giving in, children learn that it is profitable to beg, plead, bargain, and harp. Choose your rules carefully. But, once you choose them enforce them unless there is a specific reason to make an exception. If there is such a reason explains the reason and that this is an exception not a modification of the rule. For instance, if bedtime is 8pm, it should always be 8pm. But, if there is going to be a Christmas parade that you are treating your children to, you can say: “Tonight because we are going to the Christmas parade we are making a rare exception to the bedtime rule, and you may stay up until 9pm”. But, if your rule is don’t play with your food; you have to enforce this 24-7 even when you are tired. Don’t argue. Give one reminder. If the rule is not followed give a natural consequence such as removing the food.

6. Do you fail to hold your child accountable?


This is the area I see most parents of children with special needs struggle with. For instance, the homework is too hard. So, the parent argues with the school for modifications or accommodations, and the child learns: “Mom, will rescue me”. To avoid this I recommend a different approach: tell your child to do any parts of the homework they are able to without accommodations in one color ink, then let them do whatever they can with accommodations in another color ink. For instance, the child might do all the math problems they can in pencil. Then, do some more in blue ink using a calculator (so the teacher can differentiate). But, problems still remain. At this point, let the child put away the homework, but tell them, they are responsible to explain to the teacher they did not know how to do these, and need a review of the material. This helps your child learn both accountability and self-advocacy skills.


I remember one time I had to hold my son accountable. He was studying Karate to improve his attention and concentration, but began practicing in the house. I told him all practice had to be outside. Despite this, he and a friend practiced kicks in the bedroom, and kicked a hole in the wall. I did not yell. I did not lecture. I told my son to get his piggy bank and get into the car. We went to the store and he had to buy spackle and paint. We went home and he and his friend had to spackle the wall that night, and paint it the next day. Neither ever practiced Karate in the house again, though both had ADHD.


7. Do you give into temper tantrums?

I can’t say this strongly enough. Never give into tantrums, and never avoid enforcing a rule because you expect a tantrum. To do so, permits your child to become a tyrant. Relenting because of temper tantrum, communicates to your child that temper tantrums are an effective way to get what they want, and increases the likelihood of their occurrence. No matter how tired you are. If you said “No” and the child has a tantrum, stick by your rule. If the child throws things, or makes a mess, hold them accountable to clean up after their tantrum is over.


8. Do you ask others to excuse your child because of his/her disabilities?

I recently went to a restaurant for breakfast, where a mother and father sat with their two boys; probably eight and ten years of age. The eight year old couldn’t make up his mind about what he wanted, no matter what his mother suggested. He began talking louder and louder until he was shouting and shouting: “It’s your fault. Why did you pick this restaurant? I hate it here.” His behavior was disturbing all the patrons, and finally his father said: “I’m sorry, he has ADHD”. Well, that doesn’t cut it. I said: “He needs to learn how to behave in a restaurant. If not, he needs to leave.” His mother was appalled. But, his father, shook his head up, got up and left the restaurant. Everyone there was relieved, and this boy learned a valuable lesson. Having a disability is not an excuse to be rude to others. After ten minutes outside the boy had gained control over himself, and his father brought him back into the restaurant, where he proceeded to order a meal and eat appropriately. Be careful not to excuse bad behavior because your child is disabled. If your child is not behaving appropriately, remove them from the situation and give an appropriate consequence.


9. Do you set a bad role model by acting like a spoiled demanding person yourself?

How you interact with everyone around you serves as a role model for your child. If you whine and complain in front of your child; about their teacher, principal or the next door neighbor, your child will emulate you. Let your child see you take appropriate actions when needed, and being flexible when something is not important. For example, when I discovered that my daughter had left the daycare at school without staff knowing, I contacted the principal and worked with them to revamp their after school program to provide more appropriate activities and levels of supervision. Conversely, when my daughter’s teacher raised her voice at her in frustration one day, I asked my daughter her teacher yelled often. When she said “No”, I asked if she knew what caused her teacher to do that, and she was able to tell me, “I was talking all the time, and not listening”. So, I explained to my child that we would not complain to the teacher because anyone could might their voice in frustration once in a while, and we had to be understanding over small things, and only complain about important things or things that happened over and over and formed a pattern.


10. Do you fail to ask your child to do for others?

This is the biggest faux pax of parents of special needs children. They are always fighting for their children to get what they need, but forget that their children need to learn to give to others. Every special needs child in a home needs to have chores that they do for someone else. For instance, if they take the garbage out, it should not just be their garbage, but everyone’s. If their chore is to polish shoes, it should be the shoes of all the family members. If they go for a walk and see litter, they should be encouraged to stop and pick it up. If they are bringing in your garbage pails from the curb and see their neighbor’s out, say: “Let’s take in Mrs. Smith’s too”. If they see their teacher struggling with a lot of books on the way to her car, they should be encouraged to give her a hand. If they notice another kid who is left out, they should be encouraged to invite that child over. If they read about a family whose house burned down, they should be encouraged to go through their toys and clothes to donate to the family. People, who know how to do for others, are the most valuable people in our society. Your child can learn these crucial skills even though s/he may struggle with disabilities. But, if you don’t teach your special needs child these skills, you will raise a child with a terrible sense of entitlement that will make it hard for your child to develop or maintain meaningful friendships.


Remember, your special needs child already had extra challenges in life. Do not add to them by spoiling your child.


Presented as a Community Service by,

Susan L. Crum, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist


Categories: None

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In