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Socializing Special Kids

Ten important tips to nuture self-reliance and cooperation in relationships.


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Special Kids SocialIf your child is going to succeed in life, she must ultimately learn to function competently without you. She must learn skills to complete necessary tasks, to understand other points of view, to balance her wants with others’ without sacrificing her integrity. You can teach your special-needs child these things.

1 Use coercion as a last resort.

When you manage your child’s behavior using special incentives and penalties, things will seem fine as long as there is no controversy, and your child keeps earning the rewards you control. But this kind of coercion can be problematic when it’s the primary way to socialize within a family. Focus instead on helping your child see the ultimate reason to cooperate: He will have happier, more fruitful experiences if he is kind and skillful. There is no reason to distract him from this powerful incentive. His social life and esteem will improve when he acquires new skills and cares for others. Nothing is more intoxicating than those outcomes; your child needs no other compensation.

2 Stay calm.

When you model calm behavior, you simply act in the way you want your child to, and he learns by observation. When your child is overreacting, do not escalate the problem. Keep your tone of voice calm and reasonable even as you repeat yourself. As a last resort, stop responding until your child settles. If necessary, create physical space between you and your child to facilitate “quieting down.”

3 Actively address and resolve problems.

Some may think that reducing coercion means letting your child do whatever he wants. Not so. Your child can learn to conform to expectations with a less forceful management style. You might allow some failures to occur that would end more quickly with coercion, but you are not idle; you are methodically developing mature behavior. Reduce  pressure tactics to persuade in more subtle ways. Instead of solving problems for your child, try asking him, “How do you want to handle that problem?” or “What are your options (choices, priorities)?”

4 Be patient.

You may have to revisit a problem many times before progress becomes evident. Most people usually need more than one trial to change any behavior; relapse is expected. You can have a productive discussion with your child, and he may still behave in the same old way. Instead of giving up or resorting to coercion, stay on the path of finding a mutually agreeable solution. Maintain the view that, over time, new learning will eventually take hold.

5 Suspend judgment.

Under some circumstances, evaluation can stimulate achievement and be helpful. But your child may relate to you more honestly and show more attentiveness if you suspend judgment and hear him out. You want your child to open up to you, and that will feel easier for him when he feels safe from criticism. You can put him at ease and make it comfortable for him to speak his mind by talking with him in a frank and respectful manner. Impartial statements about observations and facts will make it easier to build a relationship that both of you value and enjoy.

Negative language isn't the answer ->

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