Saturday, 14 April 2012

My Kryptonite

Naughty? Who Me?
I've been thinking a bit about discipline today. I am a member of various different online support groups for parents or family members with children/siblings with Down Syndrome. The issue of discipline can be a contentious one as there are so many different opinions on the subject, as there are with parenting 'regular' kids. The following are just some of my personal thoughts on the matter. I am in no way saying this is how it should be done.

I have witnessed different extremes when it comes to parenting kids with Down Syndrome. There are those who feel that their children already have enough to deal with, being born with a disability, so they should be allowed to get away with more. Yet there are others who are very rigid and strict because they want their children to be able to fit in with other people as much as they can and not stand out it any way.

This is Felix's biting face...Imagine your finger between those teeth!
Felix is getting to the age where he will deliberately do things, knowing he will get a reaction from us. The two things he does, which have made us think a bit more about discipline lately, are biting us and grabbing our noses. He thinks it's hilarious. He grits his teeth, shakes his head and his face goes red as he clamps down on our fingers or grabs our nose. We have to try so hard not to laugh because it does look so funny, but it hurts! We have probably created a monster because, until recently, we have laughed instead of correcting his behaviour. Part of the reason for that is because he's so cute, but the other part is because it's easy to forget that he is 18 months old. He is smaller than the other kids were and obviously more delayed in his development because he has Down Syndrome.

Bit of a tantrum
This got me to thinking. Felix is very smart. He knows exactly what he's doing! He knows that by behaving in a certain way, he will get some sort of a reaction whether it be a laugh or a 'No!' He knows he's being naughty because of the little glint he gets in his eye just before he does it. If we do tell him off (we've found placing him on the floor away from us and ignoring him to be most effective), he will sometimes crack a bit of a tantrum in protest for a few seconds. So much for the myth that people with Down Syndrome are well behaved and happy all the time!

I've read stories of people with teenage children with Down Syndrome who will actually say when they are told off (with a grin), "I didn't know that was wrong. I have Down Syndrome!" What smart kids! I can see Felix twisting us around his finger in the same way already. His eyes say, "But I'm so little and cute. I have learning delays and don't really understand what you're asking me!" We're onto you Felix!

I think, with Felix, we are going to be as strict as we were with our other kids; possibly slightly more so. We would like him to grow up with nice manners and be polite. One Mum I've chatted to (who has an adult son with Down Syndrome) told me that she wasn't as worried about whether her son scored as high as he could on a Maths test or if he knew all the states in the US. She pointed out that everyone appreciates a person with nice manners and social graces, so that's what she's focussed on with her son. She believes that correct behaviour in social settings is one of the most important things in order to be accepted and included. I tend to agree with her.

My Kryptonite
We are nearing the 'terrible twos' and although Felix is a very easy baby, we know there will be times when he will test us. Our plan is to be as consistent as possible with him, giving him rules and boundaries (most people with Down Syndrome appreciate structure). We will try hard to teach him nice manners and the acceptable way to behave. It's going to be tough because I'm certain he will try and get away with what he can. I'm sure he has super powers in those big blue eyes; they are my kryptonite!

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