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When You Feel Guilty About Disciplining Your Child With Medical Issues

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Let’s admit it, folks. Discipline is a tough subject to talk about when you live the hospital life. The reality is our little ones aren’t always on their best behavior, whether they’re sick or not. Though it’s a difficult topic, and there are many schools of thought, let’s blow this topic wide open. When you’re raising a child with medical issues, discipline seems so much more difficult. Your kiddo is sick, and not just any kind of sick, life-threatening sick. So how do you get to the discipline through all the guilt?

My daughter, Lyla, was 15 months old when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. It was a tough age for hospital life. She was all about exploring, learning and testing boundaries. There were times when she had energy just like any other child and had to be told “no.” As her mom, I didn’t want to cause her any more tears than she already let out. We would often feel guilty, thinking she would end up back at the hospital. It was an emotional struggle, but for my husband and I, the solution was clear. Not knowing the outcome of Lyla’s illness, we decided to stay positive and remember there was a chance she would pull through. What kind of child do we want her to be?

Discipline can be the difference between raising a respectful, compassionate and grateful child or a bratty, spoiled, entitled little one. Our job as parents is to love and care for our kids, guide them and teach them wrong from right. Whether our children are ill or not, it’s our job raise them with gracious, respectful qualities and a grateful attitude. Here are our suggestions on how to discipline a child with an illness:

1. First and foremost, always make sure discipline comes from a place of love.

If you or your little one feel upset, wait a little while and cool your jets. It’s amazing how quickly we can stoop down to a childlike level, so it’s best for everyone to have a cool and calm head before disciplining your little one.

2. Use your words and explain why.

It’s easy to underestimate their level of understanding, but even toddlers can understand sentiment and tone. Explain what they did wrong, taking their age into account. Tell them how it made you feel and why they shouldn’t behave that way.

3. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Be a team.

Talk about discipline before matters come up and be a united front. This way, your intuitive little one won’t perceive a weak link in the chain. They can wear your down! So try to avoid them from figuring out who is the one aching to give in.

4. Always follow through.

Most of our kids are already home-bound or hospital-bound, so maybe that means their discipline won’t extend as far as a child with less limits. But if you say no, follow through. If you set a time limit on their iPad, follow through. Kids learn very quickly, so if you say something, stick to your word.

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5. Fight the guilt.

Our little ones are capable of learning manners, having structured time for learning and many other wonderful things. As parents, we can find so many things to delight them. A little guidance and discipline won’t make them hate us, and they will appreciate it as they grow older.

6. Be strong against outside opinions.

There is no precedence for raising a child with medical needs. So many of your friends and family (especially family) will have no idea how to handle behavior issues. In fact, they may be shocked to know you set limits and teach them manners because so many people feel bad for them. Don’t be one of those people. Your kids are strong and courageous. There is no need to pity them. They are just like any other child with hopes, dreams, fears and joys.

7. Last but not least, always do what you feel is best for your child and their circumstances.

There are no set rules for this life we lead and no one way on how to do things. Some kids live in the hospital or aren’t allowed to leave the home. Some have much more freedom. There are some children who can engage in more activities than others, but may be restricted in socialization due to medical or immunity issues. Come up with a personal plan of action and stick to it.

I believe the biggest and perhaps most important aspect of disciplining a child with a major medical illness is never to feel bad for them.

Follow this journey on Hey Little Fighter.

Originally published: September 17, 2015
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