Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Part One: Sympathy Trumps Reason: How Feelings Can Cause Ineffective Parenting Responses

At a recent workshop for parents of children with cystic fibrosis, I (Lisa) was talking with a nurse about kids who will do the craziest things to get attention.

She told me about a little boy who was about three years old and admitted to the hospital. Sadly (and for reasons unknown to me), his parents were unable to be there, so this little boy was basically on his own with the hospital staff.  In case you don't know, hospitals generally do not have the staffing to keep someone in the room full-time with a child. They do what they can with nurse visits, volunteers, and child life specialists but there are times when the child will be alone.

So, this little boy was in his own room, hooked up to lots of monitors and also needed oxygen to breath properly (I do not know the specifics of his medical condition). 

As the nurse tells the story:

"I had just checked on him and he was doing fine so I went to check on my other patients. All of the sudden, I heard "Code" over the intercom and it was my little patient!

So, I ran into the room along with the resuscitation team and discovered that his oxygen tube was disconnected. His lips were blue. So, we fixed him right up and he was fine. I spent some time with him to make sure he was doing okay but then I needed to attend to my other patients so I told him I'd be back soon and left.

About a minute later, you guessed it, "Code!" I ran into the room and there he was: sitting in bed, tubing unplugged, blue lips, and a great big smile on his face. Hmmmm. Now, I am starting to get suspicious. I re-hooked up the oxygen and tried to make sure there was no way he could unhook it accidently. Then, I left. And yes, minutes later came the code.

That little stinker was unhooking his oxygen tube! He figured out that when he did, people came running. At three years of age! I couldn't believe it. So, he got his wish. We set up full-time monitoring when he was awake with volunteers and assistants. Poor little guy, you could hardly blame him, really. I felt bad that he was there all alone and apparently, he did, too!"

This is a great example of how far kids (and some adults, too) will go to get attention. Even negative attention is better than no attention.

So parents, it's important to give your kids enough attention so that their little "love cups" are full and they don't have to act out to get you to notice them.  Even just fifteen or twenty minutes of undivided attention each day can make a difference. This of course applies to siblings of children with special needs, too.

Be sure to look into their little eyes, give them plenty of touch and hugs, and really listen to what they are saying. Be engaged, interested, and responsive. You'll be building a bond a bond that will last for a lifetime.

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