There is no such thing as an unintentionally good parent.

In order for a parent to be able to help manage their child's behaviour, they must be able to manage their own. 

If you are in control of yourself, your child can be confident about allowing you to help them be in control of themselves. Parents who regularly yell, make threats and respond in an aggressive manner will elicit a negative response from their child. Part of being in control is being consistent, and if you are in a two-parent family you must both be able to talk about the approach you take and have a united approach. The saying “united we stand, divided we fall” is especially applicable for parents. It is difficult if one parent is in control of themself and the other is not. Having children affected by learning and behavioural difficulties in your family will test you and affect the whole family.



Children learn from example. 

It is no surprise to learn that children learn by example. This is why it is important that you are in control of yourself, especially when under pressure. You are the adult, they are the child. One of the best things you can do for your family, if you find yourself consistently struggling with managing your own anger responses, is to seek help. Consistency in your behaviour is helpful so your child will be able to predict with some certainty what your responses will be. If you are erratic in your approach you will be more likely to have a child who does the same. It is important to understand that children with learning difficulties are often inconsistent with their performance of a variety of daily tasks. What they can do well on a good day they will not be able to do on a struggle day.



Develop a range of techniques and skills that you can use.

 When developing these techniques you need to keep in mind that children with learning and behavioural difficulties need to be treated differently to others. It can be useful to talk with other parents who have developed some successful techniques to manage difficult child behaviours and which promote children learning to be in control of themselves.

Be aware that these children may have difficulty with non-verbal communication so tapping your foot, hands on hips and firm eye contact may not work for them. Punishing them rarely, if ever, works. It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If what you are doing is not working then try something different.

If you haven’t developed a range of techniques, there is every chance that when the pressure is on, you will be unable to effectively manage your own responses, and may be reactive instead of proactive. 

Gain an understanding of the condition your child has.

If you understand how and why your child behaves the way they do you will be in a better position to understand them and develop appropriate techniques to manage their behavior (and in turn help them manage their own behavior). We accept that adults have performance anxiety but we often don’t give the same recognition to children. If children are in a constant heightened state of tension/anxiety, they will not be able to think clearly and their behaviour will likely be inappropriate.

Many children with learning difficulties experience undiagnosed anxiety disorders so it may be useful to seek the advice of your doctor, school guidance officer or another professional who is able to help. Investigating possible causes for the learning or behaviour problem, e.g. diet, food additives, sleep disorders etc may also be useful.

Develop a philosophy of child raising that includes the statement - “first do no harm”.

When developing your parenting tools, continually refer back to your parenting philosophy to ensure the tools fit with the philosophy, and change what needs to be changed. Unfortunately some of the common parenting techniques do cause harm to children with learning difficulties, as they don’t process information the same as most children. This is not a case of intentional harm-causing, but the fact that no child comes with an instruction manual!

Routine and structure for the normal day-to-day things. For example, having a plan for...

  • getting out of bed and ready for school
  • getting home from school
  • doing homework, jobs and play time
  • eating the evening meal
  • getting ready for bed
  • behaviour management (both proactive and reactive)

... can help a great deal, as children are consistently aware of what is expected of them on a daily basis.

Have the plans written down as check lists using pictures and diagrams if needed, and having them in accessible, visible areas will be useful.




Triple P is in 25 Countries of the World and is one of the most researched parenting programs around. I highly recommend them if you need some extra help.

Click on the Triple P logo to go to the Triple P web site where you will find some excellent PDF sheets that you can download and books and DVDs that you can purchase.




Typically children who have difficulty reading have increased levels of stress. If you haven’t done the Reading Difficulty Simulation, try it now. Once you have done this exercise you will have a greater understanding of the stress and frustration children with reading difficulties experience. 

When a child is stressed they have the same hormones and chemicals surging through their body that an adult under stress does, and these are known to have a negative impact on the developing child’s brain. These are the chemicals that elicit the ’fight or flight’ response. The child must either stay and fight the situation or do their best to escape the situation. Either way the hormones insist that the child move while at the same time being told to stay still.

When an adult is under stress we accept that they will not perform as well and that their ability to concentrate will be reduced. When we know about the stress we tend to give them some consideration and might even suggest they have some time off. This is unfortunately not usually an option we allow for children. 

Therefore, as a parent one of the best things you can do for your child is to help keep their stress levels under control.



How you can help with school

  1. Let the school know that until the stress level of the child is brought under control the most important thing for you and your child is the child’s mental health and not their academic progress.Some teachers may have a genuine concern that at sometime in the future they might be sued for not making sure every student has done the work set for them. If needed put something in writing to allay that fear.

  2. Work with the school in reducing the amount of homework that your child does. At this point it is quite common for teachers to be concerned that the child is getting away with something. Let the teacher know that this will probably just be a short term arrangement and that if it looks like the child is taking advantage of the process to let you know and together you can decide what to do.

  3. Request that the child be allowed to have recess breaks instead of staying in to complete work. Again, at this point some teachers become concerned that the child will be getting away with just not doing what they don’t want to do and that the other students will try to do the same. They might even mention that it’s not fair if your child gets away with this while others aren’t allowed to. The practical reality is that it is rare for this to happen. A DVD called “How Difficult Can This Be?” by Richard Lavoie (particularly the section dealing with 'fairness') is very helpful for teachers and parents. In essence, fairness is not giving everyone the same thing, it is giving everyone what they need to succeed.For example it would be unfair to give everyone the same prescription for their glasses or insist that everyone wear them or everyone not wear them. We see that this is an unreasonable expectation, and so is treating all children the same when they have different needs.

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