Disciplining per se is difficult. Finding the right strategy in combination with the appropriate level of strictness but still show love and affection is a hard formula to master. Imagine how hard it can be to discipline a child with a mental disorder which has the classical symptom of the shifting moods. This is where the challenge and the test of patience come in for families with children diagnosed with bipolar disorder. According to experts, the basic and the general blueprint for disciplining is still applicable to a child with bipolar disorder since mostly, they are children. There are just some modifications when it comes to specific methods since there should be accommodation and understanding of the condition.
According to John Preston, PsyD, “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.”
Establish the Foundation
Define The Rules And Limits
Rules and regulations in the household might need to be explicitly explained to the child in a manner that is understandable and comprehensible to his developmental stage. Never assume that the child already knows how to act and behave appropriately. Spell to them precisely the cause and effect of specific behaviors to its appropriate consequence (punishment). If needed, it can be written down and placed in a strategic location where it is easily accessible to the child. Don’t set rules that are difficult to achieve always consider the child’s condition and what is essential.
Valerie Acosta, LPC said “Bipolar clients often seek help only when depressed. Because of this, their manic or hypomanic symptoms are often not reported or observed.”
Consistency Is The Key
This is the hard part. Implementation of the rules should be fair and consistent. Don’t give in to tantrums, whining, and tears. Be matter of fact and give the consequence. When implementing the consequences, clearly explain that criticisms are directed on the action/behavior and not to him as a child or a person. Also, emphasize that feeling angry or sad is not penalized but inapplicable behaviors done due to the emotions are. Do not forget to acknowledge the feelings of the child.
If the child is on the verge of crying or starting to have tantrums, immediately redirect the behavior into something useful and productive. Probably, give them some art activities or take them out for a walk.
Manage Difficult Emotions
Emotion Is Neither Good Or Bad; Behaviors Have Consequences
Everyone is entitled to their feelings. Encourage them to express their opinions as well as their mood swings openly. What they are feeling is not punishable. It is how they handle and act on these feelings in the form of behavior. Teach them to take responsibility for their action and how they treat people. It will be embedded in their minds that having bipolar disorder is not a valid reason to act out.
Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC said “Some clinicians also may consider prescribing exercise in light of a recent study that found decreased exercise can be a trigger for bipolar depression.”
Stay In Control
It is natural to feel overwhelmed by the situation. Do you catch yourself on the verge of yelling and getting angry? Stay calm. Your child is mimicking your behavior as well. You wouldn’t want your child to justify their bad actions on instances they have observed in yours.
Plan Behavior Alternative
Brainstorm with your child possible behavioral options to help them calm down. Examples of these are when there is an urge to use violence: Go to take a personal timeout, hit a pillow, exercise, and deep breathing exercise.
Help Your Child Manage The Symptoms
This is extremely crucial in child-rearing a child with bipolar. Be there for your child. Listen to their needs, monitoring their response to the medication and don’t hesitate to bring your questions and concerns with their psychiatrist, therapist or pediatrician. Be your child’s advocate.