How to Discipline your Bipolar Child

It is not my son’s fault he has Bipolar Disorder.  That being said, it never fails that when he does something wrong, something he knows he shouldn’t be doing or saying or acting a specific way he knows is going to get him into trouble. His reaction is not one of a “Typical child”, which makes disciplining him all that more frustrating.

When my son hits his brother, acts up, throws a fit, says he hates me.  My motherly instincts tell me consequences vs. punishment is the proper way to deal with each situation.  However during these growing episodes which all children go through, my son goes into manic mode.

The manic phase in children with bipolar…

Kids in the manic phase can often experience exceedingly high self-esteem followed by an inflated sense of power or mind set that they are the King of the World, running the house or at school.  Yep, that’s my son!

“If you don’t stop this behavior I would like you to go for a think-time out.”

“I don’t think so.” >>> followed by a giggle as though I’m off my rocker for even contemplating that idea.

“You are going to spend time in your room for misbehaving as a consequence.”

“No, you are going to spend time in your room!” >>> followed by a leap off the top stair, arms spread out like an eagle. “Look at me fly…”

“We do not act this way. This is not appropriate.”

“You are not good. You hate me! I hate you! I’m leaving!” >>> followed by a walk to the actual front door and out he goes.

Now this defiance is normal for most “spirited” children who would rather poke and prod and engage in battle than listen to their parents.  One moment kids with bipolar are extremely happy, silly, giddy even.  But their moods change rapidly.

My son shows a decreased need for sleep, excessive chatter and even self-hatred or thinking others hate him because of his misbehavior.  So what is a parent of a bipolar child to do?

Teach your child despite having bipolar they are responsible for their behavior. Consequences vs. Punishment.

My son has already lost friendships, joy and laughter from having bipolar disorder. Like I said, it’s not his fault. When he rages or acts up, he is unable to process what is going on around him. Here are some of the steps I take…

Wait until the rage is over so that I can talk to him calmly about ways to handle the situation.

  1. Use consequences instead of punishments, a teaching way to encourage better behavior, encourage self-worth and understand of the situation.
  2. Use easy examples he can understand: Role playing works. Putting him in the middle of the action, using facial recognition and emotion to elevate his understanding.
  3. Finding an alternative way to release the aggression. My son has a punching bag in his room with boxing gloves. Yes even at six. He can learn to release his anger and frustration in a healthy and non-harming way that doesn’t involve hurting someone else.
  4. Show less emotion when he fails, does something wrong, acts up. Less emotion helps to decrease the emotional response. Showing him that he is safe to make mistakes, safe to mess it all up and try it again. It’s a journey.

No matter how you discipline your bipolar child, remember they did not ask to have bipolar disorder and often do not even understand the emotional and mental process of why their behavior is so erratic.

Provide lots of love, care, patience and understanding and that will go a long way to helping your child reach their potential not just in life but in themselves.

Happy Parenting! 

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