Having Patience While Parenting a Child with Special Needs

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Are parents of children with special needs automatically patient? Life as MOM contributor Deanna shares about having patience while parenting her daughter who has Down Syndrome.

Having Patience While Parenting a Child with Special Needs | Life as MOM

Does having a child with special needs automatically guarantee that you are given the gift of patience?

I recently heard someone griping about this. That they had a child with special needs, but hadn’t magically become super patient and that it bugged them when they heard people saying how that was a bonus for having a child with special needs: a shower of patience comes raining down on you as you parent amidst extra hurdles.

Coming from the girl who once painted over still wet drywall mud because she was tired of waiting for the month long ceiling project to be done (and you can still see the stripe under the paint to this day), I would say that while parenting a child with special needs has taught me patience, it’s also more of a “continuing to teach me patience” scenario.

This isn’t a one-time deposit that covers all of life.

Having Patience While Parenting a Child with Special Needs | Life as MOM

For example, if you were to peek into my house for an afternoon, no doubt you would see Addison (age 4, Down syndrome) with one thing on her mind. Normally this is “Elmo” which means that she wants my phone to watch the Elmo videos that are there for long doctors appointments. Another common request is “cookie”.

My answer (most of the time) is “no” because I have other activities in mind for her than sitting with my phone for an afternoon.

This more often than not goes something like this:

Addison: “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo.”

Me (very calmly and patiently): “No, sweetie. I want you to play on the deck with your brother. No Elmo.”

Addison: “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo.”

Me (oozing with love and patience): “No, love. No Elmo. Please go play with Carter.”

Addison: “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo.”

(She will ask this every minute for the next 3 hours.)

And for the first 150 times, my answer is super patient, and my voice is calm.

We then hit #151

Addison: “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo.”


Underneath it all, I am still the girl who stared at the unfinished ceiling and decided to rush things along because she just couldn’t wait one more minute to get the room painted and put back together.

Later I go back to Addison and I tell her how sorry I am that I yelled at her. I love her, and she needs to obey and stop asking when I tell her to, but it still wasn’t right that I got angry. She always stares at me with a solemn look.

  • Does she understand my apology?
  • Will she not ask for Elmo 180 times tomorrow?
  • If she does, will I keep my cool?

And since this is a common occurrence, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my need for patience with her and how to get more of it. With 2 toddlers and a baby in my care, patience is a currency that runs dry faster than the bottom of the kids’ glasses on hot chocolate night.

Having Patience While Parenting a Child with Special Needs | Life as MOM

When I saw someone post that “special need parents are automatically patient”, I laughed. And then I cried a little bit inside. I wish it were true. But I find it’s something that I have to work at. Hard.

I find when I start seeing red ,and I still have hours left of patient parenting to do, the only thing I can do is pray for more. I stop, take a short time-out in an empty room, and beg the Lord to please give me the patience to teach lovingly even when yelling is all I have left. More often than not, I don’t feel different immediately after. I go back to where the parenting needs to take place, take a deep breath, and draw from strength deeper than my own.

“No, no sweetie. No Elmo today. Go play.”

And the paycheck of patience that was just deposited into my account gets me through the rest of the day.

I wish it was a one-time inheritance — a fortune of patience given to me along with my child’s diagnosis that I can draw upon for years on end. But it’s not. It’s a paycheck that never lasts long enough.

But thankfully, there is always more where it came from.

I just have to ask, take breaks when I can, and trust that if I have been put in the situation with no available help or break– there is strength for me to stay calm even if I feel like exploding.

Another thing that deposits bonus amounts of patience into my account? The good moments. And believe me, there are many.

So back to the question: “Does having a child with special needs automatically guarantee that you are given the gift of patience?”

No. In my experience there is nothing automatic about it. You will have to work at it just like you have to work at all aspects of parenting. But having a child with special needs has given me a higher motivation to work on this area in my life. And for that I am thankful.

What do you do when you feel your patience dwindling?


Deanna is passionate about special needs advocacy and new motherhood- two things that go hand in hand for her right now. Three kids four and under, the oldest of which has Down syndrome- keeps her quite busy. But there’s always enough time left at the end of the day to write all about the insanity at her blog Everything and Nothing from Essex. And to laugh- always, always there is time to laugh. Technically labeled a “special” mother, Deanna really finds nothing special about herself. Truly, special needs parenting is just about taking it one day at a time- enjoying the highs, sloughing through the lows, and stumbling through the mundane while drinking too much coffee. Read all of Deanna’s posts here.

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  1. I’m so glad that this was posted. I know of a mom who recently had a baby with Downs, and I don’t know if she has anyone IRL that truly understands her struggles. I’m going to point my friend to this sweet lady’s blog so that she can pass it on to this other mom. Thank you!

  2. I completely agree that while I do have a lot of patience, I still need to work on staying calm. It can be so exhausting and overwhelming to be a parent to a child with special needs. I try to step away and take a few deep breaths before yelling, but it can be difficult to not just respond immediately.

  3. I feel ya. Child # 5 has ODD. ADHD and OCD all rolled into one. So he can get stuck on the same thing for that day or for the next couple. I am learning to deal. My other 6 children and husband don’t always understand nor do I always get him and when he has his melt downs and I wonder why I can get a little perturbed in it all. I try not to lose it but it is hard somedays. My brain doesn’t work like his. I don’t always get why we are having melt downs. sometimes I get mystified and ask God why He chose me to be his mom. God obviously knows I am low on patience. I keep asking Him not tot show me patience through my kids but apparently that’s what God has in mind. I take each day as it comes.

  4. Oh, great post, Deanna! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here.
    While my son has different special needs than your daughter, he also LOVES to ask the same question on repeat… many, MANY times a day. It’s a small thing, but, yes, it requires patience. Among multiple developmental and medical needs, he’s also a sensory seeker and *needs* deep sensory input (jumping, crashing, pulling, pushing) for his nervous system to feel balanced. That takes quite a bit of physical and emotional patience and energy!

    I love what you said here: “But having a child with special needs has given me a higher motivation to work on this area in my life. And for that I am thankful.” YES. Having children, especially one with special needs, has made me SO intentional about so many things. It’s amazing and challenging and beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your heart here!

    1. Thank you for giving such a moving glimpse into your world. Now I can be more helpful and encouraging to moms of special needs kids.
      God bless you and all mothers of special needs kids. I cannot imagine the patience needed! May God give each of you what you need.