I haven’t blogged much lately – it’s been busy here with me commencing studying and the kids going back to school and therapies etc.
This year – Ella is in her second year of high school in grade 8, Harley has gone into grade 4 and Lucas into grade 1. They have all settled in nicely as far as school goes but as is usually the way – home life hasn’t been anywhere near as smooth sailing.
Harley has rediscovered anger and aggression and Lucas has begun to push boundaries in a big way again. But by far our biggest issue at the moment is trying to teach them both about consequences. It continues to be an extremely exhausting uphill battle.
Neither of them (but particularly Harley) seem to be able to grasp the concept that what they say and do now will ultimately dictate whether or not they are praised or disciplined for their behaviour(s) in the near future. It’s frustrating and so far I haven’t seen a lot of progress. But I’m not giving up just yet!
I’ve been asking questions such as: “How do you teach a child who isn’t able to even name their own emotions (let alone realise that other people have feelings and desires) that they need to factor all of that in when they are making decisions that may also affect others?”
And: “How do you correct them without making them feel like they have failed or broken some unspoken rule that they aren’t aware even exists?” I don’t want to break their spirit and cause them to feel useless or stupid.
Well – I’m honestly not really sure because we’ve also been on a steep learning curve as we try to parent without having any idea what we’re actually doing. But the good news is that WE as parents are able to learn from past parenting failures and therefore use a different approach the NEXT time that a situation arises. Because WE’VE learned that what we were doing just wasn’t working. So we can no longer use the excuse that “they don’t get it” because the onus falls on US to become teachable instead. Especially if we hold any hopes of actually training our boys to be responsible and caring adults one day.
Admitting that we haven’t got it all together is paramount to achieving success in any aspect of parenting. Stepping down off the pedestal and continually looking for new and better ways to parent is the only way that we will ever find what works for us and our children.
This week , I was driving along in the car with my Mum and Ella. I pulled up to a set of traffic lights and looked into the rear view and saw my beautiful teenaged girl sitting there quietly singing along to her iPod. When she noticed me, she smiled and gave me a cute little wave and I immediately got a flashback to her at 18 months old sitting in her car seat kicking her legs and laughing as we drove along. She was SUCH a delightful baby. When she came along, our lifestyle barely changed, our social life continued and we only ever had to say “no” or “stop” to her and we would get immediate obedience and absolute compliance. She never pushed boundaries (and still doesn’t), she never threw tantrums and she always seemed to slot in effortlessly anywhere that we went.
But guess what? We parent our boys in the EXACT same way that we parented (and continue to parent) her.The house rules and behaviour requirements haven’t changed, the expectations are exactly the same and whilst she continues to be pleasant to live with – the boys are increasingly challenging and pushing us to the limits of our patience.
And this is why we KNOW that we aren’t necessarily crappy parents so much as we need to find a different but equally as effective method of teaching the boys. It’s not that we think Ella is a better child, it’s just that she learns in a more mainstream way than they do and she adjusts to and understands the unspoken rules of society much better than her brothers. We were never in a position where we had to research and trial other less conventional methods of parenting with her, the methods that ‘everybody else’ used worked for her. We didn’t realise how just fortunate we were.
And because we had her first – I can understand why parents of children like Ella wrongly assume that autism is no more than a badly behaved, badly parented and spoiled child. This was one of the factors that led me to starting this blog. I want to scream from the rooftops: IT’S NOT ALWAYS THE PARENT’S FAULT!!!!!
I truly believe that ANY child whether they have a special need or not can be taught anything. It’s just a matter of finding out what works for each child individually and not applying a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. I am all for it in the classroom and in social situations, I want my boys to be given opportunities to flourish and I regularly quote the phrase: ‘Fair isn’t every child getting the same thing but every child getting what they need’. But embarrassingly – It’s only been recently that I have started to apply this same approach to my parenting style and start to think outside the box to find a way that will work for US as a family.
I have read a LOT this past week on teaching consequences and the best piece of advice that I found was to go back to the tried and tested social story.
So guess what I’ll be doing this week? I’ve also decided to try to make the most of Harley’s visual brain and have settled on the idea of teaching the boys using a RED door for a bad consequence (STOP) and a GREEN one for good (GO). Because it will be much easier for them to visualise and recall which door that a particular past behaviour has led them to so that they can LEARN from their past experiences than for them to recall a whole bunch of confusing and meaningless words.
And once they’ve learned how to connect behaviours to the right or wrong doors – we will be well on our way to success. Wish me luck! I hope I’m onto something!
Once it’s completed I will post it here and on the Wonderfully Wired Facebook Page so stay tuned.