Month: May 2017

Many Ages In One- How To Raise An Exceptional Child And Truly Reach Them

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I am tired. So very tired. So is Michael. He has needed tighter boundaries from us for a very long time which we thought we were providing as parents. Apparently, we were not doing that and he was falling through space feeling helpless as much as we were. The wonderful professionals we are working with also reminded me of something Michael’s first speech language pathologist had told us. She had said that when Michael would start catching up on developmental milestones, he would move at warp speed. Consequently as his parents, we would need to learn to do that too. We would need to learn to adjust to the fact that at any given day we are raising a child who ranges at any given minute or hour from 2-10 years old respectively. A good friend of mine joked about this. She had said today my son is 3. Yesterday he was 8 (which was his chronological age at the time). The frightening aggression we have been seeing in Michael steadily going up in the last 2 years is only sometimes preteen hormones. The rest of the time it is, gasp, the terible two’s and three’s, as shocking as that is.

When we spoke to our new team recently, they reminded us that besides extremely tight boundaries, Michael would also need timeouts. Excuse me? Have you recently tried putting your 10 year old in a timeout in his room and having him stay there? Didn’t think so! The thing is, with a 2 year old you carry him there, put him/her in their crib, and leave. Child calms down. You go in an get them. It’s over. With a 10 year old there is no picking up. A few times we’ve managed after yelling and tears to get him to go on his own. Twice we’vve had to physically drag him which is not pleasant for any of us. Fortunately, after a bad afternoon over the weekend, Michael did eventually go and stay in his room, but an intended 10 min timeout became a 25 minute one due to screaming, swearing and banging things. Afterwards, when he was calm he realized had he gone immediately to his room to use his calm down strategies he would have been there much less time. Sigh. That’s when we realized like a small child, there would need to be LOTS of practice of this calm/down strategy for him not to see his room as punishment.

It is becoming a little easier for us as parents now that we are seeing Michael’s behavior and testing for what it is, a mixture of fear, boundary testing and growth across the ages that is normal for him to exhibit. We, as his parents, are also reclaiming our authority slowly and our confidence as parents through working with an amazing coach and remembering as hard as it is, NOT TO TAKE OUR CHILD PERSONALLY. This is the tricky one. However, I see now that he does not understand some of the things that he says to us. Many of these things are said in anger without thinking. That is another thing we are slolwy teaching him, think before you speak. It is not just to earn a reward or get praise, but also because words  hurt people and actions can damage more than just property. I see Michael’s anxiety level going down too, as his father an I give him clear, concise boundaries and rules. He knows where he is and is going even if it is sometimes boring. Before, he was rebelling for the sake of  rebelling. At first I jokingly nicknamed him James Dean, that famous actor from “A Rebel Without A Cause.” Then it was not so funny when every little daily event became a battle. I’m glad that slowly we are getting back on an even keel as parents and child.

Exceptional Parents, how old is your Exceptional Child developmentally and chronologically? Remember, there is their real age at any given time and their number age so as a parent you are juggling many than one child at a time, and if you have two or more Exceptional Children, it can be real challenge. Take a deep breath, find your center, get a new team if you need one to help guide you and your family, and never up on yourself or your child. Let out anger, frustration, and have a small pity party if you need to. But then, get back in the driver’s seat. You can do this. Things will get better. Until next time.

Remembering to Love Your Child Through Anger and Hurt

back view, child, countrysideThis weekend with Michael- some very good and sweet moments and then some awful ones with fighting, anger, tears and then exhaustion for all of us. When this happens, I would feel so drained, emotionally and physically, that I would sometimes momentarily forget that I love this person who is making me so unhappy and is frustrating me by fighting when he does not need to. You see, if we have someone in our life that makes us unhappy, in other cases we can get them out of our life. It is not always easy, as in the case of a partner, parent or co-worker for example, but it is doable .But not for a mother. Once you are a mother, you are a mother for life and beyond, and it hurts when you have to hear terrible words being said at you. The worst thingis that the child does not mean them or understand all that they are saying to you. You know this as a an Exceptional Mom, but they pierce you just the same. And it affects how you feel about your child. There is the constant battle inside for self-protection against this hurt towards pushing yourself to rise above your own anger as this is your child and you love them deep down inside even when you don’t like them.

This has been my road with Michael. Two steps forward, two steps back, and constant charts, emails, verbal reminders to him and myself, to regulate anger, stress and start again the next day. It is a roller coaster and one where as a parent you start to second guess yourself. But then you have a magical day with your child or a magical few hours, and you see you are on the right track. Yesterday I saw my little boy vibrant, laughing enjoying himself at the local splash pad/park near our home and I finally let out the breath I had been holding since our huge fight in the morning and I reminded myself, we are moving forward. Things will get better. Michael commented, “Mommy, you are not talking in your angry voice. That makes me happy.” I added that I was happy he was listening and handling his emotions. Michael also told me, ”I will use my strategies when I don’t like what I hear.” And he has been getting better. Onwards and upwards.

Exceptional Parents, do you have your moments when you feel your love for your child is not enough to get you both through a tough period? Do you feel like giving up sometimes? This is so hard to admit as Moms, but completely normal. Don’t feel bad. Feel your pain and anger. Let it out when you are alone and it is a safe time to do it. And learn from it. Your child needs time to learn new skills, develop new ways of coping. Let that breath out and start believing that it will get better. You and your child will make it work. Until next time.

Writing It All Down, Schedules And How They Can Help Exceptional Families

 

So I am coming full circle with something I thought we may have been done with-schedules and writing things down for Michael. I have always been someone who lives by my schedule. And as a writer, I love to write things down to organize myself creatively and otherwise. Also, in healing from depression I found the art of writing down my day and the stressful parts of my day to be extremely helpful in conquering my fears and anxieties. Michael was the king of pictos and way before he could talk as well as now we had a daily and nightly schedule with pictos and words for him. When his anxiety went up as he got older, we began drawing using stick figures to illustrate his day. One day in particular that he was stressed, I remember drawing and writing it out for him. Then earlier this year he somehow got it into his head that he was a baby if he adhered to a written schedule. It was no matter that I showed him my schedule on my phone or Dad his, until the professionals we have started working with showed this to Michael, he did not believe he needed it. And guess what? Last night when one of our team was at the house and mentioned that we try a return to schedules for his entire routine with times attached, a little light went off in my head and I had what you could say was an “AHA” moment. What was the moment, you ask? Well, I thought to myself that when our days were super structured with schedules and immense detail, we did not have the behaviors and aggression we are seeing now. Of course, Michael is older, catching up on milestones and hormonal, but still, this could be the answer we were looking for. Boundaries. He needs more boundaries.

All children need boundaries with their parents. They need to know that no means no. They need to learn to handle stress and disappointment. And they need to know to handle regulating themselves. I realized that I had given Michael much less choice when he was younger and less verbal. He also had taken me more at my word and tested less as, well, he was younger. Now it’s the case of Dad and I maintaining strong ties and strict rules to teach him boundaries, respect for us as he has for all adults around him, and not being afraid to handle the fallout. It’s what we say and that’s that, no matter how hard he screams and rails and what we need to do to be consistent. Things have started getting easier and when there are problems they are bad, but the other days the respect and understanding is growing. Exceptional Parenting is hard, but patience is something I am honing and I remember to think of Michael like the kids and families I work with. I need to stay calm, firm, talk less, and follow through.

Exceptional Parents, does writing down a schedule work for your Exceptional Child and your Exceptional Family? Do you or your child find it more stressful? Remember, you need to do what works for you and your child, think of how the techniques you use can help your family, and be willing to experiment a little. Don’t despair. There is always trial and error. You will eventually find what works and then you and your children will head over to the next stage in your relationship. Until next time.

Finding Your Confidence, Finding Your Exceptional Tribe- How To Help Your Family Overcome Challenges

 

 

So yesterday felt like the first day of the rest of my life, as the saying goes, or at least, the rest of my exceptional parenting life. Things have been rough with Michael for awhile, though of course we’ve had our good moments. It occurred to me that some of the wonderful professionals we’ve recently started working with on “Team Michael” are right. We had lost Michael’s respect somewhere along the way. He was testing us and we responded with fear due to the escalating aggression, a perfecttly normal reaction, but one which as parents we needed to steel ourselves against. You see, all those years ago an early speech  therapist had warned us that when Michael caught up with his milestones it would be incredible, but that we might experience such a speedy catch up, that we would be dealing with two and three year old behaviors in a much older child. Bingo! That has been what has been occurring along with, GASP, regular puberty. God help me. But at least now, Dad and I know what we are dealing with.

We are also seeing Michael seeing as we put up healthy boundaries with us (no chances for hitting, swearing, breaking things), and giving him praise when he does regulate with words NOT things, we are seeing a big improvement. We are also seeing him try and abuse our good will, such as buying more “down time”, more food, making excuses for why he did not listen (stress at teacher giving homework etc.) but we are standing firm. And this is good. It is good for Michael. It is good for us. Last night after a particularly good day and night, I praised Michael’s listening and usage of strategies when he did not like something I had said earlier in the evening. When I told him how happy I was to be able to have cuddle time with him at bedtime due to listening and no aggression, Michael responded with:

“I am happy too Mommy. I miss you. I’m sorry for not listening. I will find a new tool that will remind me to use my new strategies.”

I could not have been prouder. You see, he knows like all of us, what to do AFTER the anger has set in. Beforehand, a pre-strategy is what our challenge is. We tried counting (no go) We tried a mantra (no go). We are hoping that with new input from new members of “Team Michael” as well as Michael’s personal brainstorming, we will learn more of what Michael needs to help keep him motivate to listen. He is very much an action/consequence kid. We want to make it worth his while, so we can continue to teach empathy, love and respect. Like all kids, he has so much to offer. We want to go back to having him offer it to the world.

Exceptional Parents, how are your re-finding your confidence as an “Exceptional Parent”? What techniques/strategies have helped you personally overcome challenges in yourself and with your child?  Remember, if the team you have in place is struggling, do not hesitate to seek new team members. Trust your instincts on this. Go with your child’s interest as well. Art and Musical Therapists are able to reach a lot of children, as are Psycho Educators and Psychologists. But also consider consulting a Parent Coach or Educator that can work with you and your partner. The support you will get as the adults in charge will be invaluable to you and your child’s happiness and success. Until next time

 

 

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with autism has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence towards their child.

For more information on my coaching services, see my website: www.creatingexceptionalparentingg.com, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.

Spa Days And Recharging Burnt Exceptional Mom Batteries-Mine And My Child’s Break From One Another

 

 

This weekend was my annual Spa Weekend away with a close friend. I have been making this trip for the past four years in order to recharge my Mom batteries, which are always pretty burnt by the time of year. This particular year with Michael’s challenges it was even more welcome, though I saw it was only the beginning of what I needed to do to get myself back into shape mentally, physically and spiritually. I am seeing how all the things I tell Michael he needs to do to stay calm, balanced and able to handle what life throws his way, is also important for me as his Mom to practice. I have been sadly neglecting this area for myself because, well, life happens. And when it happens what do women and specifically Moms do? We prioritize everyone but ourselves and our needs. This eventually leads to exhaustion, frustration and burnout.

The good news is that as a seasoned Exceptional Mom, I am beginning to understand when I have overdone it and have not taken care of me. I have hit that point. And yes, the house is looking better. I am doing well at my job and prioritizing my family. But where do I fit in? Last week when I just needed to crash from all the drama that has been unfolding in our family, it was my reminder that I needed to give myself permission way before my annual girls spa trip to retreat from my family, from responsibility for a few hours each week to take time to just be. Meditation and yoga have taught me to slow down in my mind and in my actual life, but practicing this art is obviously harder than saying it. So what I am reminding myself to do is be honest with myself. Over the weekend, Michael and I had some talks about self-care, about using strategies to both stay calm and remain calm, and how if anyone feels themselves falling off track, what options do they have? Michael seemed to think he was weak if he needed strategies or lists to keep organized. I don’t know where he got that from. I spoke to him about how important lists and strategies are for everyone, adults and children alike. I showed him how I organize myself. It was a good reminder about how important balance is for all of us. Parents need to remember to practice what they preach to their kids.

 

Exceptional Parents, how do you recharge your batteries and keep on track with your life schedule? How do you know you’ve fallen off track? Remember, tomorrow is always a chance to get it right. Show your child there is no shame in learning from your mistakes, starting over and getting stronger in the process. Until next time.

Mantras and Regrouping-How To Turn Challenges Into Strengths In Exceptional Families

 

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I finally let out a very deep breath a few days ago. It started with heaving sobs and crying. Then all the anger, all the grief , and all the stress of Michael’s escalating aggression in the last six months hit me full force. Yes, it’s been building. Yes, it’s been rough. Yes, I needed to let all that out. I felt lighter, calmer, more sure of myself as his parent,  and able to start changing our home strategies to give Michael more of the calm, consistent environment he was not getting for whatever reason. Maybe Dad and I were too busy to see it. Then a beautiful thing happened. After a particularly hard end to our week on Friday, this weekend was wonderful. Michael seemed to be starting to connect the dots of what the new team is telling us to do, and we had our first good weekend in a LONG TIME. Michael earned some chore money helping do housework, yard work with me, and helped me clean my car yesterday. Michael also had great bonding time with me and his Dad at parks and at home.

He was loving, calm, and when he tested we reminded him of the tools he had at his disposal: his calm corner to regulate, his anger box to write out his feelings and talk to us when calmer and a transition place where he can stop himself before his anger escalates. All these great tools are no help when his anger would go from 0 to 100 in second,s and we were all left in tatters after. A great parent coach we consulted  (yes, I know the irony of this), suggested something to get Michael to stop and think before he let his anger take control. She suggested counting backwards which he didn’t like. I agreed that he needed  this transition time though, so using her great idea I suggested a one to three word mantra which he would come up with to help him. The point is I was talking too much and the more we simplify, the easier it will be for Michael to understand what is expected of him. His mantra is his favorite shopping center.  Not a shock for anyone who knows Michael! Now he uses that to calm down before getting upset, and it is working so far, fingers crossed. What this is showing me too, is how important it is to be open to new trying new things with our Exceptional kids when they are struggling and we are struggling.  It has been humbling for me to seek help too. I always know what to say to heal others, but in my own family, it has its limits. I can see the wheels in motion and am happy that the people we are adding to team Michael are helping us as others have before to open up to new ways of thinking, growing, and being as individuals, as parents and as child in Michael’s case.

Exceptional Parents, when were you last stuck with your Exceptional kids in a pattern of challenging behaviors or other circumstances? Did you remember to think outside the box? Don’t be afraid to rebuild the team you have for your child if what you are doing is not working, as well as try new things as a family. You are not a failure as a parent, and never say that about yourself. You are growing and learning and that is OK. But the most important thing to do is remind your child that they are loved for who they are, and remember to love yourself too. Take time to be alone, to spend with family and friends and regroup. Harness your energy for the parenting journey ahead. Your body and mind will be ready for the next challenge as an Exceptional  Parent. Until next time.

Breakthrough- A New Chapter Begins-Adding To Team Michael And Positive Moments

 

The last two days have been like Heaven. Michael was at his grandparents’ house all day on Monday while I worked (he had a PED DAY) and he came back positive and cooperative. He listened well to me and did great with his Dad at bedtime while I had a night out doing one of my favorite things, nursing a cup of coffee in a favorite bookstore and FINALLY spending a long ago given gift card from the holidays. What a wonderful change from the last month of hardship for all of us! And now we are on the brink of something else new. Tomorrow more people will be added to “Team Michael” as we officially embark on the next leg of helping Michael learn to control his anxiety and get to the root of what else could be giving him challenges. We are starting an official assessment looking at Michael’s anxiety  to see whether this is in part, some of the other reasons for many of Michael’s challenges. It will not be easy on Michael or us, b but thankfully he is excited to navigate to the building and is happy that we are looking into ways to help him learn to listen better and figure out how best to help him. As he is social, I know he will do well talking with new people and with Dad and I there he will know he is not alone. I am proud of him and of us, for finally, after much worrying and agonizing, having the courage to take this step. We could learn any number of things over the next little while, but I for one am tired of living life afraid of what else is going on in Michael’s brain that we can’t help him with. What other things are we maybe not getting in our own frustration that could unlock the key of how best to help him be at his best all the time with us and everyone else?

You see, Michael has been as frustrated with us as we have been with him. It must be hard for him having parents who may not get him all the time. I have seen sometimes too late, how I overreacted or underreacted to what he did or said. I am learning. I was also recently reminded gently by another professional in relation to Michael to state things simply, and quite frankly, not talk too much. I had to laugh. That is so much like me. I talk A LOT. I talk way too much at my kid sometimes. The funny thing is, when I am working with children and other adults I have learned the art of not saying much and just being with the children and adults. I have learned to let them speak, feel, be. That is why I have had no issues with bonds and frustrations there. But alas, like most parents, I will sometimes forget with my own child to do the same thing. It was a great reminder. It was also great to get a parenting break last night. Browsing for 2 hours in a bookstore and then enjoying a cup of coffee was like a mini vacation for me. I remembered how down time, personal time is so important for the parent to keep their equilibrium, their memory of who and what they are and were before kids, and in some ways, who they are now.
Exceptional Parents, what are your challenges now with your Exceptional Children? What are you not seeing due to fear of being right or wrong about further diagnoses or not? It’s time to face that fear slowly but surely. Be strong by taking care of you, and then take the next step of being strong for your child. They need you to believe and love them no matter what they do, with boundaries, rules, and consistency. Your child wants to know what to expect and you need to show them that there are consequences for actions, but that love, respect and patience go a long way. Until next time.

Finding Myself Again And What Exceptional Parenting Stress Can Teach Us

 

I have been having a hard time as a parent lately struggling with balancing Michael’s ever increasing challenges and regular child neediness with my own personal challenges of stress, exhaustion and frustration. May has traditionally always been a difficult month for me and Michael. It is jam packed full of activities and both our stress levels go up. June is even crazier with the ending of the school year and summer, with all its promises and uncertainties lingering. Michael is getting better at handling what he can, but the trouble for him is controlling his anger and stress when we say things he does not like. Self-regulating is difficult. Mix that in with puberty and you’ve got quite the formula. But now that we are getting back on an even keel, what I am noticing is how once again Michael is helping me to see what I need to do better to be the best Mom and person I can be. I need to model patience, regulate myself better which means taking care of my inner and outer health better too, and of course, knowing when to say I need a break.  This means some days asking someone else to babysit or stay with Michael so I can take a walk, go out for a coffee or a drive.

I have not been enjoying him so much lately because I’ve been so tired of walking on the landmines of when his neck blow up would occur. What would trigger it this time? Then I got to a point where I was also most inviting it by getting confrontational too. Tiredness and stress will do that, even to a loving parent. I started realizing that I was not taking the advice I give others on how to handle challenges with their kids. I was doing and saying everything to make it worse for me and him, and sometimes when it wasn’t even anything I said, well, I was not even trying to put out the fire. That was when I saw that this latest upheaval is meant to teach Michael and I about self-regulation, control, patience and above all, not being afraid to push for new answers when the old ones aren’t working. I am also learning about not giving up on your child or yourself. Times will be tough. You will be challenged and so will they, but it is important not to lose yourself in their problems or lose who your child is. Despite my best efforts not to, I was beginning to lose my child in behavior charts, tokens, and all kinds of new things we are implementing. Yesterday I reminded myself he is boy, a human being who is struggling, who loves us and himself, and who does not want to choose the bad course of action. He needs help, support and understanding, including when he is out of control. I need to take care of me more so that I don’t forget that. I love him always, even when I don’t like the behavior. That is what I need to remember.
Exceptional Parents, how often do you blur the lines between your child’s behavior and your child? How often do you think you resent them due to the behavior? This is normal. You are human. You need to learn to separate the behavior from the child and know that when you are triggered, that is the Universe telling you that you need to do some healing in that area. It’s ok. Heal. Ask for help. Seek support from family, friends and professionals. You are not a bad parent. You and your child are doing the best that you both can. Know that bad times will make you both stronger, and that new positive things will surely be on the horizon. Until next time.

 

Mother’s Day And My Hope This Year For All Exceptional Moms

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So it’s time for another Mother’s Day weekend. I am both excited and nervous about it. We have been having challenging times with Michael so I worry about putting too much stress on a day many consider super commercial. Still, I see the positives. Michael’s beautiful artwork is one my early Mother’s Day gifts. Another gift is the maturity I am seeing Michael showcase in initiating play dates, trying to play with friends, and play new kinds of games that they like, and just in general, the way he asks questions and learns about the world we live in through his incredible eye for observation. I am truly awed and amazed by a child who will ask such deep questions about life, death, and everything in between, and then fight with me over having or no having cookies. C’est la vie with children.

I think back to that first Mother’s Day ten years ago, when I was just so happy to be part of this group, the group of Mothers. Back then it was sleepless nights, endless diapers and a very active baby. Fast forward to now and things have certainly changed, but not my love for Michael. Yes, motherhood is exhausting, stressful, beautiful, scary, awesome all in one. I would not have it any other way and could not imagine life without Michael, and without mothering in it. I think of all the milestones that are all the more incredible when he reaches them, when any exceptional child does. You see how smart and capable all children are.

Exceptional Moms, what are some of your highlights with your Exceptional Children? When have they made you most proud? I’d love to hear them! For now, I want to wish each and every one of you out there, Happy Mother’s Day! You are awesome and the job you do daily is incredible. Until next time.

Dark Nights of the Soul And Exceptional Growth-How To Advocate For Yourself And Your Child

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It is rare I don’t post a blog daily. Very rare. But this has been an unusually stressful week. Michael’s aggressive behavior has steadily been going up over the course of the last six months, and this week things have come to a head on the new behavior plan. The thing is, it is more than any of us expected. It has been hard. Extremely hard on all of us. There has been screaming, tears, and aggression. I have questioned myself as has Dad, where are we going wrong as parents? What needs are not being met? Why is Michael going up against his better interest and not using the tools he has been given, and helped create with his school psychologist? Kids with autism are complex. There is so much going on. I still have to remind myself sometimes that though he is so smart and articulate, there is much he does not understand. There is much he does intentionally to hurt us when he is in pain, but there is much he does not get, even after multiple explanations. Dad and I know this, but it does not make it easy when your child insults and hits you. I have hurled insults back in weak moments. I am not proud of myself. I have always apologized and told him I wasn’t using my strategies to calm down when I said them. He has reminded me he is strong and that I am strong and that we will get stronger together.

I have tried to reinforce he is good, but sometimes makes bad choices. He simply does not know how to use the tools at his disposal. He said to me the other day, “Do it for me. You need to do the calming strategies and I will follow what you are doing Mommy.” I keep telling him no. I can remind him what and where they are. I can show him how to start. But he needs to continue and finish. He is trying to have me enable him. I think it has been fear of growing up as much as the behavior is partly due to puberty. A lot of our fights have centered around him still being a baby and not needing to listen and follow instructions. We have calmly tried to redirect him. Ah, the joys of parenting, and particularly exceptional parenting. Your child exposes you, good or bad, for what you are and helps you become a better version of you if you let them.

More people are being added to “Team Michael”. More to come on it next week. He needs it. We need it. I have reached out to friends, family.  Dad and I need to go out more at night and recharge our batteries. I am soon going away on my yearly spa trek with a dear friend. Parents are not perfect and that is ok. I wanted to share this post especially for other exceptional parents out there who are scared of their child’s aggression and don’t know where to turn. Call up your local hospital or health care center. Tell family and friends. Seek support. Your child is calling out for help. They do not want to live life aggressively anymore than you do. You are their advocate, but first start by being your own. Get support for you. Get sleep. Take a break from your child. Reach out. Help is there. Don’t be ashamed. Your child will only grow stronger from your strength.

Exceptional Parents, how many of you have had some dark nights of the soul with your child? Remember, behavior is a way for your child to communicate. It’s their way of expressing fear, anger, and resentment gone out of control. Once you are able to read the hidden message, they will once again see you as their ally as you always were. Until then, breathe, sleep and be good to yourself. You are doing the best you can, and things will get better. Until next time.

Feeling out of control and ready to explode? Looking for new parenting strategies? Download my FREE EBOOK: “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL PARENTING ANXIETY” at http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.