Control Versus Independence- How To Tell The Difference With Your Exceptional Child

In looking at Michael’s behavior lately, I am slowly starting to learn what are control battles, and what are battles for independence. Sometimes both even intersect for a little bit, as Michael is trying to find himself and establish his identity while seeing where he still needs help and learning how to ask me or Dad for it. I, for my part, and in the process of learning the same thing. What are the little battles I don’t have to turn into battles and can be talked about, and what are the things that, like it or not, Michael has to let me or Dad direct and lead the way with. Every parent has to navigate this on a daily basis, but with exceptional kids, they are pretty much at different developmental age levels all day. They are catching up to milestones, and so sometimes are doing things they didn’t do as a baby, other times as a preschooler, and finally other times closer to their own age, which in Michael’s case is ten years old chronologically.

This is what makes it harder for the parent, but like all children kids with special needs test the limits, even more so sometimes. In Michael’s case his anxiety is so high, that he needs boundaries that are quite fixed and intense. We have been looser with boundaries over the past two years, as we thought it would help to give him some control and lessen the anxiety. Instead, what I have been learning is that here loosening the boundaries caused him more anxiety, hence more behaviors and more control issues. It’s not to say that when he is striving for independence we do not challenge him. On the contrary, Michael now does chores, gets paid for the chores,  and is in charge of how he chooses to spend the money he has. He also has helped out with cooking and keeping his room clean. He is seeing that older kids need to be responsible about their things and we never forget to praise him when he is being responsible.

We are learning to strike that balance in helping support Michael is using his strategies to calm down before his anger takes over, and giving him some more choice and independence in areas where he can have control. It has been humbling for me to seek help on this latest part of our journey in teaching Michael to manage his anger and challenges. I have had to forgive myself for mistakes I have made, things I have said and done which can’t go undone, and remember that deep down inside, no matter what, I love my child and will do anything for him. As I’ve said before, I am learning as he is learning how to be a better version of myself, a stronger version of myself, and in the process, teaching Michael how to be the best version of himself that he can be.

Exceptional Parents, have you forgiven yourselves for the mistakes you have made with your child and started celebrating the victories too? Have you realized that no matter what, you are the only one who will always be the number one advocate and individual fighting for your child and teaching them how to fight for themselves? It is essential that you remember your power as the exceptional parent so you can teach your child about their own power in learning when to listen and when to let go. Trust in the people around you an the tools you have at your disposal to guide you in your parenting journey. Until next time.

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