As regular readers of this blog know, Michael has hit that preteen testing age which he is experiencing along with autism’s regular anxieties and rigidity. Throw in some unexpected curve balls like diabetes and well, it’s quite the ride for him and us. But the other day something hit me. Michael’s behaviors had not changed from last year. There were days when they were more intense and days when they were about the same. However, I was doubting that I had the right tools to help Michael and was feeling tired. I was also forgetting, and I knew this, to see beyond the behaviors to what he was really communicating. This means seeing what the child is really struggling with and communicating to you. It could be lack of control, testing how much they are loved, or lack of self-regulation. Each behavior could be different. There were times I have noticed a behavior was all about him seeing how far he could push me and what the consequence would be. Would I follow through? Would Dad? Then there were other times that I was so frustrated, but upon closer reflection saw the problem. Michael was having trouble self-regulating and sequencing. These are fancy terms for knowing how to control one’s emotions and the order of how and when things happen. So, Michael getting ready for bed is difficult if he gets thrown off course due to excitement over something that happened earlier. Or Michael is upset that I don’t understand what he is saying and has a hard time controlling his frustration so will swear and yell, then only after realize that is wrong.
There were times he was crying or upset saying, “Mommy, help me. I need you to show me how to do this.” Sometimes he would say, “I need you to do this for me.” It was then that I realized, he really is struggling. This is not all about control and seeing how far he can push me. Sometimes there is genuine fear and confusion. And that was when I realized that I was so tired and in the middle of getting over a bad virus, that I had forgotten to see the child behind the behavior. It is really important as a caregiver to acknowledge when you are exhausted and frustrated that you stop seeing the whole child and only see the behaviors and the problems. You also begin to doubt yourself as a parent and think that everyone is better off taking care of your child than you are. This is not true. Others can support you and help you in your parenting endeavors. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. But never forget. There is no one better able to help and advocate for your child than you as the parent. It broke my heart a few times this week to hear Michael say, “Mommy, why aren’t you the happy Mommy I know? What’s wrong?” He was right. I had to start being happy again so I could start seeing the best in him again.
Sometimes as parents we get discouraged when our child pulls away from us. We think to ourselves, “I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s too stressful.” But our child is most likely pulling away to see if we will come back. Many times in the last two months as Dad and I put down new boundaries for respect, behavior and expectations we would tell Michael that these things are required for him to live peacefully with us at home. We all deserve respect and he needs to follow the rules we lovingly put in place for his safety, whether he likes it or not. Michael then started opening up that he loves us and wants to listen, but has a hard time. He asked for help with strategies. I told him we were always there to help him with strategies. He seemed surprised. “You mean you’ll help me? I’m afraid to ask for help.” I could not believe he used those words. I thought Dad and I had always shown we were there for him, but somehow the signals had gotten crossed. When he understood that he had options, things began to get smoother.
Exceptional Parents, have you ever doubted your parenting abilities? Remember, you may be tired, overwhelmed and frustrated, but there is no one who can work better with your child’s team than you. Don’t ever forget the importance of seeing your child before the behavior and then helping them when you are feeling strong again. Until then, don’t be too hard on yourself. Your child will always love you and knows you are in their corner. It’s you who has to believe in yourself again and know that you are capable of helping guide them every step of the way patiently and with love. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with Autism and Type 1 Diabetes has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of living in 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 on their own exceptional parenting journey.
For more information on my coaching services, for a FREE 30 min consultation, and to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY,” see my website: www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.