Author: joannegiacomini

How To Help Your Child With Executive Function Challenges

Michael is an amazing kid. I’ve said it time and time again. He has taught me so much about persistence, tenacity, having a sense of humor and never giving up. He has also taught me lessons about patience, both in showing it to him, others and towards myself. But one thing that I know is super challenging for Michael as it is for other kids on the spectrum and with different brains, are executive function challenges. Executive function challenges are basically planning out things in a smooth, logical way so that you are in sync with others around you. This is usually done seamlessly for most of us, but people whose brains work differently process information differently, so things do not unfold in the same way for them. Unfortunately, this often spells disaster for interactions with parents, teachers, friends and others in the vicinity. It’s not that the person with a different brain is trying to stress everyone out. They just don’t understand how you can read the environment so differently than they do. So, what can a parent do to try and avoid so many of the fights they have with their exceptional child over how they go about organizing their day? It’s called compromise both ways, and here are some survival tips that I have learned, and am in fact, still learning:

  1. Write It All Down: Yes, write down your child’s typical functioning day, or if they are older have them write it down. It’s important that they see the order of their day on paper and how long things take to do, so the time next to what is getting done.
  2. Ask For Your Child’s Input: It is SO important that your child has some say and control over their day at home. This does NOT mean that they call all the shots, but giving them choices over when they want to do certain things- i.e. do you want snack at 10 or 10:15? do you want to play with this toy or that? This can give them a sense of control and mastery in a world where they often feel they have little say or control.
  3. Tell Them What You Want Directly: This means listing the priorities of their day and what you expect from them- i.e. you need to get up, eat, get dressed, go to your activity and/or school, come home, do homework, eat dinner, shower, bed. The more clearly you can spell out what they need to do, the calmer they will feel as there is routine, and then the two of you can fill in the blanks for the details.
  4. Give Strategies For Stressors: Things that stress them out will make them shut down and not move, participate or do what is expected. This can look like defiance, not moving or talking , tantrums, dressing slowly, staying in bed or not going to bed. When your child is having a hard time no matter how hard it is or how late it is, take a deep breath, get down to their level and ask them, “is something wrong? how can I help?” Add, “I want to help and need you to tell me how.” This will usually give some sort of clue. Then besides talking offer: taking a walk, a fidget toy to squeeze, a massage, quiet music, etc.
  5. Have A Reward System and Use It: Finally, when your child starts to listen, uses strategies to handle stress and asks for help, reward them. Have a set of rewards that works- points system to redeem for a gift, a special treat at a store or eating out at a restaurant, a visit to a favorite place etc.

Exceptional Parents, how have you handled your Exceptional Child’s sequencing challenges in the past? If your system is not working anymore, think what you can use from the above or what else you can tweak. Remember, a successful behavior plan means compromise on both sides. Then there will be success and the love will be reinforced on both sides as each of you see the other one taking your concerns to heart. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

Advertisements

Looking to the Future-Creating Career And Societal Opportunities Where Your Exceptional Child Can Shine

I’ve blogged about this before I know, but I think this is a subject well worth talking about again. The subject in question is being aware of where your Exceptional Child shines, and as a result of that, coming up with social and career opportunities where they could do just that. I’ve talked before about how Michael loves navigating to different places using Google Maps. We are now trying to broaden his interest of just staying local in our city, and getting him to venture out further in the world. He has done that on his own, and we are encouraging it further. Michael also loves cooking so Dad and I have allowed him a day or two during the week where he can choose all or part of the menu of what to serve. He loves to watch certain cooking videos and has even looked at recipes in recipe books. Both have sparked his interest in cooking. Finally, he has some interest in music, singing and playing certain musical instruments. We have bought him as a result a toy piano, guitar, ukelele and a marching drum to help foster that interest. No matter which one he is most interested in at the time, we know it could help jump start something else completely, some new interest that could end up leading to a possible career one day and/or being active in the community in some meaningful way.

It is so important to  follow our children’s interest, including when they have exceptional needs. All children are capable of helping or doing something meaningful. Don’t listen to what other people may say who would tell you not to put too much hope or get too excited. Get excited! Your child is special and  has a purpose here like all of us, exceptional or not. They will do something incredible if only they have the people around them who believe in them and the support that they need. What are ways to foster this kind of support?

1) See what their interests are and where they lay.

2) Expose them to different people, environments and activities. You’ll see something stick after a while.

3) Go where exceptional and neurotypical kids play. Your child will benefit from activities only geared towards kids with different brains and challenges as well as neuro typical kids. The differences in the courses will challenge them, and can bring out some interesting results.

4) Check out schools, camps, restaurants and neighboring businesses with your child. Have them known in the community so that one day if they are looking for a job, people know they are there. Become more involved in a religious organization (if you are religious and attend one) and see if there are opportunities for your child to shine there. Check out lay or non-religious community centers for the same reason.

5) Let people know your child’s strengths. You never know who may want some help, know of a program or opportunity that could build up your child’s confidence.

Exceptional Parents, what is your Exceptional Child good at? What are his/her strengths? What are his/her weaknesses? Watch what makes them coming alive- music, science, art, people, cooking, and encourage that. Often in summer camp programs, you can find lots of activities that center around these things too. Sign your child up there with or without a helper, depending on their capability. But in the end, what matters the most is what you think of them and how much you believe in them. That will help them believe in themselves all the more. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

The Struggles Of Being An Exceptional Parent And What It Has Taught Me So Far

Most of my posts about raising an Exceptional Child and being an Exceptional Mom have been positive and optimistic, because after all, if our kids can handle a world that is not always set up to help them succeed, then who are we as their parents to complain? Yet, there are times when as a Mom and a woman who blogs about helping special needs families and lives it, I  want to run screaming into the wilderness saying, let me out alive! These thoughts used to frighten me. Not any more. I see them now as a necessary thing, a way to balance all my sides,-mother, wife, writer, coach, woman. It’s not always easy. But once I started sharing my parenting journey and my own personal human journey on this blog, my life became even more rich, as did my fiction. But that’s another story.

I have to say that coming to terms with how Michael and helping kids like him has changed me as a person, has been quite a journey. Our kids, all kids, teach us life lessons every day. They build us up and break us down, only to build us up again. They make us realize the work we have done on ourselves and may still need to do. They help us stay honest with who we are and who we want to become. So, on that note, I want to share what parenting an Exceptional Child  has taught me so far:

  1. I am stronger than I think.
  2. Self-care is the most important thing. If I fail in prioritizing my health, I fail everyone in my circle.
  3. Being a parent  feels like a spiritual calling most days, and it’s important to treat it that way.
  4. Sometimes you want to run away from being a parent and that’s not only ok, but normal. Go deeper and see what’s missing- More alone time? More sleep? More time with friends?
  5. Your personal time will be compromised as you prioritize the child. Make sure you schedule, and I mean schedule in everything else or it will never get prioritized.
  6. Your child will open up worlds you didn’t know existed.
  7. Your child will test your beyond anything in the universe.
  8. You will grow as much from the painful moments as from the beautiful. Don’t regret either of the lessons.
  9.  You may think another parent would do better for your child when you are the parent your child needs.
  10. You are your child’s teacher and advocate. They are your teacher and spiritual guide. Together, you will do amazing things.

Exceptional Parents, have you ever felt overwhelmed in a good or bad way by parenthood? Both are normal states of being. Your child needs to see you experience all the emotions out there. This way they will know that it is normal and ok to be angry, happy, sad, fearful, fearless and brave. As we teach them how to navigate the world around themselves, they teach us the same. Keep striving to learn from each other and when times are rough, remember you are both human and will get through it together. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

When To Plow Forward and When To Step Back- Learning How To Parent Exceptionally

Oh boy. Picking your battles. This is a phrase I was aware of when I first became a mother twelve years ago, and even before that time. But not having lived it, I had a hard time actually learning how to follow it until, well, Michael came into my life. I was terrible at doing this until Michael had started school pretty much. Yes, I knew he was different. Yes, many of the ways I was raised did not work with Michael, but oh I tried, tried so hard to control things so as to help him, that I picked a battle with pretty much every thing I did. This was not fun for me. This was not fun for Dad. This was especially not fun for Michael. Finally, with a lot of great support from therapists for Michael, I learned how to stop fighting and truly pick my battles. I am pretty good at it now, but alas, I have my days when I make it my way or the highway. Those days don’t end well for Michael and I. And I have questioned myself recently now that things are going better in our family, what I am doing differently? And it hit me. When things are going well for Michael and I, I am truly not fighting him on every little thing.  Sometimes he does listen. Sometimes he doesn’t. But you know what? Even if he raises his voice, it does not turn into the battle it once did. Same with me.

But it is hard parents. It is hard realizing you can’t control your Exceptional Child. There. I’ve said it. And why do I want to control him? Because, one day in the world he will have to follow rules where there will not be the choices and options he has now. They will accommodate some things, but not others. I wanted to prepare him so badly for this future world, that I waged a battle on a daily basis in the present one. I realize now that was not necessary. I also realize that a lot of the battles were about me asserting that I am in control, I am in charge as the Mom. I was trying to convince myself that I had all the answers even when I did not so I wouldn’t feel so scared so worried about failing as a Mom. What did I miss? Is he aggressive because I have been too lenient as a parent? Is he swearing because I’ve been too permissive. It’s all my fault. No. No it is not. We set examples for our kids. We make expectations clear and concise. Then, we calmly sit back and see what they do, what kind of choices they make. We reward the good. We give consequences for the bad, but we tell them we love them, and are there to help them make better choices. We take care of ourselves along the way too, practice self-care, so their comments, especially when rude or disrespectful, do not hurt like a knife in the heart. These are our issues, after all, not our children’s to handle.

Picking battles for me has been about giving Michael autonomy to succeed and celebrate or fail and learn from it. It has also helped me distance myself from Michael’s actions. It is not my fault. If as a parent I have put rules, guidelines and expectations  in place and Michael knows what to expect, the rest of the ball is in his court, so to speak. Make no mistake parents should never be afraid to parent with clear expectations, boundaries and love. They should also not be afraid to show all range of emotions, including anger, as long as it is reasonable. But reacting emotionally to everything your child does means you need to take a step back, detach, and see the behavior for what it is. A control battle where no one will win. The only way success can happen is when your child knows you are in charge, but they have the free reign to either make a positive or negative choice and reap the benefits or have to handle the consequences. Make no mistake, it is a LONG road. Some days are harder than others. You need your strength, rest and a sense of humor. But when you make a list of non negotiable things where you will pick battles no matter what, and they usually fall under life/death safety, and the other important issues which range from important to minimal, you and your child will have an easier time co-existing in the same home.

Exceptional Parents, how many times a day are you picking battles with your Exceptional Child? Are you exhausted, angry and frustrated? Step back for a minute and see who are fighting against and what is the purpose of hanging on to that control? Who is winning? Chances are, neither you nor your child. Once you are in a calm state of mind, look at what objectives are really important for your child to meet and which you can agree to disagree on. Then, let go and let your child experience the good or bad of what happens. You will parent in a whole new way, and they will probably surprise you with how fast they also respond to firm boundaries, love and acceptance, and some flexibility in making decisions. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

Learning From And Teaching Your Exceptional Child-Finding The Balance

So this week has been both an exercise in learning from Michael and in teaching him how to handle some of life’s stresses and strains. There have been times, like the other night when Michael handled low blood sugar in the middle of the evening all by himself, that I stood totally in awe of my son, how he is handling a disease that is not always easy to manage, particularly with blood sugars that go up and down and not always with any reason. I often think that I would not be so good at handling diabetes as calmly as Michael does, particularly as I still have a lot of anger that Michael has this problem. I see how Michael is teaching me to stop fearing this and to move forward.

Then there was another night when the opposite happened. Michael escalated to fury and aggression so quickly over something so silly, a future outing that may or may not come to pass, that I became the teacher, once again reminding him after he had calmed down, that the next time he needed to pause and think before jumping the gun. We often interchange in these rules, of teacher and student. And even when at times he has triggered my anger, impatience or anxiety, I ask myself the question, why? What do I have to fear? What need of mine is not being met? What do I need to change? And I thank Michael. Ok, maybe not directly at that time when I am angry or upset, but afterwards. I see that I am meant to learn life lessons from him just as he is from me.

That’s the thing. Our children are our greatest teachers, and exceptional kids’ brains see the world a whole lot differently than ours. This means that if we keep an open mind and heart, we will see the world through their eyes and learn to think like them too, especially when they are on the right track. Of course, there are times that they learn to think like us and get themselves on the right track too. That is also great. We are each other’s guide in a world that does not always make sense, but that is a journey of self-growth if we remember it like that.

Exceptional Parents, who are the teacher and student in your parent/child relationship? If you chose one or the other, it’s probably not accurate. In all relationships, you learn from each other. We learn from co-workers, family members, strangers, even our pets. If we look deep enough at the lessons life is trying to teach us through adversity, joys, blessings and pain, we will be on our way to parenting our children, and ourselves, in a whole new way. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

Seizing Those Precious Moments With Your Exceptional Child

They say to enjoy every moment of motherhood because soon they grow up and it changes. I used to wonder how this would work for Michael and I as it took him longer to reach his milestones and then when he did, he would sometimes skip the next step and zoom ahead at top speed. Still, I did my best once I caught Michael’s unique rhythm, to enjoy moment with Michael, each day where he would say or do something cute, funny, smart or charming. When I first realized he loved directions and he would tell me where to turn on streets, both in the car and on foot during our mother/son walks, as he had navigated on Google Maps beforehand. I also enjoyed when he first took an interest in cooking. And like with anything Michael does, when he does it he does it with gusto and such intensity that you can’t help but fall in love with the subject too.  I enjoyed when he became fascinated with experimenting with music, singing briefly with hip hop dancing.

Then though, there were the moments that were not so precious. The moments, of anger, anxiety, fear, and pain. These were hard to live through with Michael. I kept feeling I was failing him as he would ask me to help him, cry sometimes, and I didn’t have the answers. I would sometimes find temporary band aids and our wonderful team behind us would help, but then we’d be right back to where we started. What changed? Michael, in time, grew up. He started seeing how now as a young tween he has power over his emotions. He is not as helpless as he thought he was over his OCD thoughts, his anxiety, or his anger. He is learning better how to manage his diabetes everyday. Most important of all, I am losing importance as the one to “fix” everything as he sees that he is responsible for doing that. This, of course, is a learning curve and takes times, but I know he and I will get there.

I am proud of the way he has grown. I am proud of how though the process is hard on both of us, he does learn from mistakes and eventually connects the dots of the changes he has to make. As a result, in a strange way I am not as stressed anymore about the hard moments. This doesn’t mean I feel happy or relaxed, of course or still don’t lose my top from time to time. Neither does Michael. However, I see that he is growing from them. He is becoming stronger, more sure of himself and I am seeing the transition slowly. First my baby became a toddler, then my toddler became a little boy, and now in the last two years, my little boy has turned into a tween soon teen with very definite adult ideas. He is putting up his boundaries in how he wants to spend time with Dad and I, as we do with him. He is wanting to be more with friends or alone pondering life. He is growing up and pushing away from me. And I couldn’t be happier. Yes, there is some nostalgia. No Mom ever has none, especially when the journey to bring your child into the world in an interactive and healthy way was not an easy road for him and you. In fact, you celebrate even more because you see that your child will be ok in the world one day when you are no longer in it.

But, as any Mom will tell you, it is all worth it. It was also worth all those times I wished he’d leave me alone and not want to play and do things with me. I’m so glad I pushed on and enjoyed that time as it’s slowly slowly coming to an end as Michael finds new ways to entertain himself and in a healthy way, moves away from Dad and I.  Of course, as a parent it is still important to be there present in your child’s life even as they grow. You need to know their friends, what interests them. You need to find some special activities to do together. I promised myself I will enjoy these moments too that will soon be gone when he is in his teens. For now as always, I am taking things at Michael’s pace, and letting it lead me and him where we are supposed to go, and all of this in his own exceptional way, because life with Michael is anything but ordinary.

Exceptional Parents, do you enjoy the precious moments you have with your Exceptional Child? Remember even if it does not look like a neuro typical child’s development, your Exceptional Child will change and take you on a different road. So have fun exploring with them every day. Honor what interests them and let them show you how they see the world. It will help you both grow and appreciate the diversity that is out there. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

Debunking Autism Stereotypes And Remembering Your Exceptional Child’s Individuality

Seven years ago when I knew something was different about Michael, I started reading up on various childhood developmental issues. At the top of the list for the criteria Michael met, was autism. Many of the articles pin pointed a lot of the idiosyncrasies of autism that are so true- difficulty with speech, difficulty with sitting still or not having energy to move, seeming difficulty with hearing. But another point I kept seeing in article after article, not being social or wanting to be around other people, turned out, in my autistic son’s case to be the complete opposite. Yes, you heard me. From birth, Michael was social and wanted to interact. The thing is, he did not know how to interact with other children and adults. Even with Dad and I there were challenges, first because of communication issues and language delays. Then, he was one of the lucky kids who caught up with language and then some, but had to learn (and is still learning) how to have a conversation, such as the give and take, asking the right questions, and finishing the encounter appropriately.

But the thing is, when I was told Michael had autism, I kept remembering all the warnings about the child not wanting to be social. It upset me somehow, more than the other so called defects, which by the way, are not always so. Yes, autism is a challenging condition for people who have it in the world they live in.  The world can be hard on individuals who have sensitive hearing, touch, sight and bodies that feel the environment in a different way. Yes, it is hard to make themselves understood and heard, and for parents and other neuro typical people who want to understand and follow everything this is hard too, but saying that someone does not want to do something is not the same as saying they do, just it is hard or that, hey, they’ll find their own way to do it in time. It struck me tonight as I was preparing dinner, how social my autistic kid is. He calls many of his friends on the phone each night and has, wait for it, real conversations with them. The conversations started out more rudimentary and basic at first, and yes they sometimes watch videos over the phone, but more often than not, Michael and his autistic friends have REAL conversations about REAL feelings, their days, and getting together.  Wait for it. They talk about girls now too that they are in puberty. This was not the picture I’d had of autism, and I’m so glad that Michael is turning that notion upside down. But then, he has always amazed us with surpassing what people thought he would do. My friends have had the same experiences with their children. No autistic child is the same and they will all amaze us if we give them the chance and not box them in.

The good thing is that today experts are admitting that as much as they know about autism, there is so much else they still have to learn. And you know what parents, the best ones to learn it from are our autistic kids and adults. They are all so different and their challenges are different. Talk to them. Read their blogs. Have them come to your schools. It  is so important to keep an open mind always about your child. Tell them as I tell Michael, all about the great things they will do, just like that Dr. Zeus book talks about. If kids believe in themselves, they will go above and beyond. Yes, it may take some kids more years than others to get where they are comfortable, but make no bets that they won’t get there.  It’s one day at a time, loving them for who they are and what they are passionate about, and never never putting your child (exceptional or otherwise) in someone else’s box.  They will do what they were sent here to do.

Exceptional Parents, were you ever told something about your Exceptional Children that would never happen and now has? How did it make you feel? Did you believe it or say HELL NO! I hope it was the latter. If not, don’t despair. It’s never too late to go with your child’s flow keeping in mind their limitations of course. The thing is, never let the limitations define the whole person your child is. You have your limitations but it doesn’t stop you. It is the same with your child. Remember them that their brain is amazing, that the way they see the world is amazing. This is easier on some days than others, of course. But never never stop believing in your child’s magic, and you’ll see them surprise you with the butterfly they are becoming. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

The Difference Between Limits And Streaks of Independence In Your Exceptional Child

So Michael continues to surprise me. He continues to surprise me with his very natural desire to want to fit in with peers and push away from me, from the way he handles stress, anxiety and the physical challenges of diabetes, to the way he maturely will ask for space, love, time and meaning. Sometimes it feels like too much to handle for me. Other times, I am at peace, catching a glimpse of the independent young man I really believe he will grow up to be. He is a puzzle, my boy. But then, he always has been. From the time he came into my life and threw it into a whirlwind being nothing like any other baby I’d ever heard of or taken care of, from the way he danced to the beat of his own drummer from infancy, to the beautiful surprises he showed me along the way, I have been on a journey with Michael that only continues to grow.

I am seeing now too, how sometimes in the parenthood journey we need to impose limits for our children’s safety and well being (mental and physical), and at other times how we need to acknowledge that their pushing away from us is actually healthy and move towards that. I am at the phase with Michael. I am sometimes terrified as with all Michael’s knowledge about people, directions, self-help skills and such, he still can have full on meltdowns and freak when his sugar is high, he doesn’t get his way, or life is unpredictable. Where do I draw the line of mothering him and letting him fend for himself? This is a delicate balance, and one I, and other mothers around the world, learn to delicately balance as we get more experience as parents.  I am beginning to see where I need to strike the balance with Michael.

He will also tell me, “I don’t want any more kisses or hugs from you. I’m a big guy now.”

Yet, then when I go to try and start  writing a little earlier in the evening while he is getting ready for bed and head down to my office in the basement, I’ll hear his entreaty, “Mommy, stay upstairs. I like when you are upstairs.”

He will also have moments when he demands my full attention to divulge information to me and share about his day. I soak these moments up like I do the sun on a summer’s day. My little guy still needs me. I still make a difference. He wants to share with me and tell me how he feels. I will be able to show him more about life so he is better equipped when he will hopefully be completely or semi-autonomous. This is both a desire and fear for Exceptional Parents. We want our children independent of course, but we worry, have we taught them everything they will need to survive and thrive? The answer depends on you and your child. I’d like to think I am on the right track with Michael as he is showing great progress in all areas of his life.

Exceptional Parents, where do you draw the line between independence and putting limits for your Exceptional Child? Though of course it depends on the child, it’s important you encourage your child to be as independent and as free thinking as is possible for them. Yet, it is also important that you, as their parent, are not afraid to put limits in for their protection, limits for their safety, physical and mental health, as well as your own. In the end, treat them as the individual they are with all of their strengths and weaknesses. Help build them up and show them how to build on what they know and do best. Show them you are there loving them through it all, always, no matter what.  In doing this, you will strike the right balance for your child on becoming comfortable with who they are. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

Balancing Positive Parenting With Behavioral Parenting-How Combining The Two Can Help Your Exceptional Child Succeed

Oh how difficult it is to be a parent of any child. An Exceptional Child though, takes a different kind of mindset. Michael has become very patient with me over the years as I have adjusted my style of parenting to meet his needs as well as show him the appropriate boundaries kids and parents must have. I have found that the way to do this, is to have a balanced parenting approach. What has worked for me as an Exceptional Mom, has been to use both behavioral and positive parenting approaches, depending what situation I am parenting in and what the problem is. Now that Michael is in puberty and acting out a lot, I have leaned A LOT on behavioral parenting approaches and have used things like reward points, direct consequences for actions and talking out the why’s and how’s of conducting oneself in society. This has been helping a lot, but on its own, is not the total solution.

Michael has still benefited from a lot of the positive parenting solutions I used before when he was younger, that is, giving him choices and leeway whenever possible, reminding him of the importance of family relationships and how much Dad and I want to be with him, and prioritizing family time activities when he is pushing away from us developmentally. Now there are some days when I will admit that positive parenting strategies have not been at the top of my favorite list, as Michael has been rude, lashed out, or I am tired. But when it all come down to it, I have seen that kids need balance just as much as us grownups do. Have you ever been so intense with your eating and exercising regime and then you have one night off and indulge? Perfectly normal. It makes a balance. Likewise, if you are constantly doing things with your children or partner, alone time for a few days feels real good. Just as when you are alone for too long, you need time to connect with family and friends. Our Exceptional Children need this balanced approach to their time with us at ALL AGES even when they seem to be pushing you away.

Michael is a non-stop talker when he is with Dad or I, though he very clearly puts his boundaries up when he wants alone time in his room or with friends. Yet today when I got back from a night out with a good friend, Michael quickly said good night to me and seeing Dad’s face  I asked how the night went? Dad said good, but that Michael is high maintenance. Yes, he is. But that goes for all our children. They need us to be there for them, but stay away. They need to know they can come to us with problems and push us away when they feel capable of coping. And how do they learn to do this? They learn by parents trusting their own gut on what combination of strategies work best to raise their child or children.

Parents also need a strong support team of therapists and like minded other parents behind them offering tips, tricks and ideas for what worked and didn’t work for them and their child. In the end, don’t give up. Tune in to what your child needs. There is not ONE fix to repair the relationship and communication challenges with your child. Nor is there a necessity to say that my child is troubled because he is not communicating in the way other kids are. Maybe your child needs extra time to express themselves. Maybe communicating via technology is easier. Whatever the case, tune into what seems to work for a better relationship with your child and family. You will most likely hit the nail on the head if you remember that often more than one approach will make things easier. Until next time.

Are you the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help you personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive! 

 

 

Tackling Your Own Exceptional Impatience While Helping Your Child With Theirs

I have a problem with patience. There, I said it. I feel better now. What has been hard for me to admit is that I need to build this skill really well as an Exceptional Mom because Michael’s patience is worse than mine and that’s not saying much. Most days and nights I can reign in my impatience, stress, and anger when Michael pushes limits, but then there are those days. You know the ones I am talking about, parents. They start tough with you feeling frustrated that in spite of all your best efforts your Exceptional Child will not compromise, and they end with two meltdowns-yours and your child’s. That was Michael and I the other night. I realized some common denominators in why we clashed. We were both overtired, not taking the time to hear one another or sympathize with the other one’s viewpoint, and we both were stubbornly holding on to the fact that we had it right. As it turned out, neither of us had the situation completely correct. It was an evening that called for some negotiating, respectful listening, and patience with the other tired person. Neither of us possessed it that night as we had our own agendas. “Do you hear me, do you really hear me?” These were the words both of us were uttering while the other was clueless. Each thought the other one was uncaring when really two tried people who loved each other clashed and clashed badly.

After as I lay in bed totally wiped out by the tough evening not even having the energy to take a calm warm bath as I had planned, I thought to myself,  there were some steps I wish I had followed to stay calm and centered. As a model to Michael, I may have been able to prevent the evening from at least getting worse even if I could not have prevented the fighting we did.  I vowed to follow these steps and recognize what I needed to do the next time there was a conflict and I know that there will be conflicts with an opionated tween in the house!

  1. Evaluate my mood: Before Michael came home, I needed to recognized how tired I was and what would charge my batteries in a positive way. Then it was time to do that before the bus pulled up. Probably doing some yoga or listening to soft music my cup of coffee or tea would have helped.
  2. Review the strategies to use: The strategies would include what I would use to calm down and what I know would work for Michael. If necessary, having them on paper close by to refer to may have been a good option for both of us.
  3. Remember not to take my kid’s anger personally: This is a tough one, but most kids act out due to THEIR issues not their lack of love or respect for you no matter what they say or do. They are on the egocentric side, and so pain is all about them. As the parent and adult in the relationship, I needed to recognize that Michael was in a bad mood due to HIS issues and not MINE.
  4. Validate some of his anger and mine calmly: This is also tough, but as I tell Michael, anger is not bad, but reacting to anger with aggression of any sort in unacceptable. Just because Michael yells I do not yell back. The same goes for physical aggression. I am guilty of yelling only, though I have been known to slam doors, not my proudest moments as a Mom. As the adult, I need to model how to be angry and use tools to get control of myself. Also, it’s important to acknowledge mistakes and anger with an “it’s ok. we move forward,” and no blame game. We all make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. I may say it, but I need to do it too.
  5. Don’t make assumptions about what is being said-communicate clearly from the beginning: What got Michael and I in trouble, was that we both assumed the other one was deliberately trying to hurt and disrespect the other one. This was not the case. We had a BIG communication problem. With a neuro typical brain and an autistic one, it can happen all the time if we are not careful. Once the snowball got rolling, it was hard to stop. I saw now that I assumed falsely as did Michael  what the other one was saying, and that made things worse for both of us. Next we need to be direct right away.

Exceptional Parents, do you feel like you are losing your cool more than you want to with your child? Do you feel like you have it under wraps and then suddenly explode and you can’t see why? It’s time to look at your own parenting tools for YOUR anger and anxiety. Do they need a tune up? Do you need a reminder of what helps to calm you down? It’s ok to use bad nights as a learning curve for you and your child. That is what we do in our family. After all, if your Exceptional Child sees that you lose it sometimes and recover from mistakes, they will eventually learn not to be too hard on themselves. Take heart if you are an impatient person. There are ways to build patience- get enough sleep, meditate, exercise and eat right, and take time for you to recharge your batteries doing things alone that can center you as a person. If you need to, seek outside help. There is never any shame in doing so. You will be a more patient parent and human being because of it, and your relationship with your child will only get better. Until next time.

Are the parent of an Exceptional Child struggling with how best to handle challenging behavior? Are you worried about development, anxiety, or doubting your abilities to help your child become the best they can be? I can help you find your confidence as a parent again. For more information about my journey and coaching programs, check out my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Let me help personalize tools that will help your Exceptional family thrive!