WHY CAN’T SHE JUST GET DRESSED??

Parents know that it is their responsibility to make sure that their children learn how to take care of themselves.  This starts from the beginning with an infant having tummy time to learn to hold up his head.  It continues on through a child’s life at appropriate intervals.  Toddlers learn to walk.  Primary aged children learn to tie their shoes.  When they are teenagers, they need to know how to follow a curfew.  The majority of parents take this responsibility seriously and want to be sure their children are meeting their milestones.

 

Parental frustrations are most often expressed with a should comment.  It sounds something like this.  “I’m so frustrated.  She SHOULD be able to brush her teeth by now.”  Parents get very caught up in the “should’s” of their child’s development.  I would state here that should’s are not the point.  If your child is not able to accomplish a life skill independently, the should is irrelevant.  Take the following example shared at a local parenting class.

 

“I get so angry in the mornings.  I send my 7-year-old daughter upstairs to get dressed for school every day.  She has been wearing the same school uniform since she was 4.  Every day, she comes down missing something out.  She has either not brushed her teeth or is missing a shoe or put in the wrong colour hairclips. It devolves into a shouting match and starts our day on a horrible note.  It’s driving me crazy!  She’s 7!!  Shouldn’t she be able to do this by now?  WHY CAN’T SHE JUST GET DRESSED?”

 

This parent has a point.  Many 7 year olds are able to get themselves ready on their own.  However, there is a bigger point that is being missed.  Can some 7 year olds do it?  Sure.  The point is that her 7-year-old can’t.  As we processed through this point, we realized that what her child needs is not derision.  She needs support.

 

Children have a natural desire to get their parent’s love, attention and approval.  If a child consistently displays the inability to complete a task from start to finish, they are demonstrating the need for more support.  Here are a few suggestions to help teach children to go from skill development to mastery.

 

  • Break The Task Down Into Chunks

As adults, we sometimes forget the number of steps that are involved in tasks that we have mastered.  For example:  In order to get dressed and ready for school, a child needs to first undress from pajamas, find new clothes, put on underclothes, then the uniform, then socks and shoes, then brush teeth, then brush hair, all whilst making sure the clothes are the right way around and put on in the right order.  This can be overwhelming for some children’s brains.  This is especially true in the morning when their brains are still waking up for the day.  Chunking this task makes it more manageable and also ensures success.  When children feel successful, they are much more likely to learn.  As mastery occurs of each chunk, chunks can be grouped together.  Eventually, your child will learn the full routine and will no longer need the support.

  1. Set Your Child Up For Success

Use your keen observational skills to see where the disconnect can be.  Perhaps a child needs clothes laid out the night before.  Perhaps she needs to practice doing her buttons.  Some children respond well to lists or pictures so they can have a reminder of what needs to be done.  See where the gap is and offer support as needed.  These supports will be faded out when they become superfluous.

 

  1. Use Descriptive Praise To Focus On What Is Done Right

We so often focus on what is wrong.  Our intent is to teach our children to learn from their mistakes.  However, it can feel like nagging or criticizing.  When children feel as though they have failed, they are not in the right mindset to learn.  Instead, focus on what they have done right.  For example: “Wow Cordelia, I see that you have brushed your teeth very well.  This shows me how important it is to you to have a healthy mouth!  I can’t wait to see what you brush next.”  She will feel good about what she has accomplished and will be more likely to master that step.  There is also the ninja move of reminding her to brush her hair.  There is no discounting of what she has accomplished.  This is a positive exchange that builds confidence.

 

Offering support to your children will help them master skills in a positive and productive manner.  Does it take time?  Sure!  However, it usually takes the same amount of time that a parent would spend fretting or criticizing.  You will be spending that time supporting your child in skill mastery whilst building a positive relationship free from yelling and nagging.  Isn’t that a better way to start your day?

TOP 5 WAYS TO GET THE MOST FROM PARENTS’ EVENING

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It’s that time of year again the the UK, the weeks before and after half term.  Parents are all going to schools to have their 10 minute slots to make sure that their child is on track and succeeding and not on the verge of being excluded for demonic behaviour.  If you are like me, you very much value the input  you are about to receive.  10 minutes seem so short and you want to get the most out of it.  Here are my Top 5 Strategies for getting the most out of parent’s evening.

1. Take in a list of your questions and concerns.

You know what you want to know.  You have discussed it with your child, your partner, your mother, probably the ladies you have coffee with.  But, when you get in there, you will forget something.  Probably the second most important thing on the list.  If you have a list of questions going into it, the teacher will be able to understand what you need the focus of the meeting to be.  Mrs. Jones is not a mind reader.  She will automatically start with academics, but may not address friendship groups unless you let her know you are concerned.  Teachers want to have your support and be a support to you.  You just need to tell them how to do it.

2. Be wary of storytelling.

This is an area where I struggle.  Something happened to my brain when I became a parent.  I love to tell stories about my kids.  I think I need to give evidence of why I feel the way I do.  Maybe I just love to talk.  Either way, I need to limit this in meetings.  Miss Smith spends around 6 hours a day with my daughter,  She knows that Pocket loves to sing.  She has as many recent examples of this as I do.  Save the stories for the end after the facts are given and concerns are addressed.  This way, you don’t run out of time before hearing about how she needs to focus on her number bonds.

3. Make notes

I often get odd looks from other parents as I go into parents’ evening with my notebook.  Listen.  I’ve got 4 kids.  3 are at the same school.  I will have been through that many workbooks, successes, challenges, moments and random questions in 30 minutes.  Writing things down helps me remember exactly what I need to do and say to help my children be successful.  Bugsy needs to hear that I saw his merit in Maths.  Pocket needs to know that I saw her keywords were at 100.  I need to remember to focus on formation of the letter a when we write at home.  I would go into any client meeting making notes because I value my time and respect their needs.  My children should have at least as much respect as my clients.

4. Don’t be afraid to challenge.  Just be professional.

Look, I was a teacher for 9 years.  I can tell you right now, i made mistakes.  I am not the demigod of year 4.  If my parents saw that I was doing something wrong, I was open to and grateful for feedback.  It helps me do my job well.  What I am not open to EVER is abuse.  I asked parents to leave the room for swearing before because rule number 3 for our classroom is ‘I will use kind and appropriate language.’  You are there as an advocate for your child.  Act as a professional in the meeting.  You will be heard if you say things like, “I am seeing that his reading is better at home than his books are reflecting from school.  Is it possible to challenge him in the next level?”  What will get you labeled for the rest of your children’s career at that school as the psycho parent are things like, “You aren’t giving my child any notice.  He should be higher than he is.”  Don’t attack.  Just advocate in a positive way while holding your ground.  If you feel that your child’s needs are still not being served, follow up with another meeting to address those specifically.

5. Really listen to the good things.

I cannot tell you how many parents try to push past the bragging and go right for ways to improve.  You know that little thing that makes us want to brag on our kids?  Teachers love to brag on them, too!  You need to hear where your children excel.  Firstly, it makes you feel good.  Secondly, and most importantly, you need to feed that back to your children.  They need to know about the results of their hard work.  It is where the development of a strong work ethic comes from.  Really listen to what the teacher is saying.  Write it down or make a mental note.  Come home and share these successes with your children.  It will make them enjoy the school experience that much more.

 

AUTISTIC BLOG

I’ll be honest with you.  The beginning of the Autism journey sucks for parents.

Getting the diagnosis was soul crushing.  I sat there while this woman who had known my son for all of an hour reviewed test results and school reports with my husband and me and described my son on his worst day.  Then came the bomb.  “We are going to diagnose your son with Autism.”  The big A that I had worried about his entire life.  I left there feeling numb. What is this going to mean  for the rest of his life?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, next came the worst part.  I had to tell people.  My husband and I decided early on that his diagnosis was his business and therefore we would not go public (I did ask his permission before writing and publishing this article).  Instead, we told the only people that needed to know like the school and close friends and family.   You cannot believe how difficult this is.  I had to say it OUT LOUD!.  I had to get these looks of pity that I know I had given countless people before.  With  this look comes platitudes from a well meant place.   “You will get through this.”  “He’s still him, just with a label.”  or my favourite “You are so strong.  He’s so lucky to have you.”  You nod and listen, but inside, you are a tornado of emotions just screaming to get out.

Any parent that has gone through this knows that the first time you tell the school, it becomes real.  You break a little.   I felt like I did something wrong.  Like somehow, while I was pregnant, I cooked him wrong.  You think of how much more difficult things are going to be for him.  You worry that with his label will come discrimination and abuse.  You don’t want him put in an autism shaped box where his true talents never flourish.  It’s terrifying and you have never felt so helpless.  You remember all of those documentaries that you watched while thinking, “I can’t imagine having to deal with THAT.”  As a parent coach, I’ve had to help a lot of parents through this horrible moment in life.  Coping with these emotions while still being a parent is confusing at the best of times.

For me, the next part was the most confusing.

I am a teacher that specializes with EBD students.  I had a lot of information already.  Behaviour management is kind of my thing.  I went into teacher mode with my son.  We had charts and rewards and all the stuff that makes things work in a classroom.  They work at home, too.  I got that kid responding like a robot.  He liked the predictability of things. Structure is his friend.  I got so wrapped up in the paperwork of it all.  Things were efficient and ran like a well oiled machine.

But you know what, home is not school.  I am not his teacher.  I am his mother.  While what I was doing was right, I began to realize something that I had almost forgotten.  The most important something.

Then came the parental epiphany:

I love my son.

I love him from the moment I knew he was a possibility.  I loved feeling him kicking in utero.  I loved kissing his fingers and toes.  I loved watching him play with his trains.  I loved watching him learn.  I love watching him become a young man.  When I say I love him, I mean I love HIM.  Who he is.  They way he is.

More than that, I like him!

I think he’s fun to be around.  He is quirky and funny.  He will drone on and on about Minecraft for hours if I let him.  But, he also likes to discuss the origin of the universe.  He has ideas that blow my mind!  He hates football and is a bit awkward when it comes to sports.  You know what, ME TOO!!!

Within a week or two of my epiphany, my resolve was challenged.  Don’t you just love all these little tests the universe puts in front of you to make sure you mean what you say?  I was sitting in a cafe with a large friend group and the subject of Autism came up.  One mother said, “I couldn’t imagine having to deal with THAT.”  Now, I know that this was not meant in a malicious way.  She doesn’t know about my son’s diagnosis.  She probably only knows sound bites she has heard on TV.  She doesn’t work with kids.  She had the same thoughts and feelings and beliefs I had before I really understood.  She is actually a very lovely person. I know that she just needed to be educated and that I should blah blah blah….

However, at that moment, mama bear came out.  I wanted to slap that woman across her self righteous face.  I realize the hypocrisy in this.  My response to that is…I’m a hypocrite.  I’m over it.  This woman needed to understand something.  There is so much more to my son than “THAT”.  He is a scholar, a scientist, a dreamer, A CHILD  for Pete’s sake.  More than that.  He is a good person.  He cares for me when I am feeling down.  He takes the responsibility of being a big brother very seriously.  He cares about the environment and frequently picks up trash on our walks. He cares about being a global citizen and equal rights for everyone.

He finds parts of the world confusing, but so do I.  I like explaining social nuance to him as much as he likes telling me about how energy cannot be created or destroyed and so we never really die.  (This was an unsolicited  conversation he had with me when he was 9.  Cool right?)

I sat there giving the appearance of calm on the outside (whilst wrangling the mama bear back in her cage on the inside).  I didn’t tell her about my boy.  As I said, it’s not my business to share.  I did let her know that she would be surprised to know that there are many wonderful things that come with having an autistic child.  I’d be happy to give her the benefit of my teaching experience if she was ever interested. She smiled and asked some questions.  I gave some answers.  It felt good to educate rather than attack.  It’s nice to know that ignorance is not permanent.  It’s just a lack of information.

As I walked home from the cafe, I really started reflecting on what it means to be the parent of an autistic child.  Floods of memories came washing over me.  I considered the difference between parenting him and my other children.  He needs a bit more time.  Some things have to be spelled out in detail.  We plan and prepare him for everything.  These are all things I give to my other children as well when they need it.

There are benefits to his Autism.  His black and white thinking has made peer pressure somewhat of a ridiculous concept to him.  I once asked him what he thought about smoking.  He’s almost 12 and I know that this is the age that experimentation can begin.  He said, “Have you read the studies they have done on what that does to your body?  I can’t believe you’d even ask me about that!”  and he went on to tell me statistics and medical complications for 20 minutes.  He was flabbergasted that I would even insinuate that he would consider being so stupid.

He’s a big dork, like his father.  He wears this label with pride.  When he latches onto a new character or game or movie, he totally geeks out.  He’s the kid that knows the backstory for the most obscure Marvel characters and has no interest in Spider Man.  He can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Mario.  This is all coming from a kid that isn’t allowed tech during the week except for school work.  He is a sponge for information and I love him for it.  If he can’t play it, he reads about it.
There are tough times, sure.  But you know what?  That comes with life.  It comes with every child.  I have 3 more children that have their own strengths and weaknesses.  I love them and like them for who they are.  Doesn’t my eldest deserve the same?  I don’t want to change his personality.  I don’t want him to be captain of the football team or class president because he doesn’t want any of that for himself.  I don’t want him to not be autistic.  That’s not who he is.   He is going to live an amazing life.  Not only do I love him, because he’s my son.  I like him because he’s him.

 

Parent Coaching is an investment in the health and happiness of your entire family.  You learn how to set up your home, yourself, and your children to be successful and happy.  Would you like help in becoming the parent your family deserves? For more information, click here.

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