If you are like me and many of the parents I talk to, you might feel that the future for your child with ASD is frightening. We wonder (more precisely worry) about how our kids will carve out a satisfying and successful life for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them, and which they often they don’t understand! We pray that we live one day longer than they do, so that we know for sure they are taken care of!
Parenting From a Place of Fear
When my kids were small, I often went directly from concern over a current issue where one of them had failed to “make the grade” in some situation, to the idea that they would be desolate and living under a bridge. Or worse, becoming one of those 500-pound hoarders that has to be lifted by a crane out of a house with newspapers and garbage stacked to the ceiling. Today I know that allowing myself fear of those extreme outcomes is counter-productive, and certainly doesn’t feel good. But I get it!
Working with families to develop Independence Readiness for their children with ASD has brought some things to light for me that are worth sharing. When we parent from a place of fear, we are not at our most powerful. What we think and what we believe makes a difference in how we show up, how we parent, how our kids feel about themselves, and ultimately how they respond to our parenting. For kids with a social disability, our sons and daughters with ASD have an uncanny knack to sense their parents unspoken emotional diatribe, and often take in that fear and insecurity about their own ability to perform in life.
A Nasty Downward Spiral
Even worse, when we verbalize constant corrections, admonitions, and reprimands in the name of good parenting, our kids can begin to believe that they are not up to the task of succeeding in life. Beliefs and feelings like “…I can never do it right,” or “…I am such a loser,” or “…I have no idea what I did wrong, so something is wrong with me” begin to take root, and can eventually become frequently repeated self-judgments shaping their thinking and their ability to take action.
This is such a parenting quagmire. Parenting a child with ASD means that we want to help our kids become functional, happy and successful! We intuitively know that to do that, we need to proactively teach our kids along the way as mistakes happen. When we make a parenting effort that doesn’t have the outcome we were targeting, what do good parents do? They try harder, demand more, make more restrictions, repeat the lesson again, etc. etc.
Good parents increase their effort to parent their children when they meet with unsatisfactory results. Oh yeah, and as an added bonus, most of us have someone in our life who is telling us the autism isn’t the problem, our parenting is, which only serves to make us try harder and feel worse. It is nasty downward spiral that puts our beloved child at risk for lack of self-esteem, lack of confidence, hesitation to try anything new, and ultimately lack of motivation.
When we verbalize constant corrections, admonitions, and reprimands in the name of good parenting, our kids can begin to believe that they are not up to the task of succeeding in life.
Many parents of kids on the spectrum who have managed to get through high school, report that their 17 to 22 year-old kids are not moving forward in their life. They describe scenarios where the kids in this age bracket spend all day in the basement playing video games, or smoking pot, or watching YouTube videos. Many also describe serious depression which can sometimes be combined with anxiety. Other parents describe the return home of their child after a semester or a year of college where the child has flunked out, stopped going to class, or become to depressed to do anything. Stories of stalling out in life at this important transition point are abundant among parents (really GOOD parents) who have kids with autism!
So how do we know if we are succumbing to the pitfalls that appear from our GOOD parenting? Some of the telltale signs include the anger level of our child. Is he or she angrier than they were before? Is there more fighting, and less cooperation in your household? Do you feel perhaps like you are going backwards or starting over?
Learning How Your Child Thinks
When we parent from a place of confident knowledge and awareness of our children’s strengths and weaknesses, combined with understanding how their mind works, everything changes. When we have sufficient knowledge of the inherent thinking that is part of autism, we are armed with the tools we need to prevent the “transition stall” that can leave your child unable to launch into life! Without the education, using the rinse and repeat parenting we learned from our parents, we are risking our child’s future, or at the very lest counting on THEM to figure it out on their own. That might be possible for kids not on the autism spectrum, but it is a recipe for disaster for kids with ASD.
If you want to make sure you don’t contribute to the possibility of transition stall brought on or made worse by traditional parenting and give your child the greatest chance of being able to launch a fulfilling and independent life, learn more about how your child thinks and responds to the world. His or her future depends on it!
When we have sufficient knowledge of the inherent thinking that is part of autism, we are armed with the tools we need
Reach out to the National Autism Academy to try one of our newest programs, the Independence Readiness Training, or the Mindset Makeover Training. Both offer powerful tools to help insure your child lives their best life!