It’s 9 am on a Thursday morning and my son is on the floor sulking. He slept well the night before and ate a pretty well-balanced breakfast just an hour before. So what on Earth in the middle of the summer could have gotten him into such a funk that his entire body ended up on my dining room floor?
One word: Work. Not all of it though. I believe it was an assignment in which he had to read a composition and answer the corresponding questions. Then, he was to take the information based on what he had read and create a short story answering a specific question. I figured he’d need help because this was a relatively complex assignment. He had done some comprehension in 2nd grade before, and learned some elements of a story, but I don’t recall him ever having an assignment wherein he had to write a story by himself. As much as I tried to simplify it for him, it all became too much too soon. Ergo, the Noah floor puddle.
In the last year or so, as expectations and directions became more complex, as school work became more challenging, and as new skills have tried to be taught, we have struggled tremendously with the “I Can’ts.” When a situation looks unachievable, or even in the slightest difficult, it is “I can’t.” When there is fear of possible failure, or even of getting hurt, it is “I can’t.” The I Can’t’s have taken over for the final bits of this summer and needless to say, that is frustrating for me. So how can I possibly encourage and motivate my kids before therapy starts? If you read my other post about therapy, you know that the kids are still on wait lists before they can begin with professional help. So it’s up to me and the hubs to turn those “I Can’t’s” into “I’ll Try’s.”
- Be prepared to invest some serious time. Time is of the essence, especially if you are a parent. There is always so much to do in so little time. In our case, my husband works a full-time job and I am still getting the house settled. I have to find the time to devote to three children plus a dog, and still be able to do the things I love, including my writing. But I know that with these kids, time is the only thing that will work towards encouraging and motivating the children through difficult or undesirable activities. One of my tricks is that I try to avoid scheduling a load of activities for one day. I usually will focus on one house chore and one outside errand a day. I also try to plan one fun activity for the kids to look forward to, so that my use of “if, then” will actually work. The key is don’t overbear yourself, so that you don’t in turn overbear them.
- Adjust the expectations. We live in a very competitive, and comparative, world. From the time our kids are born, we are inundated with skills and achievements that they should all be reaching by a certain time. This continues into adulthood, wherein we create timelines for ourselves, based on what we should be doing by a certain time. This is crazy and unrealistic, especially for children with special needs. My oldest who is 8, still doesn’t know how to ride a two-wheeler. It’s not that he is unable to physically learn, but he is so afraid of falling, he struggles to balance himself properly so that he will avoid that. Thus, the avoidance and the lack of motivation to learn. It has been about a year since we began teaching him and we have taken many breaks in that time. We have had to adjust the expectation for him to learn by a certain time because of his fear and lack of motivation. We have made smaller goals for him toward the bigger goal so that his confidence can grow and so he’ll want to learn to ride his new bike. His time frame is much different from his best friend’s, and that’s okay.
- Encourage expression. This is a hard one because no one wants to deal with tantrums and yelling fits. But kids are human too and need an outlet in which they can release their frustrations. I am the first to tell you that I cannot stand my kids yelling or melting down. It drives me crazy. But I also know that after my kids tantrum, they somehow feel much better. They are better able to communicate their issues which helps us resolve their problem. Now, I’m not saying to let them get aggressive and cause chaos in the house in which someone else or themselves get hurt. All I’m saying is to create a safe space for them to vent so that they can clear their head of all the emotion that keeps them from being able to problem-solve. A punch pillow, or a calm-down corner works great for this; we have multiple in our home.
- Change your thinking. For a long time, and even sometimes now, I have referred to the way I was raised to create and explain my expectations. Most of us, like it or not, turn into our parents when we become a mom or dad. Why? Because our parents are our biggest influence and their tactics are what we can most easily emulate as we raise our own children. As for my husband and I, we were raised to be respectful of adults. This meant you didn’t talk back, you didn’t question your folks, and you did as you were told. I will tell you right now that those expectations straightforward don’t work for my kids. My children are feisty and inquisitive by nature. I have a couple that have a hard time following directions because they struggle with attention and impulsivity. This, or course, affects the way they will ultimately behave and the choices they will make. I have had to change the entire way I view the parent/child relationship because the way I was raised is not working for my children. Yes, they are my kids, and yes they have many of the same traits that I do, but in the end, they are their own beings with their own personalities. I have had to surrender to repeating myself, giving daily reminders, and allowing them more time to complete an activity. This hasn’t been easy, and most days I hate it, but I view it as a unique opportunity to evolve as a person and as a mother. We are meant to be better than our parents. It’s just how it goes. And what better way to do that than when your kids don’t respond to any of the tricks your own parents used on you.
It’s not going to be easy. Raising children never is. But it is our responsibility to be the best cheerleader for our kids that we can be. Everyone feels frustrated and discouraged, as is their right to be. The key here is to find a way to help our children vent their frustration in a useful way that encourages them to try even the most difficult of tasks. The greatest of people had many “I Can’t” experiences that all lead to one amazing “I Can.” Our kids too can be a part of that group. It just takes work, diligence, patience, and just a hint of magic. You CAN do it!