Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Teaching Independence: Be the Mom!

Very early in my parenting, I learned a lesson. If I wanted to be a friend to my children in the short run, I was going to sacrifice who I wanted them to become in the long run. I am far from perfect in this---very far!! If this was true for a typical child, it was doubly true for a boy or girl with learning differences.

What I have learned is children (and adults) avoid uncomfortable things. This is true for everyone but the child who likes things the same would never try anything new if he could avoid it. This child has to have his world expanded by trying new and uncomfortable things. Isn't that the way all of us grow? As a person moves out of his comfort zone, he experiences new things and develops skills that he could not of thought possible when the idea was presented. It has to be a gentle but firm push. There needs to be consistency as you make this a way of life in the home.

Praising a child's willingness to try and his successes are important. I would encourage a parent to empathize with the child saying, "I know this is hard, I get it but you have done hard things before and you can do it now. Remember, I am here and I will help you get through it." That may mean sharing the responsibility if it is really difficult for him. It may be helping him problem solve solutions when he gets stuck. As he gains more abilities, you may be his cheerleader when he wants to give up.

The main thing is to help your child move a little closer to being fully independent each and everyday. Yes, the goal is to work your way out of a job! It is a lot harder with a child who has learning differences but progress can be made. There will some disasters that don't turn out so well. There is always risks that he is not ready for what you are trying to teach him. When that happens (and it will) just regroup and try again tomorrow with a little different plan that might be more successful. Anytime there are aggressive goals, you might bite off too much. And other times, you will be surprised how quickly your child learns.

It won't be an easy road but as you stretch your child, but the result will be worth the effort. Your son or daughter may not be president of your fan club as you require him/her to step into uncharted territory that seems way out of control. It's ok because in the long run, there is great security and confidence that is built in your child because you were willing to "be the mom."