First off let’s start by saying that there is no such thing as the best method, the best protocol, the best book to read on how to be the best parent. Whether or not your child has special needs or not, there just simply isn’t a method that is the one to use.
Every snowflake is different and so is every child. Every family is different too. So those “experts” who espouse to know just how YOU should be doing something as important as raising your child are way off the mark!!
Now that is not to say that there are not real theories and ideas out there about how to handle specific situations—the oppositional child, the one who refuses to eat, the overly shy child, etc. Yes, there are suggestions out there on how to handle these situations, but remember that is what they are suggestions, not dogma. (And I say this as an author of book about special needs children!)
All too often I have seen well meaning parents read a book, go to a lecture or seminar and come back and “swallow the system whole.” They structure their lives around doing the “recipe” totally unaware that there is no tried and true path for raising children.
However there are a few things that can help:
- Start with common sense
- What you do has to fit in with your family and ALL the family members
- Mom and Dad MUST be on the same page and be a team together
- Do not try to be your child’s friend—you are the parent
- Parent is both a noun and a verb
- Your real job is to become obsolete—not needed—eventually
- Children only really need three things:
There are a lot of “cookbooks” out there. The advice overflow can be confusing and overwhelming. Starting the with gold standard of Dr. Spock, all of them promise that if you follow their method you will have the happiest, most well behaved, adjusted children ever.
If it were only that easy, first there would be only ONE book everyone used, and second it would imply that we are all the same. But, alas we are not all the same and the plethora of books substantiates that.
What does happen when parents “marry” a system is that is stymies the parents’ creativity. If “Jimmy” is acting out and he is not stopped because the “book” says to let him “figure it out” that may work at home, but at school when the teacher says “stop” she means “stop and now”. Not used to that “Jimmy” can be unjustly labeled a “trouble-maker” when in truth he is only doing what is acceptable at home.
If you “Google” parenting you come up with 1,000+ entries and if you try “best parenting” you get even more!
When my daughter, now 36, was graduating high school she wrote a song who’s opening lines were….”Kids don’t come with instruction books and they don’t come with guarantees, I’d like to thank you Mom and Dad for taking care of me…”
I saw a greeting card recently that listed the “Top 10 Reasons” someone was the ‘best parent and #1 was “ You Love Me”. Forget about being embarrassing, you will be; being “hated”, absolutely but only temporarily; not being “cool”, hardly ever and the list goes on.
Don’t be afraid to parent your child. Your child wants you to be the parent. They have peers at school. They need you to be the steady force that guides them—reliable, constant and loving.
Saying no is part of the program—boundaries are everywhere and they might as well learn that starting at home. We live with red lights, schedules to meet, and behavioral constraints. Children need to learn that boundaries can also be guiding and protective.
Letting a child learn from “natural consequences” may be OK some of the time, but left solely to a world of “consequences” without limitations other than those self-imposed can lead to chaos and confusion.
Because something “worked” at your friend’s home with “Jill” does not mean it will work with your “John”. Because something looks good in a book, does not mean it will work in your home. Because the video at the seminar was motivating, does not mean that you can reproduce that within your family.
Use COMMON SENSE, and just provide love, security, structure, boundaries and patience—for both you and your child.
Susan N. Schriber Orloff, OTR/L, is the author of Learning Re-enabled, a guide for parents, teachers and therapists. Susan is CEO and is the executive director of Children’s Special Services, LLC, an occupational therapy service for children with developmental and learning delays in Atlanta, GA. She can be reached on the Web at www.childrens-services.com ; OTRLovesKids on Twitter, and LDMadeEAsy.blogspot.com . Her US Trademarked handwriting program, WIN™ program is available through YourTherapySource.com.
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