Parenting “rules”

With my child, in addition to discussing and agreeing on schedules & plans, we discuss rewards for success and consequences if he doesn’t hold up his end of a commitment (decision).

It’s so much easier to get my child to comply with their own plans if I can say: You wanted me to remind you that <child’s choice>.

If they still respond in an upsetting way, we’ve also agreed and written down consequences for unkind/rude/aggressive behavior.

That way I don’t have to make any parenting decisions on the fly and I can always check our family agreements if needed.

If a new situation comes up then my only job is to stay calm, observe and document so that we can problem solve together once everyone is calm.

One of our agreements is that either we discuss the problem and come up with a solution together or the person who is willing to discuss can decide on a solution on their own.

Either participate in decisions relating to you or they will be made for you.

There are so many decisions humans have to make that we build a web of trust so that we can outsource or automate all but the most urgent decisions.

The role of a parent is to teach a child how to make decisions or trust the decisions of others.

The first thing a human has to learn is to maintain the physical health of the body so that the brain can function optimally.

Much of that can be outsourced or automated as good habits.

ABA is a Tool

If you have been traumatized by ABA, please know I love you and hope you can love you too.

And like most tools, it can be used to build up, or tear down.

ABA has frequently been misused to teach neurodivergent children to mask – squashing their authentic self and thus traumatizing them.

Atomic Habits is basically the layman’s guide to using ABA to build the life they want.

If your child does not LOVE going to ABA or seeing their BT/BI, then something is wrong.

ABA is supposed to be individualized, so if they aren’t customizing, it isn’t being used properly.

We use ABA to support acquiring self-regulation skills, self-advocacy skills, coping tools and communication skills.

We do not use ABA to teach compliance or masking – we don’t ask for eye contact, but we do point out that when someone is facing away or hasn’t gotten our attention, then it’s hard to hear, and if we don’t hear, we can’t reply.

The number one thing they do is catch the kiddo doing well and praising that. Which helped me realize how terrible I was at it. It felt really weird and kinda fake at first, but I’m much more comfortable now and it feels really good.

Input Required

I had a friend ask for ideas, I’m generalizing here for anyone it might help.

Kiddo asks parent for proprioceptive input.

Parent either can’t or can only offer some input.

Kiddo can’t handle the refusal – they already are disregulated and needing input, so they escalate.

My suggestions came from my experience:

1 One, it’s ok to have boundaries, and the less someone respects your boundaries, the bigger the boundaries have to be.

I’ve described it like the following distance when driving – if someone in front of you or behind you is tailgaiting, you need a larger following distance. That way if the person in front crashes from tailgaiting you have time to brake. If the person behind is too close then you also need time to brake slowly so they don’t hit you like they would if you had to stop suddenly.

What this looks like is stopping your kiddo farther away and asking them to slow down and ask first. If they are too disregulated to respect the boundaries, then you know to take action to protect yourself and help them get regulated. For example my personal bubble with the kiddo is my head and my back, if he wants to go behind me he has to ask, and if he wants to touch my face he has to ask, and if he wants to give me a hug, he doesn’t have to ask unless he’s trying to come up behind me.

2 Two, if they are asking for input you can’t give, try to give them or help them get the input they need. I’ll offer “squeezies” – a big bear hug, “squishies” – squishing the kiddo between me and a counter/wall/etc. or “jumpies” – holding hands and the kiddo jumps while pushing down on my hands, similar to holding a gym bar or pushing down on a counter or table and jumping.

In this case kiddo wanted what we call “shoulder bup” – sitting on shoulders. The two alternatives I thought of was doing a piggy back and then leaning against the wall to take some of the weight off or doing the shoulder bup with leaning back so that most of the kiddo’s weight ends up on the back of the seat if available.

If those aren’t options, a headstand or handstand might help or the other types of input mentioned. Another one we like is “Timber!” where they call that and you are a tree that then falls down on them – usually sitting side by side and leaning into them.

Rehearse for life

I can’t find the article, but when the kiddo was biting more, I remember reading that you can’t tell a child not to bite when they are flooded (Gottman term for the amygdala being in charge), and just telling them not to bite when they are calm doesn’t work – they can’t remember in the heat of the moment. You have to role play appropriate responses.

Like training for martial arts so that when you are in fight/flight/freeze your automatic reflexes take over.

We have a policy that once calm and we’ve figured out what the problem was, we have to roleplay a healthier/more adaptive method at least 3 times so that those neural pathways are reinforced more than the maladaptive ones that were defaulted to. And for really big things like hitting or biting we do at least 5 – and include variations. Basically the “What Would Danny Do?” (there is a Darla one out now too) books, but instead acting them out and using our situations. We also tell (and keep meaning to write up) “choose your own adventure” versions – the first is what actually happened and why, and then we come up with two or three more other options and results.

This can also help with theory of mind and empathy. It is the reason that pretend play is so important and if it doesn’t come naturally, it should get modeled. The Hot Wheels City videos on YouTube actually helped us with that. The kiddo didn’t like watching real life people but that one only shows the hands using toys to do pretend play.

Please love yourself

“but then you can’t expect somebody who loves you to treat you less cruelly than he would treat himself.”

Mary McCarthy on Love and Hannah Arendt’s Advice to Her on the Dangerous Delusion That We Can Change the People We Love – The Marginalian

This was a revelation for me – I had such a hard time understanding how someone could be so kind, generous & compassionate with everyone but me. Until I realized that I had become part of their self and thus was mistreated the same way they mistreated themselves. And because of my codependency I had allowed & tolerated it by not setting firm boundaries.

No one can read minds.

Your “obvious” hints/signs/clues – aren’t. Just state your needs if you want a chance of getting them met.

You are the only one who knows the inside scoop.

You are the one who knows what your internal experience is – everyone else can only guess based on behavior.

Put on your air mask first.

You must have love and compassion for yourself before you can have it for others.

If you are what you practice habitually, the best place to start is with your internal voice – be kind to yourself.

Feed the good wolf – if you feel yourself going into what I call “the bad place” – I distract myself with things that remind me of hope, kindness, goodness (right now it’s the idea of permaculture).