Sunday, March 11, 2012

Empowering Your Children.

There are many ways to approach parenting. Growing up I had friends whose parents would literally whip them with a belt for discipline. I had friends who would cuss out their parents and walk all over them. And most of my friends fell somewhere in between. Tara and I do not claim to be any sort of experts on parenting and have a long list of entries in the "parent fail" column. But having a child on the spectrum has made us very conscious of every discipline strategy, every measure of behavior, every intervention when things are going south, or going well. And we're well aware of our mistakes!

The friends that I had who were physically disciplined were among the most "well behaved" kids i knew, who rarely got in trouble. Were never arrested. Were never suspended from school. Were never pregnant and 16, Never did drugs… and so on. That's not surprising, they were completely scared. Their parents achieved what they wanted, well-behaved children. But at what cost? Who knows, and I'm not here to presume or judge. This is what i know to be facts with the children Tara and i have. We choose our battles. Empowering your kids to make their own choices instills confidence and trust. For example, I ask my kids what they want for breakfast. Unless they say a bowl of sugar, it really doesn't matter if they choose fruit loops or applesauce. We can always throw in something healthy to balance their choice and they've still made the choice (and will most likely eat it all anyway).

"What do you guys want to do today?" "Go to Colorado skiing." Ok, then we have a situation if we're not going to Colorado. So we have to say, "no, we need to think about other choices." But what we've learned, with both of our kids, but especially Rye, is to give them choices, but very specific choices. Instead of "what do you want for lunch?" we say, "do you want a ham sandwich or a hot dog?" The former is too abstract for Rye and so generally his answer will be "I don't know." To Rye, "basketball" is an option for lunch but he knows there something about it that that doesn't sound right. "This" or "that" narrows his focus, are two very understandable choices that empower him to decide, and are within our parameters. This is our life.

"Do you want to do your Math homework or practice your spelling words?"

"Do you want to watch Star Wars or Cars 2?"

"Do you want to go to the store with me, yes or no?"

We can't completely gauge the future success of our children's lives or happiness, but we can gauge it now and we're pretty satisfied with where we are. We mention the "formula" a lot. These strategies are also part of it. Is there bad behavior? Yes. Is there non-compliance? Absolutely. Are there still crying fits and melt-downs? Of course. But that's all part of it. I love the bumper sticker "well behaved women rarely make history." Not that i want bad children, but I'm also not crazy about the idea of my kids being afraid to speak, have an opinion or make a decision either. "Spirited with the best intentions," is where i'd like them to land!


  1. Enjoyed reading the article, Scott. You are both doing an awesome job as parents to both of your children.


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