Back when I was pregnant, I was terrified about childbirth and epidurals and the rest until I read a book, that sadly I now can’t remember the title. This book was really just an overview of all of the major birthing options from homebirth to planned C-section. (No, waterbirth with dolphins was not covered. I said major birthing options.) But the best part about this book was the constant reiteration that every birth plan was valid — just different ones were more appropriate for different people. There was no “right” way to give birth. Their motto was “Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby, Whatever It Takes.”
And I feel that this particular lesson applies to parenting as well. There is no “right” way to parent. It’s whatever works best for you and your child. For some people that’s a permissive lifestyle, for others it’s structure and time-outs. I don’t know if one way is better or not. I suspect not, but I do know that with my life and temperament, a more rule-based parenting method works for me. My kid has certain expectations that we discuss and remind him of often, and there are consequences (mainly time-outs) when he doesn’t meet those expectations. And the fact that he’s a special needs kid doesn’t change these expectations. It just modifies the way we do time-outs and the number of warnings he receives. But unacceptable (to me) behavior is unacceptable. Period.
For example, we are having issues at the moment with my son hitting or pushing kids smaller than himself. (He’s tall for his age, so this category has a lot of kids in it.) We know why he does it (feeling inadequate), and I can even predict the triggers. So, every day before he goes to school or the park or gym class, I ask, “Are you going to hit?” and he shakes his head no. Then when he’s triggered, he gets warnings. He understands causality so I can say, “If you hit, you time-out.” And if he still chooses to hit, then he gets a time-out.
But, of course, even with this very clear expectation and everyone knowing their role, it still doesn’t always work out. Instead of hitting the kid, my son sometimes just decides to have a full melt-down to punish me for daring to tell him not to do something. (At least, that’s how it feels.) This does not mean that I now require advice on how to raise my child. I have lots of coping strategies for my child’s tantrum (including putting him in his room and giving myself a time-out until I can calm down). I do not suddenly need yours. And trust me, I have tried pretty much everything at this point. If I’m not doing it your way, it probably doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t mean your way is ineffective, just that for me it doesn’t work.
It’s nice to discover that other people have had this experience too. Here’s a couple of posts I enjoyed that made me feel loads better: