Friday, May 24, 2013

Autism Answer: Teaching Trust in our Children's (and our own) Choices!

It's easy for us parents to accidentally teach our children that they are not to be trusted to make their own choices. Because we love them we tell them what to do and how to do it. We say no to soda because it's bad for them, we say bed by nine because it's good for them, we say only one hour of games because we want to take care of their bodies and minds.

Often our kids argue and beg us to change our rules, but we kindly explain and stand our ground. We love them, and this is why we have these guidelines. 

Sometimes, when our children's challenges challenge us, we become even louder and stricter with the rules. Because we love our children and want to keep them safe, and don't want them to be made fun of or bullied, we tell them how to act and what to say. 

But sometimes, when our children have challenges that challenge us, we are stretched and encouraged to get creative and re-think our rules. Why only one hour of games? Why not play with her for two hours and see what she's getting from playing, and why she loves it so much? Why bed at nine? Maybe he will gain more skills and feel more comfortable if he learns life-skills at home rather than at school, and he can sleep with his body's natural rhythm.

We need rules and guidelines to function as a society, and as a family. But we need to remember that they are an invention of ours, and not nearly as important as the people we are inventing them for. Our autistic loved ones especially need us to remember this!

Our children need to know that they can be trusted to make some of their own choices. Otherwise, they will struggle for many years to confidently do so.

My mom taught all eight of us kids this--the ones with and without special needs-- by trusting us and making us responsible for consequences, both intended and un. Desired and not. 

And now, as the mother of four teenage boys, I do the same. Though I struggle and am afraid and forget sometimes (as I share in this guest post I was invited to write for Homestyle Mama (with a side of autism)...) I teach trust in my children and myself by trusting and letting go. I teach focusing on intention and reasons by focusing on intention and sharing my reasons. And by often, together, re-thinking intention and reasons. 

1 in 50 people with autism (or whatever the numbers are when you're reading this!) remind us to re-think our rules and conveniences, remind us to think for ourselves rather than just doing what comes next because we think it's supposed to come next. This can be a beautiful blessing if we let it! 

Let's let it!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!!!