Monday, July 15, 2013

Autism Answer: What Supportive means to me

The other day my oldest son was being cheeky and both my mom and I kind of laid into him a little. Not much, but my youngest son could barely stand it! The shift in energy that happens when one of his brothers is being lectured or challenged is physically painful to him. So, he asked me to please join him in the other room, where he proceeded to lecture me.

"Mom," my thirteen year old said with authority, making intentional eye contact,"Do you want to lose your children? Do you want us to feel like you don't support us and so lose our friendship? I don't think so. But you will if you don't support us when Dramma or some other grown-up is getting mad at us."

"Of course I never want to lose you guys!" I said with ease. "However, I was supporting your brother just now."

"No you weren't." he explained with patience, attempting to comb his fingers through a tangled mess of Afro that sits unkempt on his head. "Dramma was telling him what he did wrong, and instead of supporting him, you agreed with her and explained even more stuff. I know you love us, mom, but you have to always support us too."

"Sweetie, I always and forever will support you and all of your brothers. I always and forever will support everyone. But that doesn't mean agreeing with you guys and letting you do anything you want or say anything you want. Supporting you means doing what I can to help you, even when it's hard for me. It's easier to just say 'oh, sure, whatever...' to you and your brothers than it is to disagree and find kind ways to show you and explain to you all the things I want for you and the expectations I have in our home and around our family. But because I support you and your brothers, and because I believe in you, I always take the time to explain and disagree. Sometimes I support you by saying no."

My youngest son gave a little sigh and took my face in his hands. He looked into my eyes and said with conviction,"You need to tell my brother that." Then my youngest son turned his back to me and turned on a video game.

I did as I was told. Of course, I waited a few minutes so that my oldest son would be more receptive to the chat (and so I could make it look like my idea and not his little brother's! tee hee!)

My oldest boy and I had a fabulous chat about what it means to be supportive. He and I don't agree completely, but at least I know that he understands my view and will more likely feel my support when I give it my way, and not his.

These are the sorts of things my mom (international parenting and autism expert Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD) means when she teaches parents and professionals to "explain, explain, explain."

We are parents and teachers. It is our job to invent rules and expectations and raise the bar. But it is unfair of us if we forget to explain. 

Besides, so much parenting fun happens when we take the time to tell our kids why we think what we think, and take the time to find out why they think what they think!

Taking the time to teach with kindness and explanation, being willing to change our minds and learn from each other while holding a willingness to say no; that's what supportive means to me.
Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)