Autism Program Bonus Lesson #10

Bonus Lesson #10 - Resolving conflict when it comes to parenting on the same page

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Transcript of Bonus Lesson #10 Below:

This topic would have to be one of the biggest challenges that parent face, largely due to the gap between an old school and a new school way of parenting.

As a society, we are in complete confusion of how to best raise our children.

There are studies that say this, parents that say something else, grandparents who swear by their way, attachment parents that swear by theirs.

And then you throw in an autism diagnosis where there can be approaches based on old information and lack of neuroscience around what’s happening in the autistic brain, and the new approaches that understand loads more about autism, and the fact that every autistic brain is different, and you can be forgiven for being completely confused as to what to do.

On top of this we also have lots of labels for parents too – helicopter parents, dependent, isolated, polarised narcissistic, overprotective, the super parent, the aggressive coach parent, the anything goes parent, the I could do it better parent, the spotless house parent. That’s just some of the labels out there that are getting judged and celebrated.

Then we have the different styles of parenting too – positive parenting, attachment parenting, conscious parenting, spiritual parenting, slow parenting (or nurturant parenting), authoritative and authoritarian parenting (yes they are two completely different styles), neglectful, or narcissistic parenting and toxic parenting (obviously three styles of parenting we don’t want to be categorised as, but it’s still recognised as a style of parenting) and more!

The old school follows the ‘my way or the highway’ and ‘children should be seen and not heard’ and if they do something wrong, they need to be smacked or punished.

The new school wants to understand, talk, nurture, give kids a say, communicate, negotiate, compromise, but still wants to teach respect and good manners, just like the old school does.

THEN we have the different personality traits of females and males, some of which we have talked about in this week’s video, alongside the messages boys and girls are getting from society as they are raised, and the changes in society that are happening so much quicker than ever before.

And THEN on top of that we have the parents themselves and their beliefs on what is the right way and what is the wrong way.

Some parents want to read all this research and parent in accordance with the experts.

Others want to parent instinctively.

Some want to follow the old rules exclusively and don’t see a need for change.

Some only want to follow the new rules and ditch all the old rules, and some are aimlessly trying to strike a balance between everything they’ve read and heard.

Oh my gosh! I feel so overwhelmed just reading that out! Do you feel the same reading this?!!

There is so much research out there on how to be the best parent. It’s little wonder there is so much confusion in the parenting community.

Who’s doing the best job?

How do I do it better?

Am I ruining my child’s life if I don’t do it this way or that?

The issue of raising children can be a major cause of arguments between couples at the best of times without the unique challenges a couple faces when autism throws in a few more curveballs.

You and your partner may have both been brought up by your own parents in a completely different way, and this can come out in the decisions you want to make about how you raise your own children.

We know how we were raised and what that did for us on a very personal level, and this will strongly dictate how you want to treat your own children.

For example, you or your partner may have had a very physical form of discipline while growing up, and you may either feel that it worked for you because ‘I turned out alright’, or because of the way it made you feel, you have vowed NEVER to allow that to happen to your kids.

For various reasons you may find that you both feel very strongly about how a child should be disciplined, so there needs to be some deliberate conversation about what each of your standpoints are on this matter, so you can decide how to handle it before the situation presents itself.

And on top of that, serious considerations need to be made to factor in the differences in brain development with your children.

And I’m not just talking about the autistic brain development either. I’m saying all brain development because different ages and stages of brain development always need to be factored into how we raise a child.

The reality is that sometimes a child simply cannot do the things a parent is expecting them to do, or they can’t regulate their emotions the way another child would.

We really do need to take an individual approach with all of our children whether atypical or neurotypical.

In this lesson, I wanted make some suggestions for tackling the issue of raising children with your partner.

I have come up with 9, maybe 10 rules (depending on whether you consider the tenth one as a rule or not) that are going to be really helpful to take with you when you’re discussing decisions around how you’ll approach certain circumstances with your child.

Rule #1 – Try not to criticise your partner’s approach.

We have to recognise that there are reasons why they want to parent that way.

I’m not saying you can’t disagree with it. I’m saying that if you criticise it outright, you are going to lose their willingness to discuss the issue at all.

No one is ever going to be open to negotiations and compromise when they feel judged, ridiculed, put down or made out to be wrong when they believe they are right!

Use your active listening skills by listening and validating their standpoints. You don’t have to agree with them but get curious to gain an understanding of why your partner believes what they do.

Make sense of it.

Where did it come from? What knowledge are they using to create their opinions?

If you want to disagree, try doing it with a question rather than a statement.

For example, ‘I get that you want to teach our kids not to run amok. I want that too. Do you think it teaches them what to do if you smack them though? I mean I get that it teaches what not to do, but when do we teach them what to do?”

Your tone of voice needs to be curious and conversational too, not critical when you say things like this.

Did you notice too that at the beginning of that question I validated the other person’s intentions and agreed that I wanted that too before I questioned the approach?

It just puts a nice buffer around it.

I also refrained from using the word ‘but’ because people usually only hear what comes after the ‘but’ so it negates everything that came before it.

Rule #2 – Get an understanding of the reasons why each of you believe your discipline method is the ‘right’ way.

Throughout this program, whenever we’ve been discussing how you’re going to handle a behaviour with your child, we’ve always started with understanding why the behaviour is occurring in the first place.

You can use this approach with your partner too.

When you understand each other’s points of view and where you’re coming from, you may discover that the reason they are so adamant to parent that way, may be from a past hurt that has been experienced, and compassion can be factored into the equation when discussing this issue.

Or you may discover a moral or cultural belief they have driving their fixed viewpoint.

This doesn’t mean that you will not still work on compromise or negotiation, however you can respect where they are coming from and work with their beliefs, rather than discount them.

Rule #3 – Get clear on what you’re both wanting.

There is one reason why each parent feels so strongly that their way is the right way – because they BOTH want what is best for their kids!

They BOTH want to raise happy, independent adults able to cope in the real world.

Both parents are doing the best they can with the information they have.

Perhaps start by answering this question individually:

“If our child grows up to be ____________, I will be happy that I’ve done a great job.”

(Fill in the blanks to gauge what you each want for your children. I bet your answers have the same theme or similar ones).

Rule #4 - Educate yourself on specifically tried and tested alternatives to what you are both doing, if you feel it is detrimental to your child to continue the current way.

If you want to try something else, don’t go to your partner with ‘you’re wrong and I’m right’.

Go to them with ‘what if we tried this instead. Are you willing to give this a shot if it meant we were able to reach the same goal?’

Or,“I found this great article that explains what’s happening for a child behaving the way our child does and what we can do about it. Would you be open to reading it and giving it a try with me?”

Rule #5 – When implementing your new technique, run with it for an agreed period of time.

If it doesn’t work within that time frame, then agree on trying another technique for another period of time.

Be careful too clearly define what will measure whether a technique is working or not, and whether the goal is in conflict with reality.

For example, if you think that a technique is going to stop all meltdowns in your child, and your child has really high anxiety, you may have unrealistic expectations that the technique is going to be a miracle cure.

Be sure to measure progress as effectiveness of a technique.

That may mean that the meltdown is more manageable, or you’re able to decrease the length of time it occurs, for example.

It may be that you need to try your partner’s technique of discipline to really see if it works, or that your partner may need to give your method a try for a while and wait for the results.

At this point, because you’ve not criticised your partner’s stand point, but took the approach of understanding it and understanding the objective, it’s likely that your partner is going to be more open to trying something new, if it is promising the same results.

Chances are if the technique they are using is causing conflict, then if they knew a better way to get the same result, they’re probably likely to be open to it.

Rule #6 – What if your partner isn’t open to it, even though you’ve found a better way?

Try drawing upon the knowledge you have of their upbringing and ask questions like, “When your parents did ‘x’, how did that make you feel? If your child was feeling that way when you do that, would you want to know and change it?”

Or, “What didn’t you like about how your parents handled things and what would you want to do differently?”

Or, “Sometimes my parent’s approach used to make me feel ‘x’, did your parents ever make you feel bad to teach you a lesson? If there was another way to teach that lesson would you rather use that on our kids instead?”

What you’re trying to do here is marry up their pain that they don’t want to repeat in their children, with your alternative solution, without making them feel bad for repeating their parents mistakes (which is often what they’ve unknowingly done).

You’re just asking the questions. They are the ones who are joining the dots.

You may need to have these conversations separately to discussing the new technique.

Let it sit for a bit and then come back and say, “hey, I found this new technique that’s meant tot each kids ‘x’. Would you like to try it? It might help us get to ‘y’ instead of US (include yourself, don’t blame) getting cranky all the time.”

Rule #7 - Be very aware of WHY you are disciplining your child when you do.

Are you trying to be right, or are you trying to control and get them to obey you?

Or are you trying to teach them social and moral boundaries and respect for others?

Discuss with your partner what your intentions are when administering your type of discipline.

Discuss how your method effectively creates the education that your child needs, that you both want your child to have, and get your partner to do the same.

Rule #8 - Put yourself in your child’s shoes or help your partner do the same (again without criticising).

How does your child feel when they are receiving this method of discipline?

How would you feel, if as an adult, you received this kind of approach from a work colleague or a friend or loved one?

Now think about it from a young ignorant child who’s brain you are literally writing upon so that they hold onto these beliefs about self-worth for life (unless they actively work to change them).

If you think they are feeling hurt, humiliated, not loved by either parent, or getting literally physically or emotionally scarred, then another method must be found.

Which brings me to the next very important rule…

Rule #9 - You as a parent must also feel that your child is well loved and taken care of.

If for any reason you feel that your child is being abused either physically, mentally, sexually or emotionally then in my opinion, there is no negotiation.

This is a deal breaker, and you need to get your child away from that situation straight away.

If you cannot get your partner to change their behaviour from administering discipline in an abusive way, then it is your responsibility to help your child get away from that cycle, as this is against the law and VERY damaging for your child!

All relationships are complicated.

There’s no one way to align on your parenting.

There’s no one way to parent.

It’s about communication, respecting the other parent’s beliefs, values, morals and how they too want THEIR child to be raised too and negotiating, compromising and making decisions from a place of respect.

It’s not just about you.

Don’t think that just because they’re not doing it your way that it’s the wrong way.

Sometimes they have knowledge that you don’t.

Look to who they are as a person for how they might be able to raise their children.

I remember my husband being a little harsher to my kids than I would have liked and I remember arguing with my husband about how he approached things.

Keep in mind that it wasn’t physical or nasty, it was just harsher than I would have said things.

I would have preferred a lovely chat about it over a hot chocolate, you know, all warm and fuzzy like.

I vividly remember my husband say to me… “Jac, school is tough for boys. I’ve been a boy. I know what it’s like. You need to trust me that I know how to raise my boys and I have a different approach that’s going to help them that isn’t going to be a female way of doing things, but it’s a way that’s going to help them.”

That was hard for me to hear and to take a step back and trust that his way might also be a good way of raising my boys and that my way wasn’t the only way, and I wasn’t always going to be right.

I looked at the man my husband was – strong, balanced emotionally, kind, rational, assertive when he needed to be, permissive when he needed to be, non-confrontational, polite, and more.

I loved the man that he was and what he stood for. I used that to help me trust him more and quietly monitor his approaches from afar.

My way wasn’t necessarily the right way because as it turns out, so far my boys are teenagers and have a great balance of toughness (in terms of resilience and not being over sensitive) and vulnerability just like I wanted my boys to have.

Sometimes I had to recognise that he had parenting skills too and my way wasn’t necessarily the highway.

Perhaps this might even be rule #10, or at least the tenth perspective to consider when thinking about the way you discipline your child – Your way is not necessarily the highway.

At the end of the day, like everything in your relationship, you need to have a discussion and align on a decision.

Try something different and see if it works.

This is not a right and wrong game, it’s a trial and error one.

Every child is different, as we know, and you may go through a few behavioural management techniques before you find the one that works for your child and even when you find what works, it will likely change again at some point and it will be back to the drawing board.

The key is to stay aligned with each other.

Discipline fails when two parents are not providing a united front for their kids.

Never undermine each other, but if you have a problem, then fix it at a separate time when the kids aren’t around.

Kids are very perceptive about when parents are unaligned and will exploit that whenever they can.

The whole point to keep in mind when handling issues that arise within a relationship, is that this is a team effort – your partner is NOT the enemy.

You cannot handle these issues in a selfish way, nor allow your partner to.

You are two individuals that are integrating your lives and your beliefs, into a partnership that will allow you to be the individuals, couple, and parents that you both desire to be.

Even though the way you do this may be different, you can always negotiate how you can both get what you want and become a dynamic couple and a united front for your kids.

Once you start practicing communication without judgement, criticism, selfishness, ‘woe is me’, I’m right, you’re wrong, give me what I want or else, and begin communicating with compassion, respect for another person’s right to be happy and have an opinion, in the spirit of union, fairness, compromise and flexibility, then you will start to see a more affectionate, united & happy relationship.

Isn’t that what you are both trying to achieve anyway?

How to Put Today’s Lesson Into Practice

Which rules do you need to apply?

How can you foresee you and your partner integrating today’s lesson into your parenting?

In tomorrow’s lesson, we’re going to address a difficult topic – how to know if your relationship is really over.