There is no denying it. Your Asperger kid is smart. Really smart. But do they really need to know every single detail about space? Or car engines? Or whatever this month’s focus is. They think they do and it might prevent them from focusing on anything else.
As Albert Einstein once said ‘It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” This is key for those with Aspergers. They can fixate like no one else! (Did you know it is believed that Einstein also had Aspergers?)
So, if your child or teen is overly focused, what can we do to make parenting easier and effective?
Do you find yourself asking these questions?
Why won’t my child/teen listen?
Why won’t they focus on anything else?
Do I really need to listen to them for the umpteenth time?
How do I get them interested in something new?
Why do they bounce from obsession to obsession?
How do I discipline and avoid the meltdown?
How do I even discipline?
If you have ever wondered any of the above questions then continue reading below for some ideas and tips to improve communication at home.
Are you a rigid parent, a flexible parent or a parent who gives in too often?
A rigid parent – These parents are frequently Type A personalities whom might have their own need for control, stability, or predictability in the home. These parents frequently are more rigid because they truly need that environment and may truly enjoy the predictability that rigid parenting can create. Rigid parents might use any range of consequences but they focus on rules being rules and are unlikely to waver or give in to special circumstances.
A flexible parent – These parents can be any personality type. These parents may be flexible for many reasons- they may prefer flexibility in their own life, or they may prefer not living by ‘the rules.’ They may feel overwhelmed and find flexibility an easier and more effective route, or they may have a spouse whom they feel is too rigid. Flexible parents may be compensating for someone else, or because they truly prefer this style and may be more likely to give in or adapt consequences in special circumstances.
A parent who gives in too often – These parents can be any personality type but are almost always overwhelmed. These parents may experience their own anxiety or feel that nothing has worked and feel as if they have given up (or possibly even failed). These parents may also be compensating for an overly rigid spouse or out of guilt. A parent who gives in too often are likely to give in to avoid a meltdown, the tears, the battle and may truly feel it is the best route in the moment.
The problems with rigid parenting
Rigid parenting is great for some kids! Especially those with ADHD who truly need that type of structure and predictability. But what about for those children and teens with Aspergers?
The problem with rigid parenting is that it is counterproductive for those with Aspergers. Your logic will not be their logic. And if it is not logical to them- they are going to resist.
Why I recommend flexible thinking
Flexible thinking works when parenting those with Aspergers because it is about connecting and adjusting.
Those with Aspergers experience a flood of emotions and experiences every day. Flexible thinking allows a parent to adjust to the overwhelm, the sensitivities, the changes in routine; anything that may affect a child or teen with Aspergers. When we are able to easily adjust to what they might be experiencing, it opens an opportunity for them to excel in our world.
The parenting approach that works
Flexible thinking works because we do not expect what worked yesterday to work today. We are flexible in understanding that today might require more structure, or less, more mental breaks, or more time running off energy. When we allow our child or teen to lead us in what they need most, we are most likely to have a child or teen that is relaxed and ready to learn.
Flexible thinking allows for increasing trust. When we are flexible and adapt to their needs, we show that we truly care and we are doing our best to understand.
Trust develops when we take the time to see how our actions impact them, versus focusing on how they are impacting us. Yes, there are times when trust is broken, but it is all part of the process of raising a child.
Developing natural consequences
Flexible thinking automatically creates natural consequences! Natural consequences are when we lose something we want due to our own actions and behaviors. An example is throwing an iPad and now it is broken. That is a natural consequence. These consequences work great for those with Aspegers because they are black and white (meaning logical)!
Flexible thinking and natural consequences work together because the consequence will be adjusted dependent on the action or reaction of the child.
Letting your child try AND fail
Flexible thinking encourages a child to try, to succeed, and to fail. The failing part is really important. Flexible thinking enables a child to be more open to practicing multiple times. This encouragement works because they are likely to try and fail several times without focusing on the attempts. Instead, they may focus on the success they have at the end.
Rigid thinking encourages anxiety or fear based attempts because if they do not succeed there may be a consequence. Rigid thinking tends to be punishment and consequence based which may heighten anxiety for many with Aspergers. Those with Aspergers can also be very pessimistic- they may generalize that because they have failed, they will fail again. This will discourage them from trying.
Making Flexible thinking work for you
Are you a parent who is either rigid or gives in too often and are ready for a change?
Are you a parent who thought they were flexible, and just realized you are not?
Are you a parent whom is flexible, but could benefit from a dose of confidence?
Make flexible thinking work for you. Let me encourage and support you as we create a plan that works at home, for you.