Developing trust is essential. Truth is, traditional modes of correction and discipline will not work. If it does not seem logical, it will not work. You cannot remove video games as a consequence for lying, there must be a direct correlation. You can however state, due to the F you received in English, you will only be allowed to play video games in the evening after all homework has been completed until you have a B. This is a direct correlation (consequence of low grade is limited video game play).
But why would I recommend they can still play video games?
That might seem like a reward but it is about developing trust. Removing a ‘reward’ may be logical for some children and teens, but for someone with Aspergers, you are removing their gateway to the community. You remove their dialogue, their interaction and technically, even discouraging their future! Would you take away crayons from an inspiring artist as a consequence for their low grades? Probably not. It is actually more effective to limit when they are allowed to draw than to remove it completely.
In fact, video games, just like art supplies are actually a coping mechanism, it is how that person reduces anxiety and stress.
Trust is about consistency, predictability, and logical correlations.
An Aspergers child has a tendency to see the world in a black and white setting. Meaning, things are right or wrong, overwhelming or not, they are interested or not, they want to do it or they may not see the purpose in doing it. If your child is resistant, it is our responsibility to determine why.
Are they overwhelmed?
Are they not interested?
Do they not see the purpose?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions, we may have determined the source of resistance.
So ask yourself, how important is it for them to do the task. Will it be integral in them meeting their full potential? If yes, find another way to introduce it. If not, move on to bigger and greater things and ask yourself, why is it important to me? Does it bring up my frustrations? Insecurities? Fears? If so, consider consulting with a friend or a professional about the emotions you feel when your child resists. I am here to help, just give me a call.
Developing trust with your Aspergers child does not need to be a daunting task, but it can certainly feel overwhelming. As we learn to work with the resistance, I hope that you will find new ways of parenting your child that allows for improved communication and interactions.
The special gift of those with Aspergers
Diane M. Kennedy, with the ADHD – Autism Connection stated: “People with Asperger’s Syndrome have extraordinary qualities that make them essential to our culture and to God’s plan. Their unique genius should be celebrated.” So what would happen if you did just that- celebrate your child.
Think about it, what if we as a society learned to connect with the very persons that have the innate skillset to progress our society.
Have you ever stopped to consider where we would be without Bill Gates III, Sir Isaac Newton FRS, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin? According to http://www.asperger-syndrome.me.uk/people.htm, these geniuses all met criteria for Aspergers.
What if your child does not meet their full potential? Is our society at risk of missing the opportunity to benefit from your child? This is why we must learn to connect, not correct the Asperger child or teen.
Learning to connect, not correct
So what does it mean to ‘connect.’ The majority of parents I consult with say and do ‘all the right things,’ forgetting that all the right things, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right things for an Aspergers child.
I frequently notice parents struggling to positively affirm when they are met with resistance. It can feel illogical. Why would I want to tell my child they are doing a good job when they are being defiant!
What if we change the word ‘defiant’ to ‘exploring.’ Do we get upset with an infant or toddler exploring by touching their surroundings? We typically think it’s cute, so when did this change?
For many parents, it is about the time the child learns the word ‘NO!’ But, aren’t we typically the ones that taught them that word to begin with? Let’s consider this: If we had never introduced the word ‘no’ and instead we praised the positive (or safe) behaviors, and ignored the negative (or not safe) behaviors what would be different.
We might have a child that would explore their surroundings based off of your response.
Wait- that’s exactly what happens with the word no, that is affirmation (also known as attention).
So, let’s consider present day, your resistant Asperger child or teen. We naturally learn and explore through interactions with our surrounding. A resistant child is frequently a child that feels ‘shut down’ or disconnected from their surroundings.
My challenge to you
What if I were to challenge you for the next 7 days to affirm your child. Affirm everything they do positive, even the baby steps, even the microscopic ones.
What if I were to then challenge you to also ignore the negative behaviors (except for those that have true life consequences).
What would happen.
Could it be possible that your resistant child might look at you in a different way?
Could it be possible that you would change your own thinking patterns of how you connect with your child?
Society has trained us to fixate on the negatives and ignore the positives. From birth, our children are told what they do wrong, but frequently we forgot to appropriately praise them. Yes, some parents are fantastic at praise, those parents are also less likely to have a resistant teen! See the correlation? Your child feels that correlation.
So let’s connect.
Positive affirmations are removing resistance.
The next step in our journey of improving your relationship with your Asperger child or teen is learning to relate, meaning truly entering into their world.
One of the most frequent phone calls I receive is “My Asperger child will not stop playing video games!” My response: Great! They must truly love video games! Step two of learning to connect is learning to accept their passion. If their passion was building cars, would you discourage it? If their passion was trading stocks, would you criticize it? Most likely not- you would join them or find a mentor to support them! Why do we experience video games differently? One could say it is the number of hours they devote to playing them, or the lack of interest they have in interacting with family or friends while doing it. But what if we look at it through their eyes. You might find they feel that their family does not support their passion. You might experience the rejection and the isolation they might feel when you criticize something they love. So, join them!
The number one complaint I hear from my Asperger teens is that parents do not understand why they play their games. Today, video games frequently have chat interfaces. That translates to friends for someone with social difficulties. What if you were to sit down with your child today and ask, ‘Can you teach me how to play (their favorite video game)?’ Typically speaking, Aspergers children love to teach. You might just find a type of spark you’ve never noticed. That disinterested child, might become interested. That avoidant of family child might ask you to stay. They might get frustrated that you can’t ‘get it right,’ but let this remind us that we might be frustrated at them for the same reason.
What would happen if you learned to connect?
By entering their world, would you learn what they enjoy? Would you learn to inspire them and break their resistance? Maybe something more, would you help them meet their full potential? Maybe this is something worth working towards.