One of the things connected parenting has helped me realize is that my fears and anxieties are really my own worst enemies. They cause me to react rather than respond and die on parenting hills probably not worth dying over.
There's nothing like an extreme child or children to help you put life in perspective.
We look back at our parenting era B.C. (Before Crisis) and laugh at the things we lost sleep over...whether or not our toddler would ever share, how many times teeth had been flossed that week, whether our vegetable rainbow had enough colors. Ok, I, not "we" lost sleep over such things.
These days not sharing is at least a step up from stealing, and teeth might not even get brushed let alone flossed, and eating by itself is a win. Veggies are icing on the cake. Nope the kids are usually just eating real icing.
As we've settled into this season of parenting, we're finding that choosing our battles carefully is extremely freeing. I shudder to think how we'd be screwing up our relationship with our tween and teen had we remained in the B.C. era. We'd be in control battles over personal hygiene and clean rooms instead of hanging out with them binge watching Die Hard movies and playing Rummy 500.
Being the engineer that I am, I was able to identify a process that my mind goes through before picking a battle or dying on a hill. It's actually a process I go through both with our neurotypical kids and our kids with special needs. It's actually starting to become a habit. It's also a process I talk some of the parents I work with through.
I call it the Inner Ramblings of a Connected Parent.
Let's take personal hygiene for instance since that seems to be a pretty hot topic in groups I'm in for typical stinky teens and for kids from hard places.
First, I identify the challenge. In this case, lack of personal hygiene routine. I force myself to rate it on a scale of 1 to 4 with 1 being mild (e.g., personal hygiene) and 4 being severe (e.g., harm to self or others). This can be tricky because you have to separate the actual behavior from your emotional reaction to it. You might need to phone a friend to get an objective rating.
Then I look at myself and ask, "Why do I care?" We all choose different battles because of our history. It's why you might dress your family in coordinating outfits every Sunday, and my kid wears Crocs to Christmas Eve service. Maybe it's an inconvenience thing or maybe there's truly a safety component. In the hygiene case, I care what the public thinks of my stinky, minimally groomed kids. It's a fear of sorts--fear of judgment. My nose also cares if I get too close to my 14-year-old, unshowered son.
It's important to remember that behavior is communication. In this case, my kids are probably just demonstrating that we succeeded in raising them so they don't care what others think. #becarefulwhatyouaskfor
This next one is a tool our family's therapist taught us that is MONEY! Who can I enlist to help? She used to tell us that it was our job to connect with our kids and others could be the critics. We needed to be their safe place but couldn't if we were constantly criticizing. For hygiene, I know that she would say that peer pressure would eventually do the trick. Ugh, but what if I want results now?!? Too bad. Remember, this fell at a 1 on the severity scale.
Which leads me to what's REALLY the worst that can happen? Without being dramatic. Umm...I'll gag in the car when I'm playing taxi? There might be some cavities? Ok, let's just say they loose ALL OF THEIR TEETH because they didn't brush. Dentures. I know some pretty happy people with dentures. It would kinda suck but it's unlikely and really not the end of the world.
Now that we've rolled all this around, we can finally decide what, if anything, we're going to do about it. Hygiene, I decided not to battle. Although a passing comment here and there about what my nose tells me or a question lightheartedly posed such as "Do you even remember the last time you showered?" does slip out occasionally.
However, the relationship capital we've maintained by not fighting this day in and day out does give me room to say, "Hey, we're going to a funeral tomorrow. Please make sure you're showered before we leave," and them room to accept it.
Phew! Kudos if you stayed with me through my inner ramblings. I'm more of a visual learner, so since you stuck it out, I want to gift you with a printable, visual copy of the Inner Ramblings so you can ramble for yourself.
You're also welcome to join our Facebook community, Essentially Connected Parenting, where you can pose questions and we can ramble together.