Kids with sensory processing disorder, in my experience, seem to be more sensitive, or perceptive, when spoken to. They seem to easily pick up on underlying vocal tones or the moods of the people around them.
Rick Lavoie often says that what works for special-needs children works for all children. And indeed it does. My children with sensory processing disorder isn’t the only one who can benefit from positive parenting, all my kids can. And all kids out there too.
The book that taught me the most about real parenting hands-down is “How to Talk So Kids Listen & Listen So Kids Talk” (along with it’s sequel “Sibling Rivalry”) by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s not a new book, and every parent should have read it by now. I’m putting it up here on this page so you can easily read the reviews for this book, it is outstanding.
Sensitive children (and all children) are tuned-in to their parents’ general attitude and types of remarks. Sometimes parents can be condescending without intending to hurt the child’s feelings, but if the parent falls into a pattern of being critical often, the build up can cause long-term damage to the child’s self-esteem and sense of worth. Additionally, it can teach the child that being critical of everything around him is normal.
The book “How to Talk So Kids Listen & Listen So Kids Talk” can train the parent’s mind and mouth to respond appropriately to a child. It also teachers parents how to avoid fighting and nagging their children, and alternatives to punishments.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again because I think it’s that important, punishments do not teach children what they did wrong and what to do next time. They send off the message that: “I, the parent, have the authority to punish you, the child, because you did wrong.”
What is much more effective is: A) Separating the child from the situation if he needs to calm down B) Giving the child the chance to fix what he did wrong (yes, I know, not everything can be fixed, which brings us to) C) Teaching the child the right thing that he should have done, and then D) Practicing that right thing.
It is that simple: Child did something he shouldn’t have (He IS just a child, after all). There is no need to get all excited or annoyed. Child can fix what he did, if possible, learn what he should have done, and then practice perfectly. This teaches a true, pure lesson to the child, which is our end goal.
When you use punishments, it creates a negative atmosphere in the home, especially if a child with sensory issues lives there. I know that if I used punishments, I’d be giving them out all day! Because this is what my house sounds like: “Ma, he bumped me! (there’s that proprioceptive dysfunction again, I’m thinking) Go away from here, you’re too close! (claustrophobia and proprioception) Ma, he squeezed my arm! (tactile) I’m not eating dinner, my salad is too close to my rice and meatballs! EW, his water just spilled all over him! (tactile, gustatory, olfactory) AHHHH, I tripped on my chair and broke my foot in half! (proprioception, tactile) WHO’S in the bathroom?!? I need to go right now or I’m going to have an accident! (interoception) “DON’T cough on me!” said to the sibling across the room (claustrophobia and tactile), etc etc.
That’s about 3 seconds of what goes on here every hour before school and after. I’m constantly playing referee. How many of the above scenarios would end up in punishments if that’s what I thought would be a good way to discipline?
There are many positive parenting programs out there, and I think they’re probably redundant. It really all boils down to one thing: respecting children as their own individual, little people.
You might think, why should I as an adult respect children when children are supposed to respect adults? For two good reasons and they are intertwined: A) As the adult you are supposed to guide the child into mature behaviors, and B) Because when a child feels respected and worthy, the child gains a healthy sense of self and then can automatically give the same respect and worthiness to the next person.
Respecting children as their own individuals means that you respect that they have valid feelings, different opinions than you, and even own their own property. Just like adults do to their peers. A mature adult isn’t threatened by a child’s differing opinion, strong feelings, or attachment to his pet hamsters. The adult is there to guide and teach and encourage, and to give the child a warm, secure place called home where he can grow to his utmost self.
I can almost hear the adults protesting: “Well, I was criticized all my life as a child and I turned out fine” or “I didn’t even have a Mom/Dad and I grew up real independent because I had to and today I attribute all my success to that.” I don’t think this one is too difficult- how’d that work for you as a child? Is that ideal for children, in your opinion? Remember yourself as a small child and answer honestly, from your 3, 5, or 8 year old mind.
There is enough insecurity, negativity, hatred, and misunderstandings in the world outside our homes. Let our own homes be peaceful oases in the world around us.
*Disclaimer: I did not address most of what the book “How to Talk So Kids Listen & How To Listen So Kids Talk” has to offer. The point of this post was not to give a book review, only to write what helped me (many years ago).
Sooo, what does Positive Parenting mean in your household? How do you stay positive around children, especially children with sensory issues who can turn every minute of our day into chaos?What are your positive parenting strategies?