Want to try collaborative parenting, but don't know where to start?
This is the second part of a new series of collaborative parenting tips, all about how to use collaborative parenting to improve your parenting and your ADHD or autistic child's response.
If you haven't had a chance to read the first section, check it out here. Today we'll be talking about how to prepare to start collaborating with your child, as a parent. Let's get to it!
So you read the last post of collaborative parenting tips, and now you're ready to give it a go? Not so fast! There are a few things that parents need to do before you try collaborative parenting. You'll need to:
- Believe that your kiddo is doing her absolute best. She is not lazy, stupid, or mean. She may just lack the skills she needs to succeed. So let's help her learn those skills together!
- Lose the ego. "I'm the parent, so my way is the RIGHT way." Um, nope!
- Lose the threats, the bribes, the punishments. "If you don't put your shoes on right now, no TV for a week! I mean it this time..." Does it ever really work, anyway?
- Believe that building a trusting relationship is worth it, even if it's harder in the beginning
Now, some of you are 100% on board the collaborative parenting train already, but for those of you who need more convincing, I'm here to help. Let's work through these points one at a time, together.
YOU Need to Know These Collaborative Parenting Tips
Believe that your kiddo is doing her absolute best . . . all the time
Kids with behavioral challenges are not attention-seeking, manipulative, limit-testing, coercive, or unmotivated. But they do lack the skills to behave appropriately. Adults can help by recognizing what causes their difficult behaviors and teaching kids the skills they need.
-- Dr. Ross Greene, Lost at School
Kids want to do well. They want to make you happy, and they want to contribute to the family. If that's not what you're seeing from their behavior, it doesn't mean your kid is lazy or unmotivated. Instead, it's likely that they are just missing some of the skills they need to contribute the way you'd both like them too.
Because they're missing the necessary skills, their behavior can sometimes look like defiance, stubbornness, or apathy. Really, it's a combination of ADHD traits almost entirely out of your little one's control. Your kiddo:
- is trying to hear you, but may have short term memory issues, trouble attending, and sensory processing differences.
- is trying to process what you want her to do, but gets distracted, becomes overwhelmed when she isn't given enough time to process, and is then disregulated when you resort to threats, bribes, and yelling
- wants to please you, but also wants your attention, and may have learned that the best way to get you to talk with her is to argue and negotiate
There's also the pure fact that some children don’t have the vocabulary or the emotional maturity to be able to instigate a thoughtful discussion, especially a calm one.
This may be especially true if your kiddo has a developmental delay, a speech delay, selective mutism, or communicates non-verbally. So you need to be there, helping them learn how to do it, through collaborative parenting!
I'm the parent, so my way is the RIGHT way.
ADHD is tough for any number of reasons, and a lot of little ADHDers get labeled as defiant. They don't listen, they don't respond to threats or bribes, they procrastinate, they negotiate over every little request . . . why can't they just do one thing, any little thing, like you asked? It can make you want to tear your hair out.
And it can make you, the parent, feel like you're always losing, and your child is always winning.
Because getting your kiddo to do what you want her to do has been hard for you, you may be going into a conversation with her like you're going into war: shields up, battle face on, weapons drawn. Needless to say, this is not an ideal way to approach a small child.
When we go into a conversation already defensive, we close off communication and show our child that our opinion is the only one that matters.
But our opinion as parents is not the only thing that matters! You are trying to raise an individual who can think for herself, not a robot minion who only follows commands.
Think about a good, supportive, effective workplace. Does the boss hear the employees and implement their suggestions when they're good ones? Or, does the boss become defensive over any suggestion, and hold their line against all opposition until the company crashes?
What kind of "boss" do you want to be? Do you want your family to crash the way a badly-run company can?
When your little one is, well, little, we parents have the tendency to just assume that obviously, they should do what we ask of them all the time, and do it quickly, and not complain about it. But why do we assume that?
Do you like being bossed around with what seems like no rhyme or reason?
Lose the defensive posture, open yourself up even if it's hard, and start over.
Think of it like this: Family life is not a winner’s game - you are literally all in it together. Negotiating and compromising is not giving in. It's creating a family bond that will last forever.
If you don't put your shoes on right now, no TV for a week! I mean it this time...
Alright, let me admit something to y'all - I am stubborn. Like, really stubborn. Like dig my feet into the ground, drag me out the door, ain't never gonna give in stubborn.
I know one person as stubborn as I am. Any guess who?
.... my daughter. My beautiful, clever, spontaneous, sweetie-pie/disaster (ADHD) 5 year-old daughter.
Part of her stubborn streak is that she has all the ADHD traits I listed above - slower processing time, trouble attending, sensory processing challenges, etc. But she also is just the type of person to stick to her guns in a tricky situation, and I honestly am proud of her for that. Being able to stand up for herself and her beliefs will get her pretty far in life.
I admit, though, that it does create some problems when we're trying to solve a problem together. We're both stubborn, so both of us get our hackles up, and I know it can be hard to back down. You get stressed out, you get frustrated, and you almost automatically back yourself into the corner of bribing, threatening, and yelling.
Here are the problems with that, though. First of all, how often are you actually going to be able to hold up your end of the threat? Are you showing your kid that you're a consistent, trustworthy authority figure? Or are you showing her that you won't do what you say you will most of the time, thus reinforcing her idea that the world is scary and unpredictable?
Second, and more importantly, authoritarian parenting is fear-based. Part of your goal in yelling and threatening is to make your kid at least a little afraid of you and/or the consequence, so that they'll do the thing you asked them to do. This won't build trust, and especially doesn't help anybody when the rules you're trying to lay down seem arbitrary.
If we cannot give reasons for our rules, then there is no justification for it. Do you, as a parent, want control or influence? What will serve you and your child best as they age?
There's another really important reason that yelling doesn't work for kids. Yelling at your child creates a stress response in them, which means they immediately go into fight, flight, or freeze.
This is an automatic physiological response that your child can't control, in response to a perceived threat. A child who is undergoing this response will not be able to think creatively or critically, will have even-slower-than-usual processing time, and/or may shutdown, meltdown, or tantrum.
So yelling creates a stressed parent, a stressed child, and doesn't solve the problem you were having in the first place. By all counts, it's a no go.
Building a trusting relationship pays rewards 10 times over
The main reason to try collaborative parenting is to build trust among all members of the family.
Although actually enacting this method can be a little complex, the basics are that you are committing to listening to each other, to hearing each others' points of view, and to compromising and collaborating as much as possible to make everybody as comfortable as possible. You are committing to being on the same team, forever.
A good parent can demonstrate so many valuable strategies for solving problems among family members. Want your kids to learn to talk to each other instead of fighting all the time?
Demonstrate respect and kindness in your interactions with them, and they will, over time, start integrating those values into their conversations with each other.
And, are you worried that your teenager won't want to talk with you as they get older? Show them you'll listen to them without judgment, as someone on their side, right now. Your chances of a good relationship with them as they age just improve 10 fold, easily.