Tuesday, 5 November 2013

When your child hasn't read the same parenting books (forums, blogs, news articles, scribbled notes) as you...

I believe in our unschooling lifestyle. I believe that, given the opportunity, almost all children will learn to regulate their biological needs and their behaviours.

Of course, children rarely (if ever!) travel smoothly from point A to point B and often a leap forward may be followed by a step back. If there are additional needs, such as autism in Small's case, it can seem to take longer than the dreaded 'normal'.

Small appears to require less sleep than most five year olds and has always struggled to calm his body enough to fall asleep, despite me trying every trick in the book. He may never sleep 7pm-7am but recently we had a breakthrough. Rather than running laps of the house until he collapsed with exhaustion, he began to ask to go and snuggle in bed. He requested that the lights be turned off and simply cuddles up and falls asleep. I admit that I did wonder whether being on the spectrum meant that we needed to abandon our ideals of gentle parenting. I can't really imagine shutting him in his room or leaving him to scream, but at 2am the thoughts did creep in. I am glad that we trusted ourselves and most importantly trusted Small. He took more time than some children, but he can now notice when he is tired and ask to go to bed.

I believe that gentle parenting is even more important when a child has ASD or a sensory disorder. If the world is such an overwhelming place, then family should be a safe harbour in which to rest. I don't always stay calm when Small is on his third meltdown in as many hours, because his food/clothes/game isn't quite right, but I try. I hope that by modelling kindness and communication he will absorb this approach. I jumped for joy yesterday (well, I would have if I could!) when I heard a conversation between Big and Small. Small had done something to upset Big, so Big said he was going in another room to have some time on his own. Small piped up, "Let's talk about it, Dad." It is a phrase Big and I use daily to remind Small that communicating is important and it was great to hear him using it to sort out a situation.

So if you are expecting changes and they haven't yet occurred, don't lose faith! Maybe you or they need more time. Remember that how you parent now can be a factor in their whole lifetime, so a few more months of trust could pay off with a future of security and trust.

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