Friday, January 21, 2011
The Happiest Place on Earth
My family LOVES Disney. We love Disney movies, Disney toys, and the Disney Parks. Though Dan and I have been there 3 times and absolutely LOVE it, Kylie, at the mature age of 4, has yet to experience the "Mouse House". It will be a dream come true when we can finally take her and introduce her to "The Happiest Place On Earth".
I recently realized, however, that our family may have too much Disney exposure... How do I know this? At dinner, my daughter picked up her fork and (to my shock) began to brush her hair with it. My husband, who was sitting next to her, looked at her and said "Kylie! No! That is NOT a dingle hopper!" My jaw dropped to my chest. I couldn't believe my daughter was grooming herself with a dinner utensil and I didn't realize my Prince Charming knew what a "dingle hopper" was! Evidently, he and Kylie have watched The Little Mermaid a "few" times together! ha! ha!
I also realized we might have an issue when Kylie asked if we were going bye bye "in the carriage"... Ok. So my girl has a few little "princess dreams" (hmm... wonder who she gets THAT from?)
Kylie and I love "bling", sparkles and glitter. If it can be embellished, we love it all the more! While I don't care much for dressing up myself, I sure love to dress up Kylie (and she loves it too!). We love books like Fancy Nancy and Tea for Ruby. We pretend we have tea parties and we dress up all the Barbies in their finest dresses. We love hair bows and sparkly accessories - there is no such thing as too much!
This winter Kylie has struggled with chapped lips so to treat this malady, Kylie will put on "princess lipstick" (good ole' Vaseline or Chapstick) instead of "medicine". It works every time!!
I have learned through parenting Kylie that being successful has everything to do with the method I use and HOW I present the idea. The thought then becomes hers and it is much easier to motivate her by sparking the idea than by commanding/demanding obedience.
Children with Autism can be very rigid and strict in the way they function on a daily basis. Things have to be "in order" according to their own personal organization system. For some, that means things will be categorized by shape, for others, it might be by size. For Kylie, most things are arranged in the order of the colors of the rainbow. Give her markers and she will line them up in this order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. She will even color a picture in that very order.
Sometimes it is important to work with these little ones to teach them flexibility (especially if it is a safety issue) but other times it simply doesn't matter. So what if they wear their footy pajamas to therapy - they probably hate feeling cold when it's time to get dressed. Does it really matter if they wear snow boots to church? They probably love hearing the clomp, clomp, clomp and enjoy feeling cozy on such cold days.
I recently had a friend share with me her frustration that her 2 little boys insisted on spitting on each other on the way to school. No matter how much she scolded in the front seat, they continued to share their saliva with each other. Reaching in my bag of creative parenting tricks, I suggested that the next day, she should hand them the frilliest, pinkest, baby bibs she could find and explain to them that she worked really hard to ensure they look nice for school. If they insist on behaving like babies, then they need to protect their school clothes by wearing bibs on the way to school. She would then hand each of them a baby bottle of milk and a box of animal cookies. My guess is that they would probably be embarrassed by the bibs and think it was fun to drink out of the baby bottle and eat the cookies.
While the discipline seems "fun", the message/lesson would be driven home in a way they can relate to! (and a memory would be made). Who wants to spit when you can eat breakfast/cookies?
Some will say that this method is "rewarding the poor behavior". In my opinion, you did the opposite.. you achieved your goal and purpose... no more spitting in the car. (and everyone is still civil to one another - no yelling first thing in the morning). The children are too occupied to resort to the behavior that results from being bored.
A few days ago, my own daughter got herself into a pickle when she decided to finger paint with an entire jar of Desitin diaper rash cream. If you aren't aware already, that cream is absolutely water proof and very difficult to remove (which is why it is the BEST). She had rubbed it all over a TV tray and when the feel and smell started to bother her, she tried to wipe her hands on her fleece shirt and jeans. The stuff was so thick that the clothing did very little to remove it, so she proceeded to wipe her hands all over our leather sectional sofa. She then tried to shake it off and was successful in distributing polka dots all over our living room carpet and walls.
My husband walked in and found the mess. We had no right to scold her as it was we who had left the jar of cream where she could get to it. She was acting on her developmental age (as a toddler) and was exploring in the appropriate way that toddlers explore. Upon further reflection, we realized that she was trying to recreate a therapy session where she was allowed to play in shaving cream. Both substances were white but that was the end of the similarities. After taking a few pics (bribe and extortion pics for when she is a teenager), we proceeded to clean up the mess (of course, having her help).
Kylie also had an encounter with a salt shaker recently. We found her shake, shake, shaking a salt shaker all over the very same TV tray. It was interesting to observe, as she was thoroughly enjoying the sound. (again, WE had left the salt shaker in a place it didn't belong)
Now, some parents may become livid over these antics, but to my husband and I, we find this behavior fascinating. Our daughter has never played in a typical fashion so it has been important for us to learn about "her" - not just about most kids her age, but about "her". We have had to learn about our unique daughter and observing these behaviors has given us a window into what her needs are.
The Desitin taught us that she craves tactile sensory stimulation. The salt episode taught us that she enjoys (and was soothed by) high pitched quiet sounds. This information is a gold mine when trying to work with and meet Kylie's unique special needs.
It is so important to learn who your child is, what motivates them, what provokes them, what their fears are, and what their sensory needs are. They are not the kid next door, they are not you, they are not a sibling. They are their own unique self. Unlocking the informational keys to helping our children and meeting their needs is such a vital responsibility of both typical and special needs parents.
Our children are not trying to "play us" - they are attempting to communicate with us. The question is... Are we listening? Are we hearing? or are their attempts at communication being drowned out by our own busy schedules and inappropriate demands of their maturity level?
Of course, I believe in boundaries and appropriate rules. What I don't advocate is yelling the roof off the house and belittling children for things that are developmentally appropriate.
While ornery at times (and I readily photograph and share those moments) my daughter is a jewel! We love learning about her and her developing personality. She is unique and special and deserves to have the best of her parents. The left overs are not good enough for this princess. While our parenting style is unique, I will also share that Kylie is very well behaved. It would crush her if we ever raised our voice with her. We cherish our girl and choose to parent her in the same manner in which our Heavenly Father parents us.
I encourage you to ENJOY your little one's childhood. Find teachable moments. Be patient with your child and realize that not every offense demands punishment. Sometimes the natural consequences of an offense are punishment enough. Contrary to what most people believe, discipline is not the same as punishment... Discipline is the method of teaching, training and coming alongside your child.
Get to know your child in this manner. Partner with them to learn and grow and discover the world around them and you will - indeed find- the many facets of your unique child and in the process discover ...The Happiest Place on Earth.
P.S. Feel free to share creative parenting techniques that you have employed to teach a lesson or used to motivate your child to action.
P.P.S Interested in reading an opinion that completely differs from mine? check this out... http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html
I have "thick skin" but please be kind to me in your responses.... =0)