Parenting is hard. It is often survival mode. What works with some kids, will not work with others when it comes to discipline, rewards and just parenting in general. Just when you think it is hard – you add a special needs kid to that mix and my gosh, the level of hard – multiplies ten-fold.
Andrew and I want to be the best parents we can be, so in our attempt to learn everything we could about being the parents of special needs – we went to parent therapy. I must be honest, most of it was a co-pay and a forgotten memory – however, I will never forget one valuable lesson that we use in our daily life. Water the Weeds.
Let me set the stage for you. You are a parent of any aged kid. You ask them to do their homework, put their shoes away, put their phone down or do the dishwasher. “UGH!” – with a stomp to the kitchen, a slam of the cabinet, a toss of the shoes into the basket. Huffing and puffing the whole entire time and ensuring you hear every move because they slam everything in their path – yet they complete EVERYTHING you ask. Now, naturally as a parent you’d want to yell at them for not completing each task with the right attitude and scold them for slamming. But, in our home – we, Water the Weeds. What does that mean….
Instead of focusing on all they did WRONG (which clearly, they were trying to get a response) – we say “Thank you so much for putting your shoes away. What a great job you did on your homework. Thank you for helping with the dishwasher, would you like to watch TV for a few minutes together?”Soon, they realize that we do not acknowledge the negative behaviors – but they got SO much attention by completing the task we asked them to do – and we find, the good deed and expected behavior continues.
I get it – it goes beyond most parenting methods. Most people will say “they are kids and MUST give respect and do what is told, or else”. “Or Else” doesn’t work with special needs. Not my special needs kid. So, we Water the Weeds. Trust me, it is hard, boy, is it hard – but little by little, I see it pay off in our day-to-day life.
Today, however, I had to laugh at the life lesson Andrew and I hold on to – coming to life in a different way. I get a message from Benjamin’s personal assistant with a picture of a Ziplock bag full of weeds. Literally, weeds, dirt and a wet napkin. She lets me know “Benjamin is coming home with this”. I find out that today’s transition from recess wasn’t going quite as planned. It doesn’t often, but today was hard. Benjamin did NOT want to come inside. I don’t know the full extent of the story; however, I know his personal assistant, who is always thinking outside of the box, noted he was fixated on a weed. So, together, they dug up that weed – and she distracted him by acknowledging how he could care for that weed and bring it inside. He did. He took the weed, got up, transitioned inside – just as he needed to. Task accomplished – even with a weed. What she didn’t even know she was doing – was Watering the Weeds. Without even knowing, she didn’t acknowledge the rough behavior of failure to transition – but focused on what he WAS doing – what he COULD do – and got him to complete the task.
Today, I smiled, and tears filled my eyes, as my boy walked in with a Ziplock bag full of weeds. Together we found a pot, filled it with the dirt and weeds and stuck it out back – where Benjamin said, “Now he has the life he deserves”. Then, together, we Watered the Weeds.
Life can be messy and hard with special needs kids. Every day is just ‘winging it’ – not knowing how it will turn out but doing the best we know how.
Sometimes, we take a step back and realize that for our family, the growth comes in things other people often fail to see the beauty in. In the weeds.