Complex kids are different. But as parents, we don't always know that starting out. So we try to follow traditional parenting advice, and do what the experts tell us. The problem is, traditional advice doesn't always work well for non-traditional kids. In fact, sometimes it backfires.
There are 3 bits of traditional parenting ‘wisdom' that parents hear all the time -- that are actually the worst parenting advice for complex kids.
How Do I Know If I Have a Complex Kid?
Does this sound familiar?
- Maybe your kids have been diagnosed with something specific, like ADHD or Learning Disabilities, Anxiety or Depression.
- Or maybe they've never been diagnosed, but you are clear that there is SOMEthing going on.
- Maybe you're concerned that your child is really just lazy or disrespectful.
- Or that your child is suffering.
- Whatever the circumstances, you just don't know what to do anymore.
If any of these ring true, then you probably have a complex kid.
What makes this harder is that, by now, you have put a lot of effort into trying to help your kids. You've read books, gone to doctors, maybe even taken a parenting class (though that is still all too rare). It's not a sudden problem you're trying to address. You understand that something deeper is going on. But the guidance you've gotten, to date, has not been helpful enough.
By now, you may be worried that something is seriously wrong with your child. And you may feel inadequate as a parent.
But the truth is -- when traditional parenting advice does not work, it's often an indicator that something else is going on for your child. More than likely, your child is not being naughty. She is struggling -- and she needs a different kind of support.
3 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice
So, what exactly ARE the TOP 3 worst pieces of advice parents get from family members, the media, experts and just about anyone else who believes they know better than the parent?
- "All your child needs is a little discipline.”
Generally, kids aim to please, and they are not lazy. When a child struggles with behavior or performance, there is usually something “behind” it, whether it's fear, or disability, or a lack of clarity, or something else. When kids don't know how to do what is asked of them, or it is really difficult for them, they will either give up (“I can't”) or fight back (“I won't). Discipline won't motivate complex kids under these conditions, and so they end up feeling defeated. However, understanding and constructive encouragement can help. When kids are struggling to follow directions or do what is expected of them, positive parenting and clear communication will do more to help kids be successful than piling on more discipline. They may not be able to ask for help and guidance about ‘how' to get themselves to do what they're being asked to do, but it's important for us to recognize when something is standing in their way.
- “Don't worry — he'll grow out of it.”
Kids go through stages, and yes, we need to allow them to mature through them. True enough. But when kids struggle with what we might consider to be the "core competencies of childhood"— like performing adequately in school, or following directions, or completing age-appropriate tasks -- sometimes, they have challenges that need to be identified, supported and addressed. Most of the families we work with have kids with executive function challenges. This means that they are developmentally behind their peers — as much as 3-5 years— in some aspects of their development. Waiting too long to help a child who is struggling to feel successful in life or learning ultimately damages self-esteem and sets up a negative cycle that can be incredibly difficult to “undo” once they become teenagers. Avoiding “labels” just leads to self-labeling; once a child sees himself as stupid or incapable, it is a difficult self-concept to shift.
- “Stop babying her or she'll never learn.”
Some kids need extra support in some areas. The line between supporting and enabling is delicate, but important to understand and walk carefully. Doing a homework assignment for a child is enabling. Sitting with a child as she learns to gain confidence getting started on assignments, or so she can ask questions when she needs it, is supportive. While kids are learning to master some aspects of life and learning, they often need extra support in other areas — so that they can feel success, and build on it. Conscious support for children in need is not ‘babying'— it is empowering them to become increasingly more independent over time.
Advice givers are well-intended, and they do believe they know what's best for your child. But their perspective is not as well-informed as yours. And sometimes they end up giving the worst parenting advice for complex kids!
Take Your Advice
One of the most difficult challenges you'll face over the course of parenting your complex children is figuring out when to ignore traditional parenting advice so you can meet your kids' individual needs. Sounds crazy, but it's true.
You'll need to find guidance that makes sense to you to help you make those choices. That's where we think parent training and coaching in the coach-approach can make such a difference – because it's all about helping you find confidence in YOUR decision-making.
But whether you get that support from us or somewhere else, please -- remember this:
As the parent of a complex child, you know your child better than anyone.
Trust your instincts.
Listen to your child and to your heart.
And, when necessary, ignore the experts and be the parent your child needs you to be.