I admit that I am a sensitive person, I can easily have my feelings hurt and be caught crying in the bathroom alone. While I may be a sensitive person emotionally, as a parent I have quickly learned that you must have thick skin. I went into this parenting gig knowing that there would be days my kids may not “like me” or may think I am the evil Queen of the land. When you become a parent, part of your job is to be this hated person, while remembering that your kids only think they hate you in this moment because they are not getting what they want.
Yesterday, the kids and I went sliding outback. We had hours of fun, laughing so hard I cried, snowball to the face, going down our huge backyard hill face first on a sled and enjoying the new snow tube I had purchased for this school vacation week of fun. The time was wonderful, but the happy times went away once my middle child was forced to ask, rather than demand, use of a sled his sister was on. The middle child proceed to cry as he got all upset and worked up about Mama requiring him to ask not demand to use a sled his sister was on. You would think having to ask is the end of the world, he went from tears to anger and quickly that went into a larger fit of rage with words that a 10 year old should never say.
I immediately told my middle that he was grounded and his reply was even more volatile to me where his siblings sat in shock as they wouldn’t dare speak to me that way, ever. I immediately came inside as I followed my angered son and found out that he felt I don’t care about him. My son felt like I didn’t care about him because I make him go outside on a 50 degree day in the sunshine to interact and have fun with the siblings and me. My son felt I don’t care about him because I refuse to let him demand his way. My son felt I didn’t care about him because he couldn’t sit in front of electronics all day long because “video games are all that matter!”
Being a Parent Isnt’ for the Thin Skinned
In this type of moment about 5 years ago, I would have burst into tears. My eyes would have been a watery mess, but I have grown in the last 5 years of parenting a child with autism and have learned that in the angered moment he just spews out words. I took the time to reply to my son telling him that it is okay that he is angry and it is fine to have that emotion, but it is never okay to say bad words, hit people or throw things around. He was entitled to feel like I don’t care, but I made darn sure I explained why I do care about him and that I do love him very much. My words started to hit his heart, as I watched his eyes go from anger to a bit of a softer tone.
I stood firm, even though he calmed I explained that when we do something naughty we have a consequence, that’s simply how life works for every human being. His consequence was pretty simple, as I am trying to teach him to be sorry for his actions. More so, I am trying to teach this son to acknowledge his actions that were wrong, bad or mean and in teaching him this I required that he say sorry, do something kind or anything similar to show he is sorry for hitting his sister and for saying a bad word two times. He wasn’t happy immediately, it’s not like he jumped up and started spewing out the I am sorry’s. No, not at all. This child doesn’t say sorry easily, if at all. This child is better at showing sorry through drawing of a photo, as he has done since he was little.
Eventually my son did what was asked of him, on his own. I waited patiently and continued on in the day with making polymer clay crafts with his siblings as he sat there watching us in a daze. My son is stubborn, but so am I. I have learned to stand firm with a compassionate, yet steady tone that doesn’t get too loud or intimidating (that type of tone only encourages more anger). When I stay firm, do not cry and explain that I do care about him and here’s your consequence because I do care about you, he seems to eventually get it. Autistic children can hang onto things for weeks, months and years allowing those negative feelings to become something larger, I have learned through parenting this child that I have to remain firm yet compassionate while I work to teach him the necessary skills and consequences of actions any parent is supposed to teach their child.
Overall, we had a beautiful day but don’t ever forget that you are the parent and your job is not to befriend your kids to let them get away with bad behavior, regardless of how much of a point they make. Once you set a consequence stick with it, even if it takes that child hours to do what you have asked of them. Be strong, parents must always be compassionate yet strong! Cheers to raising your kids with a thick skin and unconditional love!