Over the last decade or so I’ve encountered some concepts and ideas that have moved me and deeply influenced my parenting and homeschooling philosophy.
The information I’ve received from people and books form a map of where I want to go, a direction, but I want to make the disclaimer that I am absolutely NOT perfect in putting them into practice. I don't think anyone is.
Although I highly recommend each of these resources, much of what has influenced me has been having certain ideologies affirmed through observations of my own child, of other children and stories I’ve heard and read along the way.
Below are some of the resources that made a difference in how I saw the world, how I parented and how I am now uncovering my own work in the world.
I hope you enjoy. :)
Mindful Parenting & Intrinsic Motivation
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is a developmental model of therapy for parent and child that prioritizes relationship and connection over tasks.
I read as much as I could find on developmental approaches and convinced myself that a model based on natural child development made so much more sense, and were much more respectful, than behavioural approaches.
It took me a year of trying other things, because I so badly wanted to help my child, before I came around to trying RDI. RDI changed my feelings of competency as a parent and helped me build connection with my child which I still say forever changed our lives.
It empowered me because I learned that “I” could change to meet my little guy where he was, I didn’t have to try to force him to change. It taught me how to slow down and parent mindfully. Which became a practice that influenced the whole of life for me.
RDI also taught me that autonomy and intrinsic motivation matter.
Many therapies and parenting techniques operate by using the carrot or the stick, rewards and punishments to get children to do what we want, or what we believe they need. I discovered through RDI that what I was after was intrinsic motivation - the desire to act on one's own for their own purposes.
Many young children want to learn new things, want to help their parents and it didn’t sit right with me to believe that autistic children (or any children) don’t have intrinsic motivation - to me that was like saying some kids weren’t human.
We are all human beings and so I believe the drive to learn and grow and make other’s happy can’t just be missing from some of us, no matter what our diagnosis.
I became obsessed with discovering how to ignite intrinsic motivation.
And have been rewarded with a dedicated, passionate hockey player who is committed to pushing himself and doing the work in my midst. ;)
If any of that rationale speaks to you, check out the resources below.
1. Lisa Palasti - RDI expert that was a mentor to me and pivotal in changing the confidence and direction of our parenting journey.
2. The RDI book - explains the importance of the relationship with our child, in helping kids learn how to self-regulate, to want to learn new things.
3. Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn - describes the damaging effect of rewards and punishments on intrinsic motivation and offers alternative methods.
4. The Explosive Child by Ross Greene - explains how flexible thinking is actually at the root of so many parenting challenges and what to do about it.
Strength-based and interest Led Learning
Most therapists working with children with learning differences and diverse brains focus on a deficit model, transforming things that aren’t working. In a lot of ways this makes sense, to try to remove barriers to living a full life.
What I found through the resources below is that a strength based approach also works to remove barriers but in a much more positive and enjoyable way for both child and parent.
It feels natural, easy and for me a relief.
It can also be hard to trust this as we haven’t been raised in this way, and it definitely takes work (if you want support in this area, see my services here).
Conventional education in North America is geared toward children that are generalists, or making them into one. I’m sure there are nicer ways to say that but that’s where I’m at. The way the system is structured, by grade level, presumes that development should happen on a linear and prescribed timeline and that children should be segregating by age.
In contrast, our family has found that pursing activities that we are interested in and feeds our strengths is critical to creating a life of greater ease and joy without sacrificing learning. We don’t let our child do nothing, he has responsibilities in the home and we use mindful parenting (see above) to tackle some of these tasks that must be done but are not our favourite.
But largely, we try to minimize the activities that we just plain do not like. I don’t believe children should be forced to do things they don’t all day long, just because “we need to learn to do things we don’t like”. I think the adults that use this as a rationale may need support in looking at their own lives and questioning whether they are on the right path or not. We get one life, folks.
And coercion creates bigger mental health and happiness problems down the line. Stepping off my soap box now, my apologies this one is still a hot button for me. ;)
5. Project Based Learning book and blog by Lori Pickert on documenting, reflecting and supporting your child's (and your own!) interests.
6. The Spark by Kristine Barnett. This book illustrates the power of interest based learning and also illuminates many faulty assumptions about autism.
7. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. A book and quiz for uncovering your strengths and aligning work with what gives you energy instead of working to remedy your weaknesses.
8. What Happy People Know by Dan Baker. There is one particularly powerful story in this book about autonomy and encouraging kids instead of forcing them.
Lastly, I have found over the years that so often when I think there is something I need to fix in or for my child, it is actually something that needs to be addressed in myself.
I have found solace and created shifts through the simple practice of acceptance of what is and who my child is.
And then striving to meet him where he is.
I’ve also discovered that often times it is my fear driving frustrations, expectations and arguments and when I examine them and the uncertainty around the future the issues dissipate.
This work is not for the faint of heart, it’s definitely been work for me and continues to be. But it is work that I have some control over; I can’t change the people around me but time invested in understanding myself and providing myself and others more understanding, compassion and freedom is time well spent.
These are the books I’ve found that best speak to the lessons I live by now.
9. Whole Child, Whole Parent by Polly Berrien Berrends.
10. Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron.
11. Improvisation for the Theatre by Viola Spolin.
12. The mindful path to self-compassion by Christopher Germer.
13. What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication by Ike Lasater and Judith Hanson Lasater.
14. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.
15. Awakened Parent by Shefali is another resource that speaks well and holistically to this issue, however it wasn’t a pivotal book for me and I didn't read it in it's entirety for whatever reason so I’m separating it here.
I would love to hear of books that have transformed your own inner parenting journey, please don’t hesitate to email me here.