I've become aware recently how my parenting style has changed over the years. Much of the change has been due to that fact that I realized that normal parenting styles didn't work for my Autistic son- the more I tried to get him to do something the more he wouldn't do it.It wasn't just 'stubborn'.it was more than that. I would describe it as 'entrenched'. As a teacher once said to me 'it's as if he boxes himself into a corner and can't get out'
If all my children were like that I'd have realized that I was doing something wrong- but they're not.They are pliable and can be persuaded to help out round the house or do things I need them to do. With my Autistic son the tactics I use to encourage his siblings didn't work so I had to look for other solutions.
For anyone who doesn't know me (or who doesn't believe there is anything wrong with my son) there have been comments about letting him get away with things , I was once told by a gentleman in a supermarket that 'even Autistic children can be MADE to behave'.
At times I have cried at the judgement of others on my parenting skills. NOW I know that ,rather than controlling my son , I have to let him take the lead.It's worked too- he is far less explosive and angry when he is allowed to show us what he feels comfortable with.
This style of parenting has affected how I handle my other two children too. I used to try and 'control' them, now I hope I am more intuative towards their needs, So many parents (albeit unwittingly) are manipulating the direction in which they want their child to go. I have witnessed parents arranging 'play dates' for their children (if you can call them play dates for 12 year olds) Many I have noticed are single children or children who don't socialize well There's nothing wrong with making arrangements for your children to get together as long as it's a result of the express wish of the children. Sadly all to often it's the parents who 'want' their children to have friends and worry about lonliness. I believe that children have to make their own friends they can't be coerced into it however subtley and you should only help them if they want you to.
My eldest son and my daughter are sociable creatures and we rarely plan anything in advance although have a steady flow of telephone calls and texts arranging for them to meet with friends or go camping . This morning my daughter has set off with her friend to her friend's farm where she is going to work all day then come home and camp in the garden. My eldest meanwhile has arranged to play football on our local astro turf. I haven't arranged anything I'm just the chauffeur and 'facilitate' their plans.
My Autistic son however doesn't socialize a great deal - he doesn't enjoy small talk although he is prepared to talk for hours about the latest PC or Xbox game. He doesn't lack friends although, apart from two the rest are online and he is building up a relationship with them. I'm in no doubt that one day he will ask to visit one of them.We have already had a visit from a friend in Bedford who he has known online for over two years now!
It's the same with exams and school. I have encouraged my son, who is due to go to college next year ,to study subjects he enjoys. So far it has paid dividends as he has done well in his non compulsory (read non academic subjects). He is motivated and knows what he wants to do and that is the key. So many 16 year olds aren't ready to make that decision but are being 'encouraged' to take certain subjects to 'ensure they get a good (for that read 'well paid') job.
Several children have gone back to school to do retakes. My son has asked that if he doesn't do well that he isn't sent back.I wouldn't dream of it - he needs to want to do it for himself not because I want him to.He can always retake a subject later if he wants too and it's relevant to what he wants to do.
It would take away so much stress for parents and pupils if they accepted that different people mature at different times. There is no rule that says you have to go to University at 18 (or indeed that you have to go at all).In fact my son wants to do motor vehicle maintenance at our local college and his grandfather told him that in his local garage the owner's son has just returned from university. Despite studying motor engineering he is now having to do the same course as my son to get the necessary practical experience.
If we let our children take the lead and try not to control them with our wishes and aspirations then our lives will be a lot less stressful. In fact I read yesterday that my new style of parenting is called 'peaceful parenting'. A few years ago I would have judged this style as being too lenient and letting the children get away with things but so far they are proving themselves to be mature and responsible individuals with a respect and tolerance for others and as long as it stays that way I MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!