What is “normal” when we talk about our children? My background is in special needs early intervention. Working with families who have kids with special needs, I learned very quickly that every child is different. When I first started my early education degree, I had this old prof who pulled me aside less than a month in and demanded to know why I was in the ECE program and not disability studies, because I was always linking everything back to kids with exceptionalities. I felt like I couldn’t help children with disabilities if I didn’t know how children typically develop. I wouldn’t be able to notice red flags or delays, if I didn’t know what most kids typically do. Also I wasn’t just interested in their disability, I was interested in all children as whole people.
The key word here is actually “typical,” not “normal.”
We are referring to how blank usually happens. Every human on this planet has something about them that isn’t typical. I have a laundry list: I’m hypoglycemic, I have mild OCD, I’m dyscalculic, I have a lot of food rigidities, and I’m left handed. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me? No, those are just things that make me, me. They’re also things that mean that I have to do some things a bit differently, in a way that works for me vs. what works for most other people
One very adult example:
I ask my bookkeeper to write out numbers for me in English instead of the numerals. Is that a typical request? No, but it’s the difference between me being able to understand what she’s telling me quickly and making informed decisions, and not having accurate information or second guessing and double checking my information, and possibly making a bad decision based off of numbers that don’t exist. My dyscalculia makes it very hard for me to read numerals accurately. This is one example of a strategy that I have to ask others to use so that I can function as best I can.
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This is the same lens that I look at parenting through:
Everybody has atypical things about them – whether that’s medical conditions, sensory sensitivities, how you think about certain topics, sensory preferences, sexual orientation, disabilities, exceptionalities, race, culture, beliefs, affinities, rigidities, or anything else. There are things that are unique to you and when you put those unique things all together, they make you, you! They differentiate you from Suzy over here. Our jobs as parents are to find what those things are for the human beings we made or are in our primary care, and help our kids figure out how to manage those productively, safely, and effectively.
Which is one reason that I focus so much on the neuroscience and development aspect of raising kids. You can’t tell if something is unique to your child or not, if you don’t know what’s typical. If you don’t know how it works for most people. “Typical” is not a stick we’re measuring our children against, but our baseline. It helps us focus on figuring out who our kids are vs who we imagined them to be. It focuses less on the version of our kid we have in our heads, and more on what they’re telling us about themselves. The magic here is that if we can correctly interpret all the information our kids are telling us about themselves, their behaviour usually drastically improves.
Kids do well if they can.
Here are 2 major parenting problems:
- Most of us aren’t looking at parenting this way. We look at behaviour as something children do to us vs as a form of communication. We think being a successful parent is winning every battle until our kids turn 18 and we can declare we won the war.
- Our kids don’t necessarily know what they’re telling us about themselves either. They’re figuring it out as they go along too. Your 3 year old isn’t whining to piss you off, your 3 year old is whining for candy because they feel lethargic and therefore unable to keep themselves safe, so they perceive the candy will give them the energy to be alert enough to keep themselves safe. But they can’t vocalize that! Kids will do what they think will get them what they inherently know they need!
It’s up to us, as adults, to help them figure out what it is that they need, or what skills that are weak that are causing them to use up too much energy to meet our expectations, or what stressors are causing them to feel unsafe or dysregulated. And that’s basically impossible for us to do if we aren’t looking at behaviour as communication. If we aren’t approaching parenting our young kids by being curious. If we’re focused on manipulating our children into compliance vs helping them understand the world around them and how to effectively interact with it.
All of this to say, what works for one family, won’t work for another. What works for one person, won’t work for another. Every family, and every person within that family, is unique and has different needs. “Normal” doesn’t exist. I am extremely wary of any system or guru that doesn’t create that space for that individuality and personalization. We at Uncommon Sense Parenting start with the evidence – we start with what everybody has in common and basics of how children learn and grow. As we learn about our kids, we learn about their preferences and their personality and their perspective and their environment, we tweak and we troubleshoot and we personalize everything. It all still fits within the evidence, but that uniqueness for every family is at the core of how we do things at Uncommon Sense Parenting.
This is why ParentAbility is an ongoing membership, because this is a lifestyle change. It’s not a course you go through and then…you’re done. They’re constantly changing and developing and growing and therefore they’re always discovering new information and being put in different situations where there’s new stressors and so our job really is never done. But this does get easier as decoding this information gets more habitual. We get more practice, and so do they. It stops feeling so random, because you’ve got that wide base that you know everything fits within, it’s just a matter of finding where.
When it comes to kids, one size is just NEVER going to fit all
We have families in ParentAbility from every corner of the globe. Our main base is in North America, because I’m in North America, but we have families from Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, France, Ireland, the UK, South Africa, India, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Brazil… ALL OVER THE WORLD. Obviously the laws and rules in all these countries won’t be the same. So we need to create space not only for personal personalization, but also cultural and international personalization. I ask my clients a lot of questions that help them come to their own conclusions and figure out their own comfort zones and laws and policies and all that stuff vs prescribing action. Because one size doesn’t fit all! For these reasons, I built ParentAbility to be very adaptable.
If anyone ever tells you that their way is the only way, RUN FOR THE HILLS
RUN. Because nobody knows your family or your children like you do. And your family is unique, and the solutions created for your family should be just as unique as every single member within it.
With personalization and individuality of your children in mind, I offer you up my scripts for managing crazy-making behaviour. These are scripts that I find work for most kids because they address some of those fundamental ways kids learn. I can’t guarantee these will solve all of your problems, but they are a good first step, and they’re totally FREE!
Absolutely feel free to tweak them to fit your family! I don’t just give you scripts, I explain WHY they work- so that you can adapt them without getting rid of components that are at the root of their effectiveness. Find them by clicking this sentence!