We have no qualms about going on professional courses to further our knowledge in our careers. We acknowledge that our early qualifications need updating and fully buy into the idea of continuing professional development. Yet when it comes to parenting, we hold limiting beliefs that we are born to be parents and shouldn’t need help. We learn parenting from whoever brings us up and they probably weren’t any more qualified than us. Notions that we should all take to this important role like a duck to water and be perfect mums and dads actually gets in the way of really thinking about how we want to parent. Instead, we muddle along and react. Often our reactions (repeated learnt behaviours from our experience of being parented) are not the parent we had in mind. This makes us feel ashamed and we parent through fear rather than wisdom. What if all those who go on parent courses are the kind of life-long learners that might end up modelling and instilling the kind of consciousness, curiosity, collaboration and creativity that Orm, (2020) argues our future generations will need in this world.
Katie’s parent learning journey (so far…)
My early parenting experience was hard. I am neurodivergent and so are my kids. I had some very strong perfectionist notions going on which of course I couldn’t live up to and I often buried myself in work to avoid the disappointment and shame this caused. Becoming a coach, learning the language for my neurodivergence and that of my family, and coaching my tribes (school leaders and neurodiverse families) has enabled me to dissolve the shame and discover self-compassion which I am so keen to help other families with.
The loud meltdowns that go on in my terraced street when we are nearing the house after masking at work or school all day and can no longer hold it together, the fruity language which escapes from my 4 year-old learnt from his brothers and me and the awkward social interactions which occur between my autistic son and other childrens’ parents are now just part of our neurodiversity along with an enormous thirst for knowledge, adventure and will to make the world better. I used to see some of these behaviours as a failure, evidence that I should do better and try harder. By being open to learning, there has been a parting of the clouds and sometimes I can even have fun! (steady).
Lynne’s parent learning journey (so far…)
My firstborn, a girl, was a model student and behaved impeccably (at school) and once even got a Pupil of the week certificate for “behaving perfectly at all times and in all situations”. When she was little, I could give her a certain look and she’d know that she needed to quieten down or wait a moment depending on the situation. I was bossing parenthood, well most of the time at any rate.
Then my autistic son came along and suddenly, I was not ‘bossing it’ at all. He wasn’t interested or aware of needing to meet other people’s expectations. He didn’t pick up on the unwritten social conventions and rules and so didn’t follow them. Every school pick up, when he was in reception, involved the teacher calling my name and I would have to do the walk of shame in front of the other parents to be told how exactly my son had misbehaved that day.
The issue for me was I had a child who was wired differently to me. As a neurotypical parent raising an autistic child I had to put myself in his shoes, see the world through his eyes, find ways of communicating that made sense to him, and tailor my parenting to make it work for us both. I am not ashamed to say this required books, courses and help!
Parenting a child like this means that sometimes they will behave unexpectedly, sometimes they will refuse to do what you want them to, sometimes they will say things that appear rude or hurtful to you, your mother-in-law, their teachers and their siblings (well anyone really). Sometimes they will get overwhelmed.
This will incur judgment from others
“Do you think you might be pandering to him? “
“I would just make him do it.”
“I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behaviour.”
This judgment can lead to a deep sense of shame. Brene Brown describes shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
Without care our autistic children are at high risk of developing a sense of shame about who they are from negative feedback they receive from us, school and the wider world giving them the message that they are flawed, damaged and that they are not fitting in.
Our children learn us. They learn how we do life. How do we teach them to live shame free without first learning the art of living shame free ourselves?
Lynne and Katie are the founders of Gold Mind which provides coaching for neurodiverse families.
Our online group coaching for parents course is not about telling you how to parent. We are not supernanny! We create a place where you can have a chance to become more compassionate, understanding, and accepting towards yourself so that in turn you can help your child live a life where they know they are worthy of love and belonging.
What previous participants have said.
“A safe, productive, and encouraging space in which to hone parental coaching skills & gain a greater/deeper understanding of autism/neurodiversity.”
“I learned a lot and found the group absolutely lovely & incredibly supportive. I’m profoundly grateful to you all.”