How To Transform Your Interactions With Your Child: From Task Focus to Trust
I saw her struggling with her daughter to finish the activity. She insisted that her daughter fold clothes. But resistance marked the activity.
I saw the little girl darting glances at her mother. She seemed to be doing an assessment of her mother’s emotional state!
They fed into each other’s anxiety. In the end, the child cried and simply ran away from the activity.
Does this sound familiar? Does your child run away from activities? Does s/he perceive you to be the person placing demands to be met?
Get away from ‘activity’ mode. Instead use activities to connect with your child.
Give yourself a role in the activity too. You could move away from the role of an instructor to a co participant.
If you see your child struggling, you can jump right in to provide the least support required.
Think of the activity as an arena for your child to hone his/her thinking skills.
It will be a win-win situation for you and your child. Once you let go the weight of ‘task completion,’ you’ll enjoy each other’s company much more.
This is the basis of trust in your relationship.
2. Show rather than tell
Instead of telling your child what to do, you can show her what to do.
I watched this beautiful process with a mother – son duo.
The boy tried to fit in tall bottles in short shelves. Try as he might, he did not succeed. His mother was calm and let him struggle.
He started to whine and pace up and down.
She realized, he was on edge.
Watching him, she picked up a tall jar and walked across to another cabinet with larger shelves.
“Hmmm… I think it fits here.” She smiled.
He thought for a few seconds and then went over to put the tall jar in.
When you get into the habit of demonstrating or showing, you won’t have to instruct as much. Both you and your child will be happy campers.
Trust me, you’ll feel relieved too.
3. Connect Emotionally
When your focus is on task, you won’t be able to connect emotionally. You’ll be in the space of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
But move away from the zone of correctness, you’ll find your focus shifting to connection and emotions.
Remember to use facial expressions and gestures. Smile more often.
Don’t judge every action. Laugh easily. You’ll soon find your child reciprocating.
4. Presume Competence/believe in your child’s potential
If you come from the belief of lack and feel your child does not ‘understand’ or get concepts, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
Get Curious about your child.
I’ve been in countless situations where a parent turns around and tells me, ‘I didn’t even notice what you picked up.’
That’s because you were probably looking for perfection in language or the ‘right’ way of doing something.
Presuming Competence will open up doors that have remained closed for long.
5. Take care of your emotions/ you’ve got this
Most parents I start working with, are in crisis.
14 years ago, when I started the RDI Program, I thought I had it all together.
Afterall, I was a behavior analyst, I had accomplished much in my own life.
But no, I was wrong. I had suppressed my emotions, I couldn’t remember the last time I had a hearty laugh, I had put on immense amounts of weight.
Slowing down to engage with Mohit, getting away from the world of words to the world of connection turned it around for me.
I enjoyed each interaction with him. I found him.
And above all, I found myself.
To the Mother (and Father) who Struggles.
Be present and enjoy your child. Move away from the stiffness of demands.
Have high expectations for your child. Your child can achieve a lot.
But it won’t necessarily be in the way you expect.
In this journey, as you let go of myths and false beliefs, your child will reveal herself to you.
Be patient. Do the work. Believe in your child.
And then be prepared to meet the beauty that your child is.
Kamini Lakhani is the founder and director of SAI Connections. She has been providing services in the field of autism for more than 25 years and is the authorized director of Professional Training for RDI in India and the Middle East. She is also the mother of a young adult with autism.