Just yesterday morning, a dear friend of mine reached out to me. Her oldest daughter is an 18 year-old college student. She is also an amazing young lady on Autism Spectrum . Having grown so much in these past 4 years as a girl with Aspergers Syndrome she wrote a letter to her 14 year-old self.
She has allowed me to share it here for any young girl who feels different and needs this encouragement. What an honor and my privilege.
For the mom raising a neurodiverse young girl… please share this with your precious creative. Let’s celebrate the uniqueness of all of our children and allow our girls to thrive as the people God intends them to be.
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Dear 14-year-old me,
Well. Four years can certainly make a difference, now can’t it? Seeing your face again brings back a lot of memories, y’know. Makes me realize just how much both the world and I have changed. Time is more of a kiln than a river, in all honesty. Life can and will hurt, yes, but as I look back, I know that I wouldn’t change anything.
Hmm? Advice, you say? Well…let me see. What advice could I give you?
Y’know, in all honesty, I’d say that the best advice I could give you is that you’re not alone.
You’re not broken, or defective, or glitched.
You’re not the only one who’s scared by the sound of balloons popping and gets extremely uncomfortable at parties.
Fortunately, plenty of other girls out there have that same wild fuel for the imagination. They too navigate those same issues with feeling as if you need to perform in order to be accepted.
In fact, there is a shockingly high amount of people who will completely understand when you try to scurry off to another room to escape the hubbub. There are so many other girls and boys who get this pacifying and focusing effect that music has on you.
There are countless other Aspies who know what it’s like to be drifting off to sleep and suddenly be murmuring out dialogues, solidifying plots and characters before slumber overtakes you.
They too understand what it is like to be trying to do school and suddenly it’s half an hour later, and you have a doodled battle scene and no progress on school whatsoever.
You’re not a weird outcast.
You are one-of-a-kind rare, but not in your troubles. There will always be someone out there who’s gone through the exact same issues with anxiety and feeling as uncontrolled as you, and they understand what it’s like.
Keep drawing, even though you think you’re no good.
You’ll get to a point one day where you step back, take a good look at your rough draft for a novel and the art you’ve done so far, and you say,
“This is something that could change someone’s life. There are people out there who need this message, and I have the God-given ability to give it to them. To have a character say something that will stick with a complete stranger and motivate them to make the world a better place.”
God has a Vital Purpose for You
You are FAR from unimportant, younger me. God has put you here for a vital, vital purpose. There will be perfect strangers who will decide to give life another chance because you spoke the Gospel to them, people you have never seen in person and probably never will who will know you as a beacon of light and hope…if only you keep pushing on. Fight past your own fears and hatred, and fight past the bullies you’ll run into. Neither of them have any right to have any power over you.
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Healing & Inspiration for the Aspergers Girl
You are a juggernaut of healing and inspiration: you can’t and won’t be stopped after you get unleashed on this broken world.
You have God with you for every step of the way no matter what. His opinion – not any bully’s, not any critic’s, not even your own – is what matters.
You have so, so much power for good in you because God is your king. Use it. Ignore the voices and fears saying you can’t.
Break Down the Walls of Despair
You have been given a gift like no other: so by golly, go be a juggernaut, and break down those walls of despair and darkness threatening people’s souls. You are a healer and a warrior so powerful that this broken world tried to weaken you with Aspergers…but it messed up and just made you even stronger.
Find Your Aspie Army
So find your army to remind you that you’re not alone, and then draw your bow in a world that only knows how to fire slingshots. You are unique, even when you don’t think so. You are talented, even when you don’t think so. You are never walking your path by yourself, even when you think you are. You are strong, even when you don’t think so.
Leigh is an 18 year-old Aspie warrior who’s also learning how ADHD, SPD, and anxiety can all be gifts. As a college freshman, she is preparing to accomplish her dream of publishing her first self-illustrated novel. She loves nothing more than helping others see how God celebrates their uniqueness.
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Like so many mommas, I am loving this cooler weather. The colder weather lends itself to more cozy times at home with the family. Though more indoor time at home as a family can be an opportunity for sweet memories, it can also lead to extra stress when our uniquely-wired kids begin to bounce off the walls. Just as the cooler weather offers opportunities both for fun and stress, the holiday season itself adds even more nuances of joy and chaos. That means if we are raising uniquely-wired kids, we need to be prepared with some mom holiday hacks .
Because many minds are way better than one, I reached out to my private AHFAS Facebook group to see what holiday hacks our moms had to share. Of course, they did not disappoint. We are in this together, Sweet Mommas, and we need one another’s wisdom to set our kids and ultimately, our entire families for the sweetest holiday season possible. We would love to have you join us. Click here to join this tribe of brave mommas.
Uniquely-Wired, Outside-the-Box Kids
The moms in the AHFAS private Facebook group are gifts to me and to one another. This community has come together beautifully sharing openly and honestly the highs and often brutal lows of parenting children with a variety of cognitive differences or behavioral issues. We are learning together that there is incredible hope and ways to raise our outside-the-box children so that they can thrive as the people God has created them to be. Join us here.
Diagnosis: Holiday Chaos (AKA Loss of Routines, Over-stimulation, & Lots of Junk Food)
How do some experienced mommas raising kids with special needs handle the holiday chaos? Let’s turn to them and capitalize on the Holiday Hacks that have saved them one or two kid (and momma) meltdowns throughout the years.
Holiday Hack for Moms #1: Less Clutter!!
I encourage (as much as I possibly can) fewer gifts. In fact we don’t give any gifts to our children because we don’t want to add more on top of what family already gives. Most gifts = more mess = more frustration!!
Holiday Hack for Moms #2: An Outside-the-Box Christmas
What I would say is think outside the box.. we go on a nice quiet family vacation every year for Christmas. (We try to go somewhere we’ve never been if we can). The holidays don’t have to be spent exactly like everyone else… we don’t all have to rearrange the house and put up trees and spend a fortune on things.. If you and your family absolutely love those things and it brings joy, do it. If that isn’t your thing, don’t! No need to feel any kind of guilt either way.. don’t be afraid to try out some new traditions that fit your family. It could be the best thing ever. My family thought I was a little nuts when I started thinking outside the box about holidays. Our kiddos say they like it the way it is and wouldn’t go back.
-Erica, Mom of two (one with dyslexia, anxiety & sensory processing issues)
Holiday Hack for Moms #3: Sticking to Nutrition Goals
I have my child on a strict no gluten, no dairy diet. So I just bring plenty of approved treats, with enough to share of course, and act like it’s no big thing. There are usually enough meal options so that I don’t worry about as much.
Be like a boy scout and be prepared! Think ahead and try to get in front of as many possible situations as you can. The more prepared you are, the more calm you are likely to remain when something inevitably goes wrong.
Holiday Hack for Moms #5: Double Check All Itineraries
I learned the hard way to always ALWAYS double check the itinerary at any new or old town/city holiday festivities —and vacation outings. As well as to always travel with noise cancelling headphones.
It happened to us twice, when our oldest was 2 and again at 4. Once was during a tree lighting ceremony in a new town we had just moved to and at age four at Broadway at the Beach. Both places, fireworks went off and we had ZERO clue it was part of the evening’s agenda.
My oldest was my sensory avoider and he was a runner. We almost lost him both times into the crowd (and he was non-verbal!) He was only a few feet in front of us but at the sound of fireworks he turned into “Dash!” Pure fight/flight mode. Y’all, it was scary!
For the town Christmas tree lighting, the fireworks were being set off on top of the parking garage that we were parked in and every business was closed. We found him banging on doors to get in, to escape. Once we caught him, there was no escaping the terrifying sounds!! He and I both cried through it as I held him inside my winter coat as far as we could get away from them. It didn’t help the sound was bouncing off all the downtown buildings.l, echoing loudly. At Broadway at the Beach, thankfully we saw him run into a busy candy shop with doors open. We found him hiding behind a trash can. Luckily we stayed there, in a restroom till it was over.
He is 15 now, verbal, and can handle and enjoys fireworks! But not my middle son (11.) So no matter how many times we go to a familiar place or holiday festivity, we travel with noise canceling headphones and double check the itinerary!
– Alicia, Mom of 3 boys (2 biological and 1 adopted through the foster care system. ASD, SPD, RAD, Microcephaly, Mood Disorder, Shaken Baby Syndrome)
Holiday Hack #6: The Power of “No”
Be ok with saying no. If something doesn’t fit the needs of our family, we graciously decline—then celebrate in our own way. Sometimes we just decline because as parents we are too exhausted. We have become comfortable with only choosing what is best for us all.
Holiday Hack for Moms #7: One Thing a Day
Holiday hacks for my SPD kiddo… We only plan ONE THING A DAY. JUST ONE. However, we break our own rule on Christmas Eve but plan nothing the day before or after to cushion the overstimulation. My husband and I always explain the plan in advance. We write out the overview of the week, then every morning we go through the schedule with our kids. We pack familiar snacks. When we stay with family, we ask them to buy the same usual breakfast foods we eat at home. Practicing some family traditions at home is very important. For example, we all sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, so we pre-teach them a few songs so they feel prepared when we are with extended family.
-Lindsay, (mom of three, 2 biological & 1 through adoption: Aspergers, FASD, ADHD, Anxiety) Our Adoption Story
God Chose You
Mom Friend, whether your child struggles with sensory issues, bounces off the walls when anxious, or simply needs the predictability of routine to self-regulate well, we can only do our best as moms. Don’t be afraid to say no to holiday commitments and make sure to give your family plenty of wiggle room as you schedule the months to come. God chose YOU to parent your child on purpose. Release the worry about what Aunt Betty thinks when you have to duck out early or take your child to another room to calm down. Trust in your role as your child’s mother and ask the Lord to lead you in the moments of anxiety this holiday season. Praying for you to be flooded with His peace and joy in even the chaos.
What about you? Do you have any hacks that may be useful to another momma? Comment below.
Too many children are daily being forced to meet expectations that they were never meant to fulfill. These outside-the-box kids were made differently and distinctly with gifts, talents and purposes that cannot be met by others. These outside-the-box kids must be equipped to thrive in this world.
However, God used this 4 year experience of HELL in our desperate fight for answers. He worked through relationships with amazing pediatric specialists. God forced me into my own season of Christian counseling as I faced my own internal junk. tHe allowed this all to completely transform me as a Christian mother, wife, friend and educator.
And that transformation completely SAVED my relationship with my biological daughter. Honestly, I believe it has saved her life.
For years, I tried to make her into a social butterfly like her older sister and me. I didn’t understand why she way so “shy.” I worried about her heightened-sensitivity level. Her tears, her emotions… I wanted to “fix” her. When she would not do what I wanted when I wanted it, I would become frustrated with her…
And she felt it… she felt my disappointment and the disappointment of others when she could not be who the world says a young girl should be. It kills me to think about what she must have felt about herself knowing that she was different from her sister and a lot of the children we were surrounded by on a daily basis.
It is not the being different that likely made her feel less-than. Nope, it was the messages she was receiving from the world around her, most importantly, in her own home. The messages that told her she needed to be someone who God never intended for her to be that could have destroyed her life.
Circling back to 4 years of hell with my adopted son. The education and humbling that I experienced, radically has changed me as a human being.
And, by God’s mercy, I am convinced that it saved my daughter!!
I fight the tears right now as I think about what she would have felt and believed about herself if I had continued parenting her with the idea that she needed to be someone different. Someone who the world wants to be.
An Overlooked & Suffering Population
Aspie girls are suffering so much… for so many reasons. One of the most crucial reasons that these girls are suffering is because they are being misdiagnosed. They are being completely overlooked because Aspie girls present so differently than boys and the criteria has been based upon boys. The mental health implications of being missed are astronomical.
Anxiety Anorexia Depression Suicide Trauma etc…
But they do not have to!
Our outside-the-box girls are EVERYWHERE!
Except that so many have been told their entire formative years that they are not enough… they are inherently defective. They have been told that they should not be who they have been created to be.
That their interests are “weird”… that they must change to be accepted.
That they must shove their outside-the-box selves into the one-size-fits-all facade that we have believed is the “right” way to live.
These outside-the-box kids do not thrive like this. They often don’t even survive.
Can you imagine living your life like this?
So what do these outside-the-box girls do? What do so many of our outside-the-box kids do?
They hide. At home. Alone.
There are likely millions of outside-the-box kids out there who are not thriving.
Kids with ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, Learning Differences, Aspies, introverts… whatever. It doesn’t matter if they have a diagnosis or not. Who cares?!!!
These outside-the-box kids and outside-the-box adults are EVERYWHERE!
Why are we forcing so many gifted, loving, talented and brilliant people onto the hamster wheel of mental illness?!
‘I’m not good enough.’
‘I always screw up.’
‘The teacher is mad at me again.’
‘I said the wrong thing.’
‘The noise was just too much and I couldn’t handle it.’
‘I cannot focus in a room full of other kids.’
‘What is wrong with me?’
The messages that our children consistently receive from the world are most often the ones that plague them for the rest of their lives.
How many more kids have to scream for help through drug-abuse, cutting, suicide, etc before we take a good look at this one-size-fits all system that is FAILING so many children?
We say that we value diversity in this country and yet we have a system set up for one type of child.
Our kids have gifts and talents and hearts that just want to love and be loved.
Often times, we try to raise our unique kids using the “world’s” expectations as our goal…
When our young kids cannot take it any longer, they explode… often times behaviorally.
I have learned, by God’s grace, that our children are gifts to this world and need to be raised in a way that allows them to thrive and shine.
Community of Moms Willing to Do it Differently
We must do this in community. We need one another to be brave for our girls… for all of the outside-the-box kids who are wired-differently than the world wants them to be. But again, what in the world is “different” when there are millions and millions of them in this world?!
I just want you all to know that there is a different way and I am rallying moms of outside-the-box kids to be BRAVE and do this parenting thing differently.
We must stop being afraid of what the parenting commentary peanut-gallery people think of us as parents. We have to not care what the “experts” say if it is going to destroy the adulthood of our children.
These girls will spend roughly 75-80% of their lives as adults. These years matter. What they believe about themselves matters! They will carry this childhood with them into adulthood. We all do.
Please join me in this. I recently laid aside my side-business as a private tutor for kids with varying learning disabilities (again… they just learn differently that the system tells them they should…).
I did this to start an organization to equip moms to confidently parent their outside-the-box kids for a life of confidence and purpose.
I am rallying moms all over the country and the world to learn how to see Behind the Behaviors so they can “see” the true needs for their children. Then I equip them with tools, strategies and steps so that they can equip their outside-the-box children well.
Let’s equip these precious kids (our girls, in this instance) with what she needs to take the next step towards her amazing future.
I cringe when I think of what could have been with my daughter if I had continued following on the path of traditional discipline and parenting with her.
She is thriving!!!
My son is thriving.
My almost 14 year old NT daughter is thriving…
Not because of me… but because of God and how He has taken the lies I have believed for so many years.
The lies that told me that my value came from my children’s behaviors. The lie that told me that if my child wasn’t behaving according to the culture’s expectations at one given moment-in-time, that I was a failure and that they would end up a mess.
Fear is a LIAR
I am a Christian. I put my faith in Christ. As such, I know that we have an enemy who would love nothing more than for me to look to the benchmarks and expectations of the world to dictate who my children “should be.” The reality is though, that our children are each “wonderfully and fearfully made” and that God has a plan for each one of them.
Why can’t we trust that God has a plan for our children that may not look like every one else’s plan? Why does every child have to be and act in the same manner in order to have value and develop confidence?
Let’s not fall into FEAR-based parenting… for the sake of our children.
Clearly with the mental health stats for kids off the charts, it makes perfect sense that we as moms should feel pretty confident that there MUST be a different and more effective way to equip our children.
Imagine a happy, thriving Aspie daughter who knows her worth… who finds her people… who knows that mom is in her corner and believes in her fully.
Imagine that same scenario for thousands and thousands of children throughout the country. Imagine what they could do if they were encouraged to be who they have been created to be and equipped accordingly?
Oh my word… I cannot wait to see what God does with these amazing children He has so uniquely made.
We mommas love our kids fiercely, but can become overwhelmed when our children struggle daily with tantrums, meltdowns as a result of stress and anxiety. A simple tool such as the Zones of Regulation chart can make a world of difference for the entire family.
End of the Day Exhaustion
As moms we often long to crawl into bed at the end of the night. Sadly though, when we finally climb into our cozy sanctuary filled with fluffy pillows and blankets, we spend way too much time anxiously trying to fall asleep.
That is often because we mommas have lots of trouble settling our minds. The reality is that we are simply so preoccupied with the demands of our day that we access that first “quiet” moment when we lie in bed.
To settle your mind when you are in the thick of a tough parenting season is like trying to staple Jello to a wall. It’s just not gonna happen.
Meltdowns & Emotions
More and more I am being connected with moms who have children who are struggling in so many ways. Meltdowns after school, anxiety and stress trying to get them to school, sibling rivalry, volatile behaviors, impulsiveness… whatever it is… moms and kids alike are being hit with layer upon layer of stress.
Several months ago I did a Facebook Live in my Private Facebook Group where I discussed a simple tool that can be used TODAY by any and all parents. Moms, I would venture to guess that whatever the situation may be with your child, that this tool will be able to bring about some major peace and stress relief for your entire family.
Throughout life, we have all at one time or another experienced some form of anxiety. Often, we do not respond to our anxiety in the healthiest and most appropriate ways. We snap at our hubbies. Yell too loudly at our kids. However we release it, if we don’t identify the emotion and the cause of the emotion we are experiencing, we frequently end up in trouble relationally.
What seems like the tiniest thing can get you or your child amped up. However, it doesn’t really matter what the trigger is. I would argue that unidentified emotions is most often at the root of all childhood meltdowns or tantrums.
This tool was originally created by an awesome lady and teacher named Leah Kuypers, MA.Ed, OTR-L. Leah has created an entire program often used in school settings and at home. I was originally introduced to this tool by my son’s developmental pediatrician, Dr. Yasmin Senturias. This is resource is phenomenal for children and families alike and has proven to be a lifesaver for my family.
When we notice our children struggling with certain behaviors, it is crucial that we as parents or teachers start challenging ourselves to shift our perspective about how to respond.
If we only look at outward behavior at face value, we will likely not solve the actual problem. We need to look behind the behaviors and help children identify triggers. Not only do we want them to know “what sets them off” but also how to process those events and resulting emotions. The Zones of Regulation chart will help you equip your child to understand these concepts in a practical way.
Willful Disobedience or Not Yet Equipped
When a child behaves in a way that may initially appear as disrespectful, for example, the adult needs to pause. If we take a moment to really think about what is happening, we will likely be able to propel the “behavioral” needle forward if we approach the behaviors differently.
Grab your FREE Behind the Behavior Intro Bundle!
End your child's meltdowns even if you've tried every discipline strategy so you can lose the confusion & stress and start enjoying peace & joy with your children.
Behavior is Information
I am constantly telling those in my sphere of influence that Behavior is Information. Behavior is a form of communication.
When children “act out,” they are actually trying to tell the adults around them something that they can’t easily vocalize. Let’s call this “mind-mouth disconnect.” Children often do not have the vocabulary to communicate effectively and appropriately, and therefore, they respond through frustrated behaviors.
The child typically has thought that they can’t put into words. There’s someone or something that is stuck running around in their heads. Because they don’t have the language and awareness to know that the sensations they feel can be named with a word, they become frustrated and confused. They don’t know exactly what or why they feel the way they do, but they recognize that they’re “off.”.
The Zones of Regulation chart is a tool that can be used by parents and teachers to provide children with a visual representation of a variety of emotions and mental states. These zones are identified and broken down by colors to use in everyday situations.
Simple Yet Highly Effective
It’s so simple to use. Print it out and post onto your refrigerator for easy access throughout the day. Talk with your child about the various zones. Give your child examples of when you have been in the “red” zone or the “yellow” zone. Use stories to further clarify. At bedtime, ask your child what “zone” the character is in and why. Make the “zones” a part of your family’s language.
By providing kids with the language and tools to verbalize what they experience internally, your child is set up for a life of social-emotional success.
Think about this: How many adults do you know that don’t know how to handle their emotions?
I would venture to say that we all know someone in this category. Let’s set up our kids for life-long success by equipping them with the emotional tools that they need to promote healthy sense of self, which will only enhance interpersonal relationships now and in the future.
The reality is that we can fill our kids heads with a ton of information about math and science, but if they cannot handle tough situations, they will likely be useless as adults.
Check out this video teaching where I explain more about how to use this simple and yet effective teaching tool with your family. The chart shown here was modified by me. You can access all of Leah Kuyper’s resources and materials here.
Video where I explain the Zones of Regulation Chart
Grab your FREE Behind the Behavior Intro Bundle!
End your child's meltdowns even if you've tried every discipline strategy so you can lose the confusion & stress and start enjoying peace & joy with your children.
To my momma friends and fellow educators who love and are invested in outside-the-box children, let’s be brave for our kids. ❤️
The children who are constantly hearing that they are not enough.
The ones who will never live up the expectations of the adults around them.
Like the kid back in school who was considered a troublemaker and ended up exactly as expected by the adults around him…
The “loser” with a life that went nowhere.
There is an underlying belief in our homes, schools, churches and our culture as a whole that there is a one-size-fits all approach to “unacceptable” behavior. We may try to deny this in the name of political correctness, but we must be honest about this reality for the sake of our outside the box kids.
When we cannot control
When adults cannot “control” the “challenging” behavior of children, the perception is that there is something wrong with the child.
The idea that perhaps we are using the wrong approach with the more “challenging” kids rarely comes to mind.
Again, the adults blame the child and continue with the same ineffective, life-sucking discipline strategies… and the behaviors increase as the child’s sense of self-worth decreases.
Set Up to Fail
So many of our kids are placed in no-win situations as they continuously fail to live up to the accepted expectations of the world around them.
These expectations are often based upon benchmarks of development academically and behaviorally… Except these kids don’t meet the benchmarks and are always behind.
They are repeatedly corrected, punished, and shamed. 😔 These kids spend their formative years hearing about their faults, and their inability to please the adults and even other kids around them.
Mental Illness Hamster Wheel
These misunderstood children frequently end up trapped in a cycle of mental health issues that plague them for life. Rates of childhood anxiety, depression, cutting, and suicide are growing.
We need to wake up to the fact that there are so many kids out there suffering under the pressure of inappropriate adult expectations.
We are raising children to one day be adults. These formative years are crucial.
Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children.
It’s time to be BRAVE for our outside-the-box children.
Let’s stop approaching those who don’t fit the mold, who don’t respond to traditional discipline, with the belief that these kids are WILLFULLY making a choice to disobey.
It is time for us to be our child’s cheerleader and coach. Let us coach them well while we encourage them on to be the best outside-the-box kid they can be.
God Intentionally Chose You
Moms, you know in your gut there must be another way for your “outside-the-box” kid.
You know that God has created your child uniquely and that He must have a plan for your child. You KNOW IT!!
Yet, fear takes over. However, you don’t know what to do, but you know your child cannot thrive knowing that he is a constant disappointment.
We must be brave for our children who have been created differently. We must be willing to think outside-the-box with our outside-the-box kids.
Let’s equip our children with tools and strategies so that they can live a life of confidence and purpose.
Or we can continue to listen to the world and it’s rewards and punishment mentality. How is that working for your child?
Every child needs an adult who believes in them… let’s be that for our kids.
Wisdom of Moms Raising Outside-the-Box Kids
Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children.
It’s time to be BRAVE for our unique outside-the-box children. We must be brave for our children who dare to be “DIFFERENT.”
The Irony of “Different”
Interestingly, referring to our outside-the-box kids as “different” is insanely ironic. Why?
Hello?!! There are hundreds of thousands of them in our country. However, many of them are hiding out at home suffering alone because the culture’s expectations have destroyed any shred of their confidence.
These kiddos need to be raised, educated, disciplined, and loved in a way that best equips them to flourish into healthy adults. God has equipped our children to be “salt and light.” 🥰
Many of our kids display behaviors that are perceived as pure willful disobedience… Adults mistakenly believe that these kids are choosing to behave poorly.
Further, we adults reek of hypocrisy and confuse our children. When we lose it, fly off the handle or meltdown in some way, we justify it by listing all the stress in our lives.
“It all just built up and I lost it.”
We give ourselves and other adults grace, but rarely our children.
On the other hand, when children dare to meltdown in the grocery store after a long and exhausting day at school, we shame them. Onlookers often pass judgment and whisper, “He just needs a good spanking.” The self-righteous mom with her “perfectly” obedient, shakes her head a the mom wrestling her son into the cart.
Unfortunately, I’m ashamed to say that prior to the adoption of my son with “hidden” cognitive special needs, I was incredibly oblivious to the severity of my pride and self-righteousness.
The reality is that as a culture, we act as though we are surprised when a young, immature and growing child has a meltdown.
Fear Leads to Meltdowns in Adults Too
More importantly, when we as adults feel out of control, it scares us…
Adults often respond to socially unacceptable behaviors from a place of fear and insecurity.. Because we believe we should be able to control children, we feel like failures and become increasingly frustrated.
Think about it. When we feel fear and insecurity how do we most often respond? punishment, aggression, anger.
Let me repeat that: Adults respond to internal fear and insecurity very often through behaviors that look like anger and aggression.
Could it be that children who behave through anger and aggression are actually struggling with fear? This is a rhetorical question.
Unfortunately, mom friends, if we really allow ourselves to go there, we will likely recognize that we often parent out of fear.
We fear for the child’s future. ‘What will happen to him if I don’t stop behavior X, Y, or Z?’
Because we don’t know what else to do, we often fall back on the influence of a culture that is not invested in the heart, mind, soul and spirit of our “outside-the-box” child. The culture and traditional approaches often just want the inconvenient behaviors to stop. But at what cost?
Who cares most about your child’s future?
The culture tells you that it is your kid that is the problem. You had better find a way to mold your child to fit in the box. Discipline harder. Be more consistent. Ignore him. Your outside-the-box kiddo is expected to ‘suck it up’ and behave regardless of his capability to do so. Parents are told that there is only one way. You are told to force your child to fit the mold. If you can’t change your child, people perceive you as a poor parent.
Momma Friend, I hear it every day.
The school called. My kid flipped out and hit a little boy in class. Now he is suspended.
My daughter clings to me at church because it is so loud and crazy in there. She started melting down in the middle of the foyer last Sunday.
The teacher said that my child is off in lala land and that’s why she can’t learn to read.
My son comes home from school every day and screams and has meltdowns. No one believes me.
My child begs me not to send him to school (church, sports, etc) each day.
Getting to get my child to do her homework always ends up in tears and stress. She just screams that it’s too much to do.
I just found out that my daughter is cutting. She is under so much pressure. How do I help her?
My child can’t sit for circle time. She is going to get kicked out of preschool.
My son came home sobbing because he was back on red today. He told me that he tried so hard to sit still but when he did that, he couldn’t focus on what the teacher said. The teacher then moved his card down because he wasn’t paying attention. He can’t win.
The mom down the street won’t let my child play with hers because he had a full-blown meltdown when it was time for him to share.
The counselor says I shouldn’t coddle him…
The list goes on.
We Know God Does Not Make Mistakes
We know deep down inside of us that there must be a better and different approach in order to thrive.
And yet, out of FEAR of the culture (the schools, the teachers, the church, our friends, the lady in the grocery store…), we mommas cave and anxiously try to force our child to meet the world’s expectations.
We don’t know what else to do so we then push harder, yell louder, punish longer… Sometimes our kids acquiesce out of fear or exhaustion… having learned nothing about how to handle tough situations in the future.
Immediate Obedience at What Cost?
The cost of quick obedience through shame and punishment is HIGH... broken parent-child relationships, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, cutting, increased suicide rates…
The price is exponentially higher for children with cognitive differences or delays. So many of these kids do not have the capability to comply appropriately through rewards and punishments because they are stuck in fight-or-flight.
As a culture we say celebrate diversity and yet we have virtually no tolerance for children who are “different.”
For the child who doesn’t fit inside the cultural box… the ones who are “different.”
Let’s be brave together, Moms.
Let’s Equip Our Kids
Our children need to be equipped with the skills, direction, tools, LOVE and support of adults so that they can learn to appropriately handle big emotions, thoughts, etc…
When children are not taught these crucial life skills in a way in which they can receive and process, they fail and disappoint the world around them… over and over again.
My heart aches for the children whose sense of self-worth and ability to function in this world are often dictated by a perspective of children that assumes the worst of them.
No more sending our kids to their rooms yelling, “Go to your room until you can behave!!!”
Let’s actually look behind the behavior FIRST.
Let’s teach them to behave appropriately by equipping them with lifelong emotional regulation skills and tools. Momma, we must give them the education they need. Our children need to understand the LARGE sensations they experience inside their bodies… (aka feelings). We need to engage them in conversations about how their thoughts impact their feelings and behaviors.
What if we rally together to equip them instead of shame them?
God Chose You to Parent Your Child
Every adult remembers that kid from school who couldn’t get it together and behave in class… The troublemaker… Maybe you were that kid. Maybe you beat the odds… but most don’t.
Eventually after never being able to please and “obey right away,” that childhood “troublemaker” believed that he could not ever do it right. He was forced into the cycle of “I suck and I can’t do anything right.”
These are the ones who will never know real relationship and love because they were never taught how to appropriately handle their thoughts, emotions and such….
These are the kids from school who never succeeded.
Is that what we want for our children?
Fight for God’s Gifts to Shine Through Your Child
Let us parent our children from the perspective of the gospel. God loved us before we loved him. God sought relationship with us while we were still sinners. He looked beyond our behaviors and showed us love through his Son.
When our children mess up, let’s pour out the grace that God has gifted to us. Let us pour into our relationship with our child and show them that they are valuable even when they mess up… even when they struggle to focus, are impulsive, can’t learn math, struggle with social awkwardness.
God has a plan for each of these children.
Let’s be brave, Friends, and do something different for our kids.
Imagine fearlessly raising our “different” kids into confident, healthy and productive adults…🥳
God has made us all unique!! We say we believe in individuality and diversity yet we expect all kids to be the same in development, wiring, behaviorally and we shame them when they don’t comply!!!
Children are adults in the making…
Is it possible that perhaps there is a different, more peaceful, relational way to raise our children so that they can be “wired differently” and that be seen as a blessing?
It is time that we rally together to love, relate to, teach and ultimately influence these more “challenging” kids in a way that equips them for their best.
Every child can succeed. I firmly believe that God has blessed us with so many amazing and UNIQUE children with strengths that may currently be perceived as weaknesses… 🥰
What happens when we look behind the behaviors and see the strengths of these kids? What happens if we choose to love them well even when they are behaving in ways that make us uncomfortable?
Imagine what would happen if we as adults allowed ourselves to focus on what our child needs in this season in order to later be able to function and love others well in the future.
One step at a time, let’s connect with our kids and equip them with a vision of who they CAN be…. ❤️
Let’s be ok with parenting naysayers’ judgement and focus our attention on what our hild needs to grow into the person God has equipped him or her to be…
Knowing how to calm a child during a meltdown is not easy. Parenting a child with special needs is exhausting. However, the needs of the child and how his cognitive differences show up on any given day will impact the severity of mom’s fatigue. Mom’s burnout is exponentially magnified when her child struggles with behavior issues. For that mom in the trenches, finding a way to calm her child during a meltdown can be impossible.
Without reservation, while I was in the thick of daily tantrums and meltdowns with my son, I was a mess. Anyone who knows me has heard me repeatedly say the same thing over and over again.
Yep, in that season of absolute misery, I wanted to “check myself into a mental institution.” All of the parenting strategies I knew to use were absolutely useless and I felt helpless. I had no idea how to calm my child during a meltdown.
Prior to the adoption of our son, I would never in my wildest dreams have believed that I would have zero control of my child. Once my son’s volatile behaviors began to display themselves at 18 months old, my world was completely rocked. All that I thought I knew about being a good Christian mom went out the window.
I was the mom who had read all of the Christian parenting books out there. When my biological children had a meltdown, I could bring order quickly. A firm voice or swift consequence and I had successfully trained my child to calm down from a meltdown. In hindsight, I can see now that my perspective on parenting was pretty skewed from the beginning. Determined, I was going to parent my children the EXACT OPPOSITE way my parents had raised me.
In my home, there would be love, stability, consistency and discipline. Dang it!
Oh, Mercy! God clearly had other plans for our family when He brought our boy into our world.
By the time he could move, our son steamrolled his way through our home. He screamed bloody murder every moment of the day. Destruction was his middle name. He manhandled anything and everything in our home. Some of the behaviors we navigated on a daily basis included: scaling walls, escaping the house, hitting, scratching, biting and destruction of property.
There wasn’t a single discipline strategy that helped calm my youngest child during his raging meltdowns. Consequently, I suffered deep emotional anguish. As I have discussed in previous posts, we lived in a war zone, navigating grenades at every turn.
Despite being surrounded by a loving Christian community, I felt like I was drowning. I felt alone, isolated and I eventually believed I was a failure as a parent. At times I believed that we had made a mistake in adopting our son. Plummeting to the depths of despair, I was desperate and broken. Broken for my husband, my two biological daughters and my adopted son. His hourly meltdowns were too much for me.
“Parents take way too much credit when their children are doing well. They take way too much credit when their children are doing poorly.”
Rather than checking myself into a mental institution for what promised to be a mini-vacation, I decided to make a different plan. In order to prevent myself from “setting the house on fire because I was about to lose it,” I made an appointment for counseling.
Side note: No one panic… I was never going to set my house on fire. I use A LOT of hyperbole when I tell a story. Its one of my gifts. Ha!
Back to it…
One winter morning after a few hours of desperately trying to calm him during one of his meltdowns, I made the call. I was so overwhelmed with his screeching,with knowing my daughters were struggling in his chaos, and with my own internal distress that I knew I had to do something.
I sent out a mass text S.O.S. to my tribe of girlfriends and asked for a referral. Within an hour I had a the name of a counselor.
Beginning the counseling process in that season has been a life saver for me. God used that time of absolute hell to humble me. That season was so humbling and broke me in a million tiny pieces. My prideful butt was so black and blue from the beating that my son’s behavior inflicted upon me.
In true form, God took those million pieces, gathered them up, and delivered me into Christian counseling. Unquestionably, I had a lot of my own emotional garbage to weed through. Apparently, I needed a major kick in the pants to make that initial call.
Needless to say, my astute counselor and I have done some serious work these past few years. One of the many nuggets of truth she has offered to me has been this.
We as parents take way too much responsibility for the successes and failures of our children.
It took me awhile to chew and digest this, but I finally got it and was able to receive this concept for the truth that it brings.
God is God.
I am not God.
‘Yes, Lindsay. I know that,” you may be thinking. ‘How does that have anything to do with my ability to calm my child during a meltdown?’
Let me put it to you this way. My ability to make any human being do anything is non-existent. I am unable to control people, even my little people.
Yes, I can influence, teach and guide my children and others. In the end, though, I don’t have control over anyone but myself.
I didn’t realize how unhealthy it was for me to view (although not consciously) my children’s behaviors as a reflection of me.
Having gained that new perspective, I was able to see how in years past I had disciplined my girls from a place of my own pride. How often do we as moms torture ourselves about what other moms think of us?
I wonder what “So-and-So” must think of me after my daughter pitched a fit at the playground?
How did I look as a mom to the mom sitting next to me in Bible Study?
That lady must think I am a horrible mother because my child threw a fit in the parking lot!
His preschool teacher must think I am a terrible parent because I could not calm my child during his meltdown.
I realize now how often my parenting has stemmed from my own “self-centered” ego. From my need for the approval of others. Yuck!
It was my inability to control my son that saved my entire family.
I couldn’t stop my toddler from running into the street. Nope. We couldn’t prevent him from using a broom handle to unhook the chain locks and escape to run wildly through the neighborhood. Forcing him to sleep and to “obey right away?” Calm my smallest child during a destructive meltdown?
Yeah right. I had zero control then and I really have zero control now.
It took years for me to finally realize that in order to effectively parent my son, I had to completely shift my perspective on parenting and discipline.
My little boy, like so many adopted children, through no fault of his own, was exposed to dangerous substances that severely impacted his developing brain. I had to wake up to the notion that his cognitive differences made his ability to self-regulate a very difficult task.
A Complete Shift in Perspective Led to Big Changes
The key to learning how to effectively discipline my son was to shift my perspective. Historically, I had viewed his behavior through the lens of “He is choosing not to behave.” Once I recognized his need to be taught how to “behave” (self-regulate), I began to respond to his meltdowns with a new freedom.
We have seen HUGE changes in my son’s behavior since this shift. Miraculous changes. Not perfection by any means, but huge gains in his ability to recover and calm himself down.
Fortunately, I have learned so much about parenting children with different cognitive issues over the past several years. Additionally, I have been blessed with an education from amazing local specialists. As I have become involved in adoption and special needs communities, I have gleaned so much more compassion for these precious children and their parents.
Steps to Recovery
The compassion that I have developed for children who are “wired-differently” has fueled the development of my organization, A Heart For All Students. I have begun this journey to equip moms with a greater understanding of their children’s wiring and resulting behaviors.
My goal is to free moms from the emotional chokehold of our culture’s traditional parenting mentality (punishment and rewards) so they can more effectively and confidently parent. When Mom (and Dad) are free to parent and love based upon their greater understanding of the needs of their unique child, true growth for all begins to occur.
Over the past couple of months, I have begun to observe the repetitive steps that I use to help my son recover from a meltdown or tantrum (there is a difference between the two, but for now, I will use the terms loosely.)
When I was in the thick of chaos and confusion, I would have done anything to have someone come alongside me and walk me through this journey. I don’t want any mom to have to suffer in isolation the way so many of us do.
My heart hurts for all of the children who grow up believing that they are “inherently bad” because they can’t seem to get it together. So many adults are now living from the dire emotional consequences of a childhood lived as a disappointment to the adults around them.
Ultimately, I owe so much of my new parenting education to Becky Bailey, PhD and the late Karyn Purvis PhD. The separate work of these two ladies combined with my own education and training has been the most influential resources that have impacted my shift in what is effective discipline and parenting.
While I know I cannot serve each child and mom (and Dad) individually, I can share with you, Friend. My heart is to share what I have learned in this journey with you so that you can equip your child for the incredible life that God has planned.
Later, when you see that distressed mom in the grocery store with her screaming kid, you can reach out to her. She is everywhere. She needs community and someone to care and believe in her. Let’s love our children well by loving mommas in the messiness of meltdowns.
I have been writing like a crazy woman all summer long, creating my course with the most useful information that I have received through four years of absolute you-know-what. I want to provide the mommas “in-the-trenches” with actionable content while also providing the “why” behind the strategies and steps that I offer.
This material really should be called: “What I would have KILLED to know when in the you-know-what of Special Needs Parenting.” Ha! What do you think? I’m open to ideas… seriously… 🙂
Join my Private Facebook Group for Exclusive Content, Announcements and Q & As with me and my amazing Tribe of REAL moms. No judgement zone ahead! 🙂
I am so excited to launch my ecourse filled with in-depth explanation and the Behind the Behaviors: The Why & How of the 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery. My goal is to provide you with actionable strategies to equip your struggling child so that he can navigate big emotions well. I want to cut through all of the wasted energy and information that I encountered during my 4 years of on-the-ground meltdown training and share what I found to be most useful.
These steps are the basic framework of meltdown recovery to get you started. I will equip you with the why and hows in the course. Yay!!
We are a Tribe & we need you!
I need your help in order to not only help you, but also that “in-the-trenches” special needs mom in your community. She is there and you will find her. She is the one dripping with sweat manhandling a screaming 7 year-old boy in the bakery aisle. Encourage her, Friend. Point her to this ecourse and our growing Private Facebook Community. We are in this together.
What About You, Friend? How do you walk alongside your child during a meltdown into recovery and calm? Comment below. Would love to know your strategies. 🙂
Grab Your Free 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery Cheat Sheet!
Deepen your parent-child relationship.
Equip your child with tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.
Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.
Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.
I’ve lived way too many years as a mom trying desperately to be the perfect Christian momma. If I just tried hard enough, and did all the right things, I thought there would be a way for me to get it right.
In 2013, after 7 miscarriages, God allowed another baby boy to enter our world. That boy shattered every faulty belief I clung to and after years of you-know-what, has been used to radically transform me as a mother and as an educator.
I am here for you, Friend.
I am my hubby’s wife, my kiddos’ momma and an educator. I homeschool my 3 children (two bio daughters and one adopted son). I have a heart for all those who learn differently and I’m indebted to Jesus forever.
My heart is for all children to thrive as the people God has created them to be by equipping the amazing mommas who raise them.
Grab your FREE Behind the Behaviors Intro Bundle and Parent with Confidence!