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Parenting Neurodiverse Kids Well
To my momma friends who are fiercely in love with and are parenting neurodiverse kids, let’s be brave.
You know the ones I am talking about.
- 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 (yep, he ended up exactly as expected by the adults around him)
- The “loser” with a life that went nowhere.
So many of these neurodiverse kids simply grew up shrouded in a culture that believes that outward behavior is always willful.
Sadly when it comes to parenting neurodiverse kids and children in general, this mindset is often quite dangerous. When we have black and white thinking to what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, outside-the-box children end up suffering.
The Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Parenting Neurodiverse Kids to Thrive
What is neurodiversity?
The concept of neurodiversity is basically a viewpoint that says that all people are wired differently.
For kids with ADHD, Autism, or any other cognitive difference, this shift can be life changing. This means that instead of viewing them as disordered people who need to be “fixed”, we embrace their differences as part of their wiring.
When we remove the “willful disobedience” mindset, we begin to see the whole child through the eyes of grace and of strength.
Our responses to perceived infractions on expected behaviors lose their rough and often aggressive edge. We are able to then see the strengths that need to be harnessed for good.
Our kids lose the shame and instead are able to see us as in their corner. We can then parent our neurodiverse children with what they need to thrive.
Diversity in who we are and how we are all designed. Doesn’t that sound like something to be celebrated?
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Parenting Neurodiverse Kids Well: Difference vs disordered
As moms begin parenting neurodiverse kids from this mindset, anxiety and fear is lessened. By recognizing our child’s ADHD or Autism as an inherent part of what makes them unique, we experience freedom.
Parenting our neurodiverse kids in this way allows us to focus on their strengths instead of trying to constantly fix these traits out of them.
Neurodiversity brings freedom
Culturally, when adults cannot “control” the “challenging” behavior of a child with ADHD, the perception is that there is something wrong with the child.
The idea that perhaps we are using the wrong approach with these kids rarely comes to mind. 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.
Albert Einstein is often credited as saying,
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
So… as we parent our own neurodiverse kids, what is our goal?
To force these fish to climb a tree, never allowing them to swim in the pond for which they were designed? Do we want them to believe there is something inherently wrong with them when they can NEVER meet our expectations?
Kids set up for failure
So many of our kids are placed in no-win situations. They continuously fail to live up to the accepted expectations of the world around them.
These expectations are often based upon an environment that they were never meant to thrive in.
Sadly, our outside-the-box kids are consistently living from a marginalized position. They are repeatedly corrected, punished, and shamed.
These kids spend their formative years hearing about their faults. Oftentimes these “faults” are simply differences in the way they receive and process the world around them.
What about the real world?
Some may argue that modifying how we educate and parent neurodiverse kids is not realistic because “they have to learn sometime”.
There are millions and millions of people in this country who are suffering and have suffered their entire lives because of this belief that its the kid who is broken.
We live in the United States of America. It’s 2020. We say we celebrate diversity. So let’s do it.
It is time we offer an alternative system.
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 because he is quiet at school.
- My child begs me not to send him to (church, sports, school, etc).
- Getting my child to do her homework always ends up in tears and stress. She just screams that it’s too much to do.
- My child hates going to birthday parties, he just cries and avoids the other kids.
These children struggle to please adults and even other kids around them by trying to suppress their responses to an environment they were never intended to live in.
They receive the message loud and clear that they are inherently defective.
Our neurodiverse kids are suffering. Their anxiety is through the roof. Wouldn’t yours be as well?
Mental Illness Hamster Wheel
These misunderstood children frequently end up trapped in a cycle of mental health issues that plague them for life.
Moms parenting neurodiverse kids… we need to join together to advocate for our children. We need to be brave enough to parent the children God has given us and not the one Aunt Edna wants.
We are raising children to one day be adults. These formative years are crucial.
Moms parenting neurodiverse kids differently
It’s time to be BRAVE for our uniquely-designed children.
- Sensory Processing Differences
- Learning Differences
These are not personality defects. These are inherent differences in wiring just as are introversion and extroversion.
- That struggle to take direction is not her being willfully stubborn but is her independence
- His hyperfocus on his latest “obsession” is not a disorder. It is a gift that has allowed some of the greatest inventors of our time to change the world.
- The boy who cannot sit still was made to move… he receives and processes information through movement.
- Is your daughter the day dreamer? The one who can’t focus? That is her incredible imagination taking her places that others will only experience when she becomes a published author.
We must begin to shift our perspective so that we can set these kids up for success.
Let’s stop shaming those who don’t fit the mold. We need to stop clinging to this belief that our 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 equip them to thrive as who they have been designed to be.
God Intentionally Chose You
Moms, you know in your gut there must be another way for your neurodiverse kids.
Deep down, you know that God has created your child uniquely and that He must have a plan for your child.
Yet, fear takes over.
- The world tells you that a child who is screaming in public deserves a good spanking.
- Aunt Edna tells you that you had better nip that bad behavior in the bud now.
- Your mother-in-law glares at your child when he begins jumping on the couch.
- That perfect mom stares in shock when your child begins shrieking uncontrollably at the fireworks display.
- The teacher at your child’s school told you that your child needs to learn to sit still now.
You don’t know what to do, but you know your child will never thrive knowing that he is a constant disappointment.
Parent the child we have been given
We must be willing to parent our children who have been created differently. As a Christ follower, I believe with every bit of my being that God creates every child with gifts, passions and purpose.
We must be willing to think outside-the-box with our outside-the-box kids.
Let’s partner with our children so that through safe relationships, we can influence them. We want to equip our kids 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 Neurodiverse Kids
Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children.
It’s time to be willing to allow other adults to disapprove of us in order to save the future lives of our children. Let’s allow our kids to dare to be exactly who they are.
If you are looking for the support of other moms who are parenting uniquely-wired kids to thrive, join the private AHFAS community.
We are in this together!