Success stories are one of the few stories you typically hear about in the parenting world, much less with special needs families. It’s not that they don’t happen, they do, but most people tend to share their complaints and struggles rather than their successes. It’s human nature, I suppose. We’re hardwired to look for help or a sympathetic ear when we’re going through hard times.
As a parenting coach, I hear my fair share of challenging parenting stories. Whether it’s from my clients or in the many parenting groups I frequent online, the stories I read and hear are heartbreaking. Sometimes, they’re disheartening for those of us in a seemingly hopeless situation. But I want to assure you, parenting success stories do happen, and they happen more often than you might think.
Often, the families with special needs children, behavior and conduct disorders, and physical limitations experience daily struggles that surpass the typical parenting life. It honestly seems that they are on a never-ending loop of frustration, hopelessness, and exhaustion. I know, because like many of you, I’ve been there, too.
But today, instead of a story about the challenges of being a special needs caregiver or a frustrated parent in a seemingly hopeless situation, I have a personal parenting success story for you! If you’re a special needs family, this will mean even more to you, I’m sure.
Our twin grandsons with special needs spent the night recently for the first time in over a month. This scenario may not seem like a big deal, but we’ve raised them for the past four years. Recently, we began transitioning them back to living with their mom, my daughter, and adjusting to life as grandparents instead of caregivers.
We decided to try taking them to breakfast, a public outing which in the past was highly stressful! If you have special needs children or kids with behavior challenges, I’m sure you can relate. There usually would be a lot of meltdowns and behavior issues to deal with in the past. But this time? They were so well behaved and polite, albeit a little loud at times. We were incredibly shocked and pleased.
Our one grandson, who is autistic, had a few “moments” that would typically have escalated quickly into a full-blown meltdown. However, we smoothed it over using conscious, connected parenting techniques, which I teach other parents, with zero meltdowns.
My husband and I kept looking at each other in amazement. We spent years stuck at home with the boys, unable to willingly go out in public together because of the stress and anxiety, meltdowns and behavior issues. We honestly never thought we’d ever enjoy public outings with our grandsons. Of course, we hoped and prayed for it, but the few times we tried, it never worked. Until now. We’ve turned a corner and we’re incredibly grateful to God for bringing us to this point.
Why am I sharing this with you? Besides the fact that everyone loves a good, heartwarming success story, I want to show you that parenting consciously and with connection works! Traditional punitive parenting uses negative reinforcement that might bring you short-term results, but this parenting style has undesirable long-term consequences.
I know, because like many of you, I raised my children with punitive parenting. It was all we knew! I remember thinking that it never felt right to me, and I wanted to be more loving and yell less, but I didn’t know how to parent differently. Most of us don’t, even with the plethora of successful parenting books and resources!
We keep doing what we’ve always done, expecting different and better results. But life doesn’t work that way. Parenting using traditional methods creates disconnection. It made a rift in our family that lasted many years. Thankfully, we’ve all come together again in recent years.
When you parent from a place of love, understanding and compassion instead of yelling, fear, and control, you create a team. It’s you together as a family, kids and adults alike, against the problems instead of thinking your kids are the problem.
Can you imagine what that would feel like to work together as a team? Can you imagine being in the trenches together, supporting, loving, and listening to each other rather than constantly yelling and fighting? I’m telling you, it can happen. I’ve proved it within my own family.
God knew what he was doing when he paved the way for us to be our grandsons’ caregivers for four years. They are now living with their mom, and our relationship is stronger than ever because even though she’s 26, it’s never too late to parent consciously with connection.
Without my grandsons and the challenging time raising them and relearning how to be a better parent, I would never have known and understood the importance of parenting from a place of love and compassion instead of fear and control. I learned to listen and validate their feelings, parent them with firm but loving boundaries, recognize my triggers and heal myself from within.
I became a conscious connection parenting coach because of my grandsons. I’d never heard of this effective parenting style before raising my children with traditional, punitive parenting. Yes, I have moments where I beat myself up for mistakes I made with my kids and grandsons, but instead of focusing on what I’ve done wrong, I focus on what I’m doing right while also striving to learn new and effective techniques that I can share with you too.
Dwelling on our past and wallowing in shame and guilt isn’t productive or conducive to a peaceful, happy home. What you give your attention to is what will continue to happen in your life. Parenting is hard and it doesn’t stop when they turn 18. Our children need and deserve to have wise guidance throughout their entire lives. We all do.
When you think your parenting life will never improve, I’m here to tell you. It doesn’t always have to be a challenge. As you can see from my personal success story, parenting can get better and be what you always wanted it to be. But it starts with you.
— Dawn-Renée Rice is a Conscious Connection Parenting Coach, writer and columnist from the East Texas area. She and her husband have been married for 23 years, share three children, six grandchildren and two furbabies. To follow Dawn-Renée, receive email updates or book a parent coaching call, visit her online at linktr.ee/dawnreneerice.