Stop me if you have read this before: Kaitlyn thrives when her routine is kept. I’ll put that in writing again, Kaitlyn thrives when her routine is kept.
Now, when I write “routine,” I do not just mean keeping her on the same schedule all the time. Yes, that is part of it, but only a part, not the entire meaning. Kaitlyn’s routine also includes her manners and her discipline. By that, I mean that she responds so much better when not only her schedule is maintained, but also when there is a consistent delivery of disciplinary expectations and consistent expectations of appropriate behavior in regards to her manners and overall demeanor. And Amber and I strive to maintain a consistent approach, and we are successful most of the time.
Now, I know that some people, maybe even a lot of people, may disagree with our parenting style and approach. I get that, and I am fine with that. People can disagree all they want, but really are only doing so in a vacuum of interaction that lasts at best a few days; most are short in duration but long in advice. While we know not everyone will agree with our style and approach, I would think that at the very least, there would be some respect shown. This is not always the case, and I do not understand that at all.
When we take Kaitlyn out of her comfort zone for any length of time, there is work to do for us when we get home. That is natural, and does not include any deprogramming that may occur while we are away. And it is the deprogramming that makes our return home often be a multiple day battle to get Kaitlyn back on track. I highly doubt that there is ever any intentional undermining of our parenting, but the end result is the same. When Kaitlyn is shown or told that certain rules do not apply or too much latitude is given, she takes it way to the extreme. In her Aspie mind, all of the rules are now null and void, and she can do whatever she wants. Not the case.
Parenting is always full of challenges, and parenting a child with Asperger’s requires the total of both my energy and Amber’s on a daily basis, and then some. Sometimes, we start the day behind on energy because we are that mentally worn out from the day before. Like tomorrow, we will be behind in the count to start, and it will probably be Thursday before we get to even; that is the result of just being out of routine for three days. Strive and thrive.
From the very first day Amber and I even tackled the idea of starting a family, one thing we agreed on is that any kids we had would be raised with a reasonable amount of discipline and be taught proper manners. We talked about the importance of “yes sir” and “yes ma’am,” “please” and “thank you.” Those things were important then, and remain so today.
As soon as we reached a point where Kaitlyn understood our instructions, we started to inject our agreed-upon approach. We were met with some resistance from those that thought maybe we were too hard on her, but we did not relent. Manners and discipline were going to be the foundation for raising Kaitlyn.
If she did something she was not supposed to do, she was punished accordingly. That was our across the board approach, and we saw the results in the way that she interacted with people. Yes, she was shy and reserved, but when she warmed up to someone, she was always polite.
Our approach changed somewhat after her diagnosis. The more we learned about Asperger’s, the more we adjusted our parenting style. We learned about the behaviors exhibited by people with Asperger’s, the more we continued to adjust.
Today, we approach each occurrence in a completely different way. We know now that Kaitlyn is not openly defying us because she wants to, she is responding the only way that she knows how. We know that there is something in the way that she is wired that does not allow her to always take what she has learned today and apply it tomorrow. There are times where we fight the same battle with her on what seems like a daily basis. But we know that these battles are not being fought because she is a bad kid; in fact, we regularly receive compliments about her manners and her behavior. Kaitlyn has never been one of those kids (and we all know them) that had too many meltdowns in public, or misbehaved to a point where she has disturbed others at a restaurant. Yes, those times have happened, but they are infrequent. She usually saves her meltdowns, etc., for home, or for when she has a private audience of family or friends.
I can honestly say that our approach to how we handle things with Kaitlyn is very different from the approach we employed a year ago. I know that I have let more things slide than I would have in the past, chalking them up to her Asperger’s. Of course, we are careful to evaluate what can be attributed to Asperger’s, and what is just her being a kid. It is the times where she is just being a kid that we have the flexibility to be a little more stern with her; the stuff that can be attributed to her Asperger’s is generally brushed aside. Amber and I have grown and will continue to grow as parents. I cannot wait until I can write the one-year update post to share where we were and where we are at that time. I know that the last 6 months or so have taught Amber and I so much, and we are better parents for what we have learned. Our approach is different today, but the foundation remains the same…we expect Kaitlyn to be well-mannered and show appropriate levels of respect for instructions from adults.