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.