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    I’m a mom of a child with autism, and I’m done with gentle parenting

    Mayte Torres/ Getty Images

    My husband and I wanted to raise our daughter differently than how we were raised. I followed gentle parenting influencers when she was little and having regular meltdowns. I realized that techniques that work for neurotypical kids don’t work with my neurodivergent child. 

    I was raised with a style of parenting that leaned more toward authoritarian. My husband’s upbringing was strict and punishment-heavy. He has distinct memories of hearing “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about” frequently.

    From personal experience, fear-based, punitive parenting does not lead to healthy adults who can manage their emotions well. That’s why respectful and empathic gentle parenting that acknowledged a child’s feelings had a real appeal to me.

    I looked into gentle parenting

    Early in my daughter’s life, I started following gentle parenting influencers. This included Big Little Feelings, which debuted on Instagram just as we were entering the difficult toddler years. Although I had years of experience working with children, my daughter’s meltdowns felt overwhelming and unmanageable. I didn’t like the concept of time-outs, and I also didn’t like how frustrated her explosive reactions made me feel.

    I purchased Big Little Feeling’s “Winning the Toddler Stage” course in the hopes of discovering the magic words to say to tame my daughter’s tantrums, as they said. I hoped learning the scripts they provided would transform my daughter into a more cooperative toddler and me into a calmer, more patient mom. But even though I watched all the videos and tried to implement their advice, most of it didn’t seem to work with my daughter. And OKing her feelings started to feel ridiculous after a while.

    The next big influencer whose advice I tried to follow was Dr. Becky. I waited months for her book to be available from the library. The waitlist was so long I ended up with the audiobook. I spent hours listening to techniques that I tried to implement (unsuccessfully) with my daughter, some of which seemed to make her more upset. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

    Until the end of the book, when Dr. Becky admitted that the behavioral techniques she discussed in the book weren’t effective with neurodivergent children. Eight hours wasted (and many bops from a dysregulated, angry child) on a book that wasn’t even written for her. I was pissed.

    I thought I was the problem

    After several years of trying to gentle parent in the style of influencers like Big Little Feelings and Dr. Becky, I had started to believe that the problem was me. If I couldn’t make their expert advice work, then obviously I was just a bad mom. Eventually, I discovered that the disconnect was that my daughter is autistic. As a result, advice developed for neurotypical children was usually not a good fit for her.

    The frustrating thing is that these influencers seem to be selling one-size-fits-all behavioral techniques when there is no such thing, especially with neurodivergent children. Even with neurotypical children, there is no one-size-fits-all way to deal with difficult behaviors. The rigidity of that seems to harken back to the strict way of parenting my husband and I grew up with that refuses to acknowledge that every child is an individual.

    I’ve changed how I parent her. Since my daughter thrives on consistency and is very focused on schedules and time, we try to keep things as structured as possible for her, which recently has meant implementing a visual schedule and timer. Although it’s incredibly frustrating sometimes, she might not react in the same way to something that she did yesterday, and we have to be flexible as well.

    These days, I’m not sure what label I’d put on my parenting style, perhaps mostly authoritative, a parenting style that is more focused on being responsive and supportive while still setting boundaries. Sometimes it feels like we are throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.

    I am done with following gentle parenting experts and taking their advice on how to parent my child, though. The parenting choices I make are very much customized to my daughter’s own specific needs and struggles. And how I parent is constantly evolving as my daughter grows and changes.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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