CALM Parenting- Making Strides Toward Independence


Welcome back to our series on CALM Parenting.

Just to quickly review: CALM’s goal is to increase calm and connection for kids and families in a stressed-out overwhelming world.

What is CALM Parenting and what does it stand for? Each letter describes an important piece of the model:

C- Create peace inside and out

A – Allow for Authentic Success

L – Let go of “shoulds” and shame

M – Make strides toward independence

The CALM Parenting Model brings less stress and more peace at home, in school and in the community.

Over the next few weeks, our newsletter will focus on CALM and offer tips and ideas on how to implement the model at home with your family. Whether your child has special needs or not, this model will support you in being positively engaged and connected with your children and significantly lessen the conflict in your home.

To read our previous articles, click on the links below.

C-Creating Peace Inside and  Out

A-Allowing for Authentic Success

L- Letting Go of Shoulds and Shame

Let’s continue exploring CALM Parenting with M- Making Strides Toward Independence

For better or worse, our job as a parent is to teach and guide our children to be as independent as they can be when they reach young adulthood. Independence means they can live away from you, clean up after themselves, feed themselves healthy food, pay their bills and manage an age and brain appropriate job. They can make phone calls, shake hands when greeting people, advocate for themselves and know when, how and who to ask for help.

Taken as a whole, that is a lot to learn and practice.

Ideally, the learning and practicing takes place throughout their childhood and teen years. No one ever sat on a couch or played all day until they were 18 and then figured out how to do their laundry.

Many of us lose the forest for the trees as we parent, especially if our child has special needs. While school, accessing the curriculum and grades are important, they are not the most important job you have as a parent.

For many of our kids, learning calculus won’t be the goal. For all our kids, getting straight A’s isn’t the point. Give me a 19-year-old who can hold a job, get the education they need and keep their person and personal space clean and I will guarantee you they will be successful in their future endeavors.

If your child is in high school and not able to get up on time, keep track of their work, and do a significant amount of chores around the house, you have work to do to help them make strides towards independence.

Yes, there are obstacles to these processes if your child has a neuropsychological weakness. However, there are millions of adults with ADHD, autism and learning disabilities striving towards independence successfully and your child can do it, too.

Here are X steps to support your child in their strides toward independence:

  1. Assume competence. Your child is more capable than you give them credit for. I know this because I underestimate my own child too often. Assume they can do a task until you see clear evidence that they cannot.
  2. Increase your expectations of independence. Children 5th grade and older should be able to get up on their own, get dressed, eat something and get to school on time. This is within their abilities regardless of brain quirks. Any ongoing chaos around this after 5th grade indicates the family isn’t on board with strides toward independence.
  3. Give your children chores. No excuses. Even children as young as 2 years old can clean up their toys.
  4. Set clear goals to learn new tasks of independence and teach your children step-by-step. Your child may need a checklist of a picture/graphic rubric to learn things like how to set the table, how to do their laundry, how to clean up their room. Give them the tools they need and teach step-by-step.
  5. Manage your expectations, patience, and frustration. If your child has a neurodevelopmental disability they will need support to learn some tasks that seem basic. Acknowledge their disability and support their learning. Assigning a chore then nagging, yelling, huffing and puffing when it isn’t done helps no one.
  6. Reward progress. Often learning independence skills is hard work. When your child makes progress, acknowledge it. High five them. Let them pick dessert or go out for an ice cream.
  7. Don’t expect perfection. You’ll never be happy.
  8. Let natural consequences be your form of discipline. If your child doesn’t do a chore, allow natural consequences to kick in. Trash not thrown out? Overflow the trash so it’s gross and they get that their job is important. Dog not walked? Let the poop fly in the house and get your child to clean it. Had homework not done? Grades are poor until they figure this out.
  9. Don’t rescue. If I had a dime for every time a teen tells me, “I don’t need to do [insert responsibility here] because my parents will eventually get fed up and do it for me.” Parents, your kids have your number. See #1 above.

Your children will push back against increased responsibility. This is why parenting isn’t for the weak. Stay focused and calm. Let your kids fail and reward success. This is the hard work of parenting and it’s so worth it when your child can stand on their own as a young adult and be successful and responsible independent of parental management.