You know there’s drama brewing when your child comes to you in tears or the conversation begins with “Mom … please don’t get mad!” There are those who would argue that students will learn what to do if we just step back and let them sink or swim. But, students with ADHD or Asperger’s have Executive Functioning deficits, and that answer is not the solution.
Depending on the circumstances, there are instances where our students can’t swim on their own and we need to step in and take control of the situation. There are other instances where they will need to be explicitly taught how to swim, and then supported in their efforts until they are able to swim on their own.
How do you know when to step in and when to step back? In order to answer this question, you must first answer a couple of questions.
1. What are the circumstances?
2. Under these circumstances, given these set of facts, is this a situation that my child is capable of resolving if he or she is taught how to do so?
If the circumstances are such that it’s unlikely that your child will be able to resolve the situation on their own regardless of how much you’re able to teach them, then it’s time to step in and take over.
Let me take you through a few examples to illustrate when it’s appropriate for you to take over and resolve the situation. I’ll begin with an example where the solution is more obvious and then move on to one where it’s not so clear cut.
EXAMPLE ONE When my youngest daughter recently called from college to say she was sick, we had no alternative but to take control.
The situation was serious. I could tell that just from the sound of her cough and the way she was breathing.
There was nothing that I could teach her at that point that would change the situation. She had already tried to resolve the matter on her own, and she had run out of options. She’d been to the university health services several days before, but their treatment wasn’t working and they were unable to give her the treatment she needed. Moreover, she doesn’t have a car on campus, and she just transferred there so she didn’t have someone who could drive her to another doctor in the area.
Leaving her on her own wasn’t a viable alternative. Her next stop was the emergency room and we weren’t willing to let it go that far.
EXAMPLE TWO When my son called to tell us that his cell phone went through the wash with his laundry and that he needed a new phone, the circumstances were such that we had no alternative but to step in.
The situation was serious and leaving him on his own wasn’t a viable alternative. Even though he was at fault by leaving his cell phone in the pocket of his pants and then washing the pants without first thoroughly checking his pockets, he needed a cell phone. There might be some who would question whether a cell phone is a necessity, but in this instance, it was. Our son has been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. He is socially challenged, easily taken advantage of and has been bullied throughout his life. He lives in an apartment almost 200 miles from home, and he uses public transportation without supervision in order to take classes at a local community college. Under these circumstances, given these set of facts, leaving him without a means to readily contact someone in the event of an emergency was not a position we were willing to put him in regardless of the role he played in getting himself into this situation.
Although there was the opportunity for a teachable moment, regardless of how much I taught him, he was unable to resolve the situation on his own. I don’t mean to suggest that you should pass up a “teachable moment” when the opportunity arises, or fail to impose consequences, where appropriate. There was certainly much that I could and did teach my son in this situation. Moreover, we imposed consequences – he had to pay for the new phone. But, that didn’t negate the role that I needed to assume in this instance. There was no way that my son could resolve the situation on his own, without my help. The contract on his phone is under my name, and he was not due for an upgrade to a new phone. Moreover, he attends school in a remote area. There were no stores nearby that sold “go phones” that would have served as a temporary fix until he was entitled to an upgrade.
If you’re confused as to how to implement these suggestions, or if you feel your child would be resistant to engage with you in the process, you could probably benefit from some assistance. CLICK HERE to contact me for a complimentary consultation.