We Do Well When We Can

I've been giving a blog post to clients to read. It's a blog post by Kyra Anderson about parenting, a  child with Asperger.  After I read it,  I kept thinking about it while talking to clients, because the things the author is figuring out about dealing with her kid are so similar to the things my clients figure out about dealing with themselves.

The post is entitled "Kids (and their parents) Do Well When They Can." The phrase "kids do well when they can" refers to Ross Greene's Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach to "discipline" with something like "challenging" children, as outlined in The Explosive Child.  If you have kids, or work with kids, or take care of kids, and you haven't read the book, you should. If you have ADHD and you have kids who are biologically related to you, you need to read it, because their chances of having ADHD are too high not to parent accordingly.

But as Kyra illustrates in her post, using this approach changes not only how you parent, but how you feel and think- and talk to yourself- while you are parenting.She writes about her son being happy to play a favorite game on the computer, while saying he doesn't have the energy to do some chores.This is tricky because it is so easy to assume that he is resistant because he just doesn't like chores- and even if you were thinking about someone with ADHD who has trouble focusing on something boring, it is just hard to rewrite the idea that they just don't want to do the boring stuff. 

Kyra describes a shift to thinking it may truthfully be about him not having energy to do the chores. Once she does that, she can problem-solve. Then she can help him GET the energy. And then, he succeeds.

I do this with my own kids, and when I make the shift with my kids from thinking "he CAN do this, he's just not trying" to "he does well WHEN HE CAN," and start problem solving about how to help him to be able to, it changes my outlook entirely. I become more pragmatic, more positive, more helpful, and less frustrated. Far less frustrated- right along with my kid.

But I'm writing this to talk about ourselves as adults, not as parents. The message about how we attribute will and effort to kids who aren't doing something we want them do, is EXACTLY how we tell ourselves that we aren't trying hard enough to get something done.

For example, I can start washing the dishes when I put on the right music, or when I have someone coming over, which feels like magical energy I didn't have. A lot of coaching is finding what the strategies and pairings are, yet in a deeper sense it is about changing our assumptions that we aren't doing something because we aren't trying hard enough. When we start to see this as a matter of CAN instead of a matter of TRY, we can begin to problem solve to get to where we can.

The more we do this, the more we can ever-so-slowly change how we talk to ourselves. Slowly we can internalize this thinking, cultivating a perspective that Kyra describes about herself as a parent- and can be equally powerful when thinking about ourselves:

The first part, being softer and assuming good intentions, could possibly sound like overly-positive nonsense if you are cynical. But it allows a mindset of curiosity, or the "scientist mode" as she describes it. This curiousity is, in my experience, the only way to find what works. As a massive bonus, it feels a lot better.