On this episode of THE Amicable Divorce Expert, Elaine Taylor-Klaus of ImpactParents.com, a company devoted to the parenting of neuro-diverse children, will share her tips on getting parents to be able to communicate with their children in a way that takes the stress out of the parent-child relationship.
Elaine had the best example of a simplified parenting approach for communicating with all children, especially “complex” children, children who express neurodiversity as autism, ADHD, ADD, etc. It’s the “coach approach” as opposed to an authoritarian approach of “do as I say”. She made a great point when she said that when children are toddlers, parents ask for the children’s input when guiding them to perform basic tasks like brushing their teeth, washing their faces, getting dressed. But when children become the age when they can think for themselves and make more discretionary decisions, parents take an authoritarian approach of “do what I say”. Parents seem to want to control their children when children have their own ideas about life.
In a co-parenting relationship post divorce, parents may express very different ways of parenting and use different or no rules for the children at their respective homes. What should a parent do in this case? Well, not disparage the other parent. That would put the children in a tough position of defending a parent, or being alienated from a parent. Neither situation is good. Instead, the coach approach towards a child’s reflection of how very relaxed rules in the other parent’s house affected the child the next day: poor eating, late night television, lots of video games, not much time spent on homework. These are some of the most arguable areas of parenting with negative consequences. To use the coach approach, a parent would ask the child how the child felt the next day after an all carb late dinner, followed by video games and television.
Was the child sleepy in school the next day?
How was their energy level the next morning?
If homework did not get completed, how did that make the child feel in school the next day?
By asking the child self-reflective questions like these, the child can come to their own conclusions regarding the impact of lax rules and parenting. Not a negative word has to be spoken about the other parent.
Elaine also spoke about the divorce rate being higher when parents have a neuro-diverse child because it takes a lot more effort to parent a child with very special needs. Not every person can be a parent to an autistic child, or a child with ADHD. I see this frequently in divorce mediations. When negotiating a parenting plan, the parent who doesn’t feel they can handle the neurodiversity will ask for less parenting time and be willing to pay more child support to make up for their inability to spend time with their child.
“The values that brought you into your current relationship with your partner can be used to reconnect in a co-parenting relationship,” Elaine explained. It’s fascinating to watch many parents disagree on the financial division of assets and debts in a divorce mediation, but better able to discuss the parenting of their children. These parents will be able to connect through deep-rooted values. If vales weren’t good between the parents to begin with, the coach approach to communicating and parenting can be a lifesaver.
Even with lots of meltdowns and tantrums, the coach approach gives the child agency to exhibit some level of control over their behavior, especially if the coach approach is done with a calm voice. The coach approach can reset the perspective of the child and naturally move the child to a less anxious state. The authoritarian approach will exascerbate the anxiety.
And finally, another brilliant observation from Taylor-Klaus, “Parenting is an exercise of letting go.” Parents strive to keep their children safe, loving, kind, and successful. The journey is about doing this in a way that the child can grow at their own pace, think for themselves in order to make healthy decisions, and give children the space to make mistakes and recover from them in their own way.
Parenting doesn’t have to be complicated if the focus is on coaching, not criticizing, not demanding, not authoritative. Coaching, not crushing the spirit of the child.
(The photograph is from ImpactParents.com.)
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Elaine Taylor-Klaus, MCC, is first and foremost the mom in an ADHD ++ family of six, and her complex kids are now successful young adults. Professionally, she is a Master Certified Coach – bringing a coach-approach to her work as an internationally recognized speaker, author and educator. The co-founder of the first global coaching organization for parents and professionals of neurodiverse kids, ImpactParents.com, she is a trusted advisor to parents, executives, health care and education professionals. She is also the co-founder of Sanity School®, a neurodiversity-informed behavior training program for parents.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus, MCC, CPCC
Parent company for ImpactADHD®,
ImpactAnxiety & ImpactComplexKids
(404) 231-0390 voice
Author: Parenting ADHD Now! &