Compliance Through Empowerment: 10 easy steps to a tension-free environment

[Editor’s note: My family was fortunate enough to attend SOAR’s family weekend last May. I was so impressed with “Big John,” the Director of SOAR, as well as their entire staff. They really GET kids like ours, kids with neurological differences. This is a fantastic article from “Big John.”]

MH900438711I recently had the great pleasure of presenting a workshop with Jayne May, a parent of one of our students and ardent supporter of SOAR.  As we discussed this workshop, it became clear that so many of the critical foundations here at SOAR transfer really well to individual households.  I wanted to share some strategies that may help you help your children to be more responsible, make better choices, and be less oppositional so you can get back to enjoying parenting again? Self

1.      Awareness

Self Awareness is a critical component to understanding yourself and helping your child or teen understand their strengths, abilities, and challenges to overcome.  Does your child know their learning style?  Are they visual or auditory learners?  Perhaps like many children diagnosed with AD/HD he or she is a hands on learner and learns through experience.  The CITE learning styles survey is a free resource available to you.  I would also encourage you to learn more about their strengths.  Strengthsquest is a survey available through Gallup and does a wonderful job of helping you understand your child’s top strengths.

 2.      Focus on Strengths

Focusing on strengths is a critical component to help empower youth.  The concept of the “looking glass self” suggests that I believe about myself what I believe others around me think of me.  Therefore, helping children and adolescents see themselves as dynamic, strength based individuals is critical to having a healthy sense of self.  Keep and post victory lists and find ways to remind your children what is amazing about them every day.  Helping them find their hidden strengths can be a powerful tool in aiding the development of resiliency.  Looking for ways to draw out the strength in each of these challenge areas becomes an integral part feeling capable and extraordinary.  Some examples include:

            Negative Trait                               Positive Characteristic

            Impulsive                                            Spontaneous

            Disorganized                                       Flexible

            Distractible                                          Multi-task ability

            Hyperactive                                         Action- Oriented

3.      Involved in Decision Making

When youth are involved in decision making, setting guidelines, and even determining consequences it creates choice.  Choice leads to an increased sense of power which promotes healthy decision making and problem solving.  If you believe you have a say in what is happening to you, then you’re more likely to be invested in the outcome.

4.      Develop a “Failing Forward” Mindset

Learning to fail forward with confidence is a concept I came across a few years ago during a business conference.  Allow and even expect that there will be some performance inconsistency and give children permission to fail with the expectation that failure can and will be a stepping stone to success.  After all, Edison once famously said of failure “I learned 2000 ways to not invent a light bulb.”

5.      Develop Self Reliance / Responsibility

Developing self reliance and responsibility is another key component in promoting empowerment and developing a sense of accountability.  Do you have set family chores that your child or teen is responsible for? Consider letting them plan a family date night.  Finally, encourage volunteer work or some type of mentoring opportunity with someone who understands the particular needs of your child.

6.      Family Constitution

Using a family constitution can aid in creating expectations, fostering outcomes and defining responsibilities for all members of the family.  Take a few minutes to develop a mission statement for your family.  Then decide before going into the meeting with your children what your non-negotiables are.  A good family constitution will have duties assigned, rules of the house, a system for running a family meeting, and a process to change / amend any part of the constitution.

7.      Validation

Validation is such a key concept for me that I could have listed it first.  However, I believe it is important to develop a mindset and framework of empowerment so that when you provide validation it is genuine and very powerful.  Ask yourself this – how do you prefer to be approached when receiving critical feedback?  I am very fond of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, and my favorite is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Consider using reflective listening and be open to the idea that your child may have a point or reason to be frustrated.  When you come to a conversation from a place of caring and respect, you will get much farther than when you don’t.

8.      Natural and Logical Consequences

Natural and logical consequences can be a useful tool when it comes time to draw the line in the sand.  Please take notice of where this item ranks in my top ten.  A natural consequence can be as simple as if you leave a bike out in the rain, the chain will rust and it can’t be used.  A logical consequence might be withholding the privilege of using a bike for a short period of time if it is not put away.  Consequences are immediate, have some logical connection to the behavior your trying to promote or extinguish, and are not overly harsh.  Logical consequences are far more successful in changing behavior then punishment, which can be arbitrary and sometime overly severe.  Consider letting your child or teen work with you on the development of a consequence.

9.      Effective Communication Strategies

Knowing the communication strategies that will work for your family is critical to success.  Create guidelines and structure for communication which include reflective listening and agreed outcomes. Use email, notes or other systems to track communication.  In addition, encourage your children to make “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. Call a family meeting if you have an issue you need to discuss.  Be prepared to negotiate a solution, but come with a proposal.

10.  The Proposal System

Finally, we come to the proposal system.  This simple tool has been used by many families to significantly change the home environment.  If a child wants something they present a proposal with the following components:

  • What they want or a change their asking for, along with a rationale
  • A list of reasons an adult would deny the proposal
  • A solution to overcome each challenge listed
  • Conditions for maintaining the change provided

As a parent you can ask for additional re-writes if they have not considered a point.  This system does two things very well.  Often, ridiculous expectations will be dropped because the child will see they are indefensible.  Also, if they follow through with the process, it helps parents understand the value and perspective of a request.

I hope you get a chance to incorporate these ten steps into your life.  I know they have made a difference for not only the parents we work with here at SOAR, but in my own family as well.

John Willson, Executive Director for SOAR, M.S. LRT/CTRS

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom.
A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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adhd behavior problems, behavior modification ·

About the author

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom. A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom's view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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