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There is no guide or manual when it comes to raising kids. There may be blogs, books, and websites full of tips and tricks, but at the end of the day, it boils down to two things – who we are as the parents and who our child is.
Whatever the case is, one thing is for certain: parents always do the best they can with the very best intentions for their child.
Some psychologists recognize that the parent/child relationship can be bidirectional – meaning the child can influence the parent’s style of parenting. This is even more true when raising a child on the autism spectrum. Why? Because the unique challenges that come with parenting a child on the spectrum can cause you to adjust your way of thinking.
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder often go against their parental instincts to handle challenges such as communication struggles, lack of reciprocation, and what is needed to handle meltdowns and overstimulation.
You Can Stay True to your Parenting Style
Although it may not always feel like it, parents can incorporate their instincts while offering the necessary support and tools to ensure their child’s best possible success.
Understanding behavior is a cornerstone of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It makes sense that the way we interact and respond to our children plays a big role in how our child will behave. Our parenting styles and behaviors vary according to our personalities and backgrounds, but there are strategies available to suit each unique dynamic.
In this article you will learn how to stay true to yourself by incorporating ABA techniques that will make your parenting style work for your child on the spectrum despite the challenges.
What are the Different Parenting styles?
In the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrid published a paper that outlined three prototypical parenting styles and their association with a child’s development – permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative. In 1993, researchers Maccoby and Martin added a fourth style – the neglectful/uninvolved parent.
Since then, depending on where you look, many subcategories have been added, such as attachment parenting, competitive parenting, and the helicopter parent. But for this article, let’s focus on the core styles that Diana Baumrid first identified, as they are recognized and respected today.
Let’s break down the key features of each parenting style. We should also consider that often mom and dad may have different parenting styles from each other and try to work to blend the two and find a balance – sometimes easier said than done – but it is possible in a healthy relationship with lots of communication.
Permissive parents make few demands and are highly responsive to their children’s needs and wants. They exhibit a lot of warmth, are highly nurturing, and because of their less controlling mindset, they tend to allow their children to solve problems on their own. While this can be beneficial, overly permissive parents can raise bossy children, who have difficulty conforming to social norms, and are highly impulsive
In our modern world, permissive parenting is much more common than when our parents were growing up. There is much more focus on seeing children as individuals and holding discussions rather than listing commands. However, permissive parenting comes with a string of positive and negative consequences. When permissiveness is extreme, it can result in unruly children with no boundaries..
Very often, this is a style that many slip into, even if it is not instinctive when raising a child with ASD. We want to engage and support our child in every way possible. We want to communicate, so even negative feedback from the child can sometimes seem like a win. When we recognize that overstimulation and a meltdown are beyond discipline, we can practice being permissive to avoid getting there in the first place. For example, when you know that insisting your child eats their vegetables is going to result in three hours of mayhem, it’s easier just to say, “Okay, you can leave them for today,” even when you feel very strongly about their nutrition.
It can be tricky because, as we know, very often children on the spectrum aren’t given enough credit for what they are capable of achieving. Children with autism can accomplish a great deal with proper support and encouragement; On the other hand, if they don’t have clear expectations and boundaries, they find it hard to live up to them. Setting the bar too low with inconsistent expectations is unfair.
ABA Tips For The Permissive Parenting Style
ABA techniques are proven to help children learn and navigate their world. The parent/child relationship is crucial to ABA success.The skills that are uncovered through ABA spill over into all of the child’s relationships and interactions. ABA strategies can be incorporated into any interaction including parent-child interactions between. If you can do this you will engage in more positive interactions with your child while staying true to your intuitive parenting style. You want to engage with your child as much as possible and enjoy your time with them. There are strategies that will allow you to do this while maintaining structure and boundaries.
Pairing is an ABA strategy used by behavior technicians to build a relationship of trust, and it can be adapted to the home environment. Pairing is an excellent way for permissive parents to meet their own need to nurture and engage. You can connect with your children through their favorite things and activities; when your child associates your time with them with their interests or favorite activity, they are more likely to comply with directions from you later on.
Pairing encourages connection and allows for opportunities to model and reinforce appropriate behaviors. When your child is not complying, you can subtly withhold the high-interest activity until they are ready to try again within the set boundaries.
Planned Ignoring is a non-confrontational method that can also help prevent unwanted behavior. Often a child will act out for attention – even if it is negative. A lack of reaction can extinguish the behavior without any direct authority.
Authoritative parenting is a kind of happy medium between permissive and authoritarian parenting. And while our instincts and personalities will place us firmly in one of the categories, it is not rigid. We tend to flow slightly across the lines depending on the situation, mainly if it regards what we feel strongly about.
Authoritative parents maintain appropriate boundaries and have a few rules that are not negotiable. However, they are nurturing and open to communicating with their child about how they feel about boundaries, rules, and decisions.
Authoritative parents are supportive yet realistic. They encourage their children to be independent and autonomous, resulting in self-confident kids who cope well in social situations.
It sounds like bliss, doesn’t it? Well, not necessarily. Each style offers its rewards and challenges. The challenge with authoritative parenting is that you have to be consistent. When children rely on structure, boundaries, and routines, they can become overwhelmed and confused when the goal post is moved – even more so for children on the autism spectrum.
ABA Tips For The Authoritative Parenting Style
Your child relies on you for guidance in understanding what is expected and what the boundaries are. Authoritative parents are clear in what they expect but communicate their expectations calmly, without rising to anger.
Positive reinforcement is an ABA strategy that focuses on what the child is doing right and far outweighs the focus on the negative. Discrete Trial Training offers positive reinforcement without fanfare when the child complies and behaves in an expected way.
Chaining is an ABA method, which breaks the steps of directions into instructions that link to each other, allowing your child to complete a complex task that they otherwise would have struggled to complete.
When you need your child to comply, but give too many instructions at once, it can overwhelm them and make them withdraw. When the expectation seems too much, implement chaining to maintain a calm approach, but break the expectations into small chunks. Your child is far less likely to feel overwhelmed and more likely to comply.
In its extreme form, authoritarian parenting is based on the old adage “children should be seen and not heard”. It is a top-down structure, where the parent commands and the child obeys. It can lead to insecurity, low self-esteem, and anxiety, leading to aggression, emotional outbursts, and depression.
But as I mentioned, this is the extreme, and we tend to incorporate elements from the different parenting styles into our daily lives but tick more boxes in one over the other. Our upbringing can profoundly impact our parenting styles, and the authoritarian parents of yesteryear didn’t have the insight and support that we have at our fingertips. As a result, many of us raised in authoritarian homes become overly permissive, as if trying to compensate. And that is also not ideal.
Parents who are more prone to being authoritarian need as much structure, routine, and boundaries as they feel their children do – but the style can be subtle and not necessarily without warmth, affection, or nurturing of any kind.
ABA Tips For The Authoritarian Parenting Style
It’s not easy to maintain this parenting style when autism is thrown into the mix. Any parent with a child on the autism spectrum knows that barking orders and raising your voice can be a recipe for disaster. So instead, look for ways to stay true to your value system while still providing a safe, nurturing environment for your child.
Noncontingent reinforcement is an ABA technique that implements structured behavior modification methods. The aim is to reduce challenging behavior and non-compliance in children with ASD. You provide a sense of security by being pre-emptive and providing positive reinforcement without requiring strict orders or commands.
When giving your child noncontingent attention, they don’t need to do anything to earn the reward or attention. It’s not linked to a specific action, like tidying up their toys or feeding the dog. It is a wonderful way of letting the child know they deserve attention and rewards just because. And because it is not reliant on you giving specific instructions or commands, there is no pressure on either side to comply. It goes a long way to quelling anxiety and preventing undesirable behavior before it starts.
A schedule of reinforcement can also go a long way to help with your own need to plan and maintain routines and predictability.
ABA and the Parent-Child Relationship
The parent-child relationship is essential to ABA and benefits both parent and child, helping build and nurture a positive relationship.
Circle Care Services’ ABA technicians work with parents individually and with the parent and child together. This can help parents understand their parenting style and discover strategies to ensure the best possible family dynamic.
Get The Support You Need!
If you need support in balancing your parenting style with your child’s needs, Circle Care Services in New Jersey and Massachusetts is here to help. We can help you stay true to yourself and your intuitive parenting style while maximizing your child’s development. In addition, our staff is equipped to help your child and your family with communication, social skills, behavior concerns, and parent training.