I receive a lot of comments about what a happy boy Tosh is. And it's true, most of the time he truly is a little ray of sunshine.
My little Aries comes by his good nature naturally, but we've also done a lot of work to build his self image.
Because of Tosh's autism, he spends a lot of time in corrective therapy sessions. Private and school behavioral therapy, private and school speech therapy and OT in school adds up to several hours a day in which he's being corrected.
Just imagine if you were told every day, almost all day long, that everything about you is wrong. And then you go home and hear it from your mom and dad.
Wouldn't you feel agitated? I know I would. Heck, I almost lose my shit when strangers honk at me because I waited 3 milliseconds before reacting to a green light. I don't know how in the world I could handle being corrected all. damn. day. long.
That's why a couple of years ago, I implemented what I call the 50% rule. It's very simple: half of what comes out of my mouth when speaking to Tosh is positive or a geniune compliment.
I remember when I realized I needed to be more positive. Tosh had developed an almost nightly habit of crying at bedtime. I had read somewhere that first thing in the morning and right before bed were the best times of day for the brain to learn. So, as part of our bedtime routine, we'd discuss situations during the day in which he could improve.
That was a mistake. After a long day of being wrong, all Tosh wanted at bedtime was for his mom to snuggle him and tell him how much she loves him.
So to begin, instead of reviewing ways during the day be could improve, I switched it to talking about all the things he did right. I didn't mention how he didn't stand still in the grocery store checkout line. Instead, I complimented him for how helpful he was to help me carry the groceries into the house. And what a good job he did getting himself dressed before school. And what a good job he did at school. And how great his worksheet was. And how he ate most of his dinner. And how grown up he is now that he brushes his teeth.
Then I added telling him all of the things that are wonderful about him every single night. He's smart, nice, helpful, good at making friends, cute, good at running fast and good at riding his scooter. More recently, we've added that he's good at behaving in restaurants, movies and on vacation, good at using his iPad to talk and learning in speech therapy even though it's hard for him, and good at letting mom have meetings in her office.
Yes, it's important that I correct Tosh. That's the job of every parent. But these days, I only do it when it's absolutely necessary, like when he is hurting himself or someone else, when he is doing something dangerous or when he breaks essential rules at home or in public.
The result is a confident, happy boy who tries hard and stretches himself to the best of his abilities without feeling broken.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!