The responsibility of raising a child is immense. It’s all day, every day. And one key to success is repeat, repeat, repeat. That's how children, and really anyone for that matter, learn. That’s how to form a habit. But what is the goal of parenting? Many parents of children with autism that I speak to say that they just want their child to be happy. But what is happiness? How can we determine when we reached that goal?
Happiness is an intrinsic quality. One thing that I’ve learned is that our children with learn from us. Autism or not, they are following our example. How we think influences greatly how they think…how they behave. So if we want our children to be happy, then we must know happiness ourselves. And happiness begins with what we think…
I was on the phone with a client last week, and she told me how her friend was having a huge party and invited her and her entire family but that only her husband and other children would go. She and her son would stay home. She said her friend understood the sacrifices she makes for her son. However, I could hear the sadness in her voice. I could hear the sense of loss.
So I asked her what she meant by sacrifice. She told me that sacrificing was doing something good for somebody but that it wasn’t necessarily good for her. Yes, the definition of sacrifice is destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else. She said she was missing out on fun but that she would do it gladly. So I asked her if she thought she would be making sacrifices like these for the rest of her life? She immediately said strongly No. I asked her why she said no so strongly. She said “My son is changing and getting better so fast. I don’t want to go to the party because I don’t want any setbacks.”
Her response made me smile! She has seen her son get better and better by working with me. She can see a clear and wonderful future for him. Technically, she’s no longer sacrificing. What she’s doing is investing her time in her son’s future. Big Difference!
So I asked her “Do you have any doubt that one day soon you and your son will be able to go to these parties?”
She replied, “I have no doubt that sometime soon we will be there and I won’t have to worry.”
So I said, “Then it seems like you are investing not sacrificing.”
There was silence.
After a moment or two she said, "You're right. I'm not sacrificing anymore." Then she started to laugh.
The definition of investing is the act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result. My client knew exactly what the worthwhile result would be.
She said "I like this way of thinking!"
This is a subtle but important shift when healing autism. And this shift only happens once you create a vision for the future, get the support you need, formulate a plan, and take action. As you see positive, consistent change your perspective will shift. You will think about things very differently.
You don’t need to wait to be happy. You don’t need to reach a goal to be happy. Teach your child from the start that happiness depends very much on the thoughts you think. Show them what happiness is so that they learn it from you. Show them the ability to enjoy life no matter what the circumstances are!