Dropping the Rope: Letting My Special Needs Child Grow

Mother and Son Tug of WarMy child recently started behavioral therapy. I have written before about the fine line between helping and enabling and my desire for her to be more independent – even if she doesn’t want to be. I mean, who wouldn’t rather have someone else do their chores for them? What kid really wants to sit down and do homework? But whether she wants to do things or not, I know she CAN do things and I want her to know she can do things, too. And let’s face it, one day I may not be around to help her do things. I hope it’s because she is off living a fabulous life on her own, but for whatever reason there will probably be a day in the future when I am not there to do things for her. So to help with the tantrums, the resistance, the arguing, the avoidance, the rushing through tasks and all the rest of the many-layered issue, we called in experts.

At first it was great. My child was charming and cooperative. Then one day when she was really being pushed to do her chores she started screaming for me. Being a special needs parent has given me Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (special thank you to all the service men and women) and when she started screaming for me I flashed back to her early physical therapy sessions as a baby. Her amazing therapist would fold and twist her little body and she would complain in her baby way and reach out to me. The therapist would assure me that she was not being hurt, although the positions might feel uncomfortable but in the long run this was all going to benefit her. It was the same with all the doctor visits, tests and procedures – she would cry, complain, reach out for me and I was unable to help her or save her. I knew was doing what was best for her, but it didn’t make it any easier to live through. It still isn’t.

We all know that you can’t reason with a child mid-tantrum, and although her toddler days are long behind her these objections and stalling tactics are very tantrum-adjacent. I try to reason with her and explain why the chores, the homework and the therapy are all necessary, but my words bounce off of her and we just end up in an endless cycle of her whining and me trying to reason with her.. Finally one of the therapists told me to drop the rope.

What rope?

It’s a game of tug of war, and the only way to win is to drop the rope. It was (and is) a revelation.

Her therapist is much more even – doesn’t cave and doesn’t scream, unlike me. In the middle of these sessions, when she is wailing and complaining, she calls for me to help her….but I can’t! It is good for her in the long run, although it is torture in the moment. Her brothers put on headphones or head to the farthest corners of the house to escape the wailing, while I stay close enough to monitor but far enough away to avoid interfering. I have dropped the rope. It is making me look around for other places in my life I should drop the rope. What ropes should you drop?

About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner. She can be reached at rosie327@aol.com. Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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