Why “you can be angry, but” doesn’t work

Tailoring parenting to neurodivergent children requires a personalized approach. Instead of generic advice, focus on understanding individual perspectives. Observe and discuss specific situations to promote emotional growth and connection, avoiding rigid rules.

“Why don’t you just say, ‘hi,’ nicely?”

“Okay be a good boy and listen.”

“Are you being shy? Don’t be shy.”

Telling kids who they are and how they feel prevents them from figuring it out for themselves.

It also locks them into certain states, like being angry, sad, or shy.

They carry those words with them and begin to embody anger, sadness, shyness, and the like when responding to you:

I got mad and punched him.

Sad is bad and happy is good.

Well, I’m shy so I don’t want to play.

Traditional parenting advice may miss neurodivergent children's intentions.

You are falsely told to point out what you won’t allow and reinstate rules and regulations when your child cannot hear them.

Those are the pitfalls that start with, “You can be angry, but…” and right away you’re letting your child know that their hardship doesn’t work for you.

Focus on the situation itself. Discuss what’s happening that you can observe and notice.

Think about the comments being a bit more subtle:

It looks like the plan didn’t work out.

That toy did fly across the room.

We can get it back and move it over to the side.

This place is new for me also, let’s stay close to each other.

The words you choose will land in a specific way and have an impact on your child.

Letting them know that you’re figuring out the circumstance will allow your child to lower their defenses.

They will be able to hear you and feel the difference in your tone and overall approach. 

Stay with the script. One that focuses on the situation and the experience.

I know you want your child to “be okay,” faster. 

Emotional regulation just doesn’t work that way because all our nervous systems function uniquely.

Make room for discomfort so that you can support your child through it.

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