structure and flexibility in parenting

this is my first attempt to post a new blog entry on my new and improved website 3.0. still dictating into my phone. Apparently the combination of the two doesn’t like to capitalize at the beginning of sentences… Sometimes. Anyway…

so I wanted to share a situation it’s been happening with my youngest. He struggles with certain activities of daily life due to his emotional dysregulation. One of those things is brushing his teeth. I generally come from a place where I want to set up my routine to have fewer weak points as possible even if that means some compromises. So, I brush my teeth when I’m doing the rest of my stuff in the bathroom in the morning before I come downstairs. Even though that means I brush my teeth before I eat, which is less than ideal.

the idea being that, once I eat, I don’t have that gross taste in my mouth anymore and I’m on to the next thing and it’s easy to forget to brush my teeth. Also the toothbrush is in the bathroom upstairs so that creates a linked behavior of brushing my teeth and doing the rest of my morning routine. Plus, I have ADHD so I’m lazy. And I am likely to avoid going back upstairs if I can help it.

so how does this relate to my 8-year-old? Well, for some reason, inside his dysregulated and still developing brain, he does not like brushing his teeth before breakfast. It is completely inefficient. It drives me crazy. And on the rare mornings that I’m in charge of taking him to school or camp, it is an opportunity for us to forget to brush his teeth all together. I think I would have resisted this change. As a matter of fact, I did resist it on the rare times that I was in charge of the morning. But my wife and he hammered out some sort of agreement that he brushes his teeth after breakfast. And he even does it on his own. And he remembers to do it a lot of the time.

the strange thing is, for me, that I’ve now linked him brushing his teeth with us leaving the house. So it’s on the checklist with shoes, backpack, sunscreen. So I found a way to link the behavior for me to alleviate my parenting anxiety about when his preference is to do the activity and not miss it, while giving him the flexibility to do it the way he needs to do it for whatever reason.

and one of my bigger takeaways from this is that giving my kids structure has always come as second nature because I survive Life by giving myself a lot of structure. And 9 out of 10 times that works really well. But my children are different people. There are different from me and they are different from each other. And even though I have an overall parenting philosophy of flexibility, I sometimes forget that I need to give them flexibility in different ways from the ways that I need or needed flexibility. Yes, they need structure. But sometimes their structure will look a little different from my structure. And that’s okay. It is my job as the adult to adapt and figure out a way to manage their needs within my structure. God, this parenting thing is hard!