Every child need space to grow, space to learn and space to succeed, what I have learned is a PDA child needs this more than most. Reward and incentives, deadlines and consequences can all fall under the umbrella of demands to a PDA child and yes even praise. As someone who wanted so much to be a parent, taking a step back and trusting my child to learn and grow and engage was one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do.
It’s all about trust
It sounds easy but believing a PDA child not only wants to learn but will seek out learning opportunities is something that is largely over looked in today’s society. Dr Ross Greene’s mantra of ‘a child will if they can’ is the one voice that breaks this trend. His belief that children want to do well, want to be a success and if given the right tools will do just that has been my guiding light through the process of dropping demands and trust that providing a safe nurturing environment would see my child put aside his struggles and allow him to shine. Forgetting the pressures of targets, expectations and percentile measurements and trusting that my child could and would reach his full potential in his own time and in his own way was and is a a little unsettling for me at times. Time and time again though my son has proved that he is more than willing to step forward when he time and conditions are right for him.
In today’s attitudes to child rearing we seem to feel that a child can only have self worth if we push them to achieve, if we measure their progress and offer rewards. The truth is however that, just as with adults, confidence is born out of being the master of your own destiny, in proving to yourself that you can do and in pursuing those things you want to achieve and or are natural good at. Being forced into doing things others think you should do does nothing for an adults mental health and confidence and however good you may be at something that doesn’t excite you it does not make you grow and flourish. It seems strange then that children are often pushed to do things they don’t like or are not good at either because that is what is expected of all children or because we see a talent or even it is something we as parents would like to have achieved.
Allowing a child to shine starts with seeing them
When we begin to see our child for who they are, no comparisons, none of societies expectations of who they are, none of our own hopes and dreams but the true them, the heart and soul beating within, we can provide a suitable environment for that person to flourish not just as the adult they become but as them now. By doing this we give them back their life and they will start living it, they will peruse their interests, they will work to their strengths and they are able to feel happy and fulfilled.
A period of adjustment
Of course this doesn’t happen over night, it takes us as parents and educators to learn to step back, to allow choice and it takes a PDA child time to adjust and begin to explore this new freedom and to express who they are. There have been times when I feel I have let go and then I find myself directing my son instead of just moving with him on his journey and being a facilitator. Acceptance of a person is about accepting the things they are not good at as well as those they are. I have found however when my son is allowed to fly in certain areas he is good at it has a knock on effect on the areas he is not so strong in, it is as if the confidence overflows. For instant I have allowed him to explore areas of interest up to GCSE level without pressure to record his learning because his dyslexia means writing holds him back however in his enthusiasm for a subject and the reading and searching involved, his spelling has improved and his willingness to write has increased.
A happy child is an engaged child
It really is as simple with a disengaged, anxious or unwilling child to just see them, listen to them and understand them today as they are and allow them to take the lead. There is nothing that grows happiness, self worth and cooperation as much as knowing you are valued for you unconditionally. There is so little choice, so much judgement and measurement of achievement in children’s lives today, it is no wonder their mental health suffers as a result. For me, nothing is more joyful than watching my son being able to step forward willingly every day. Rather than being relieved he is making his targets or worried he is not, I watch him unfolding as the person he is and it is as beautiful and as magical as watching a flower bloom.
For more on the work of Dr Ross Greene follow the link;
for more on Patholigical Demand Avoidance see the PDA Societies website by clicking the link below