Louis Rossetti, a world renowned speech pathologist who specializes in pediatrics and neonatal units, came to talk with us years ago when I was working at Spectrum Health – Butterworth Hospital. He imparted a lot of wisdom that day about working with kids and their parents. However, the most helpful concept was that every single one of our patients would change and grow. I find this a strong affirmation for rehabilitation, brain training, and life. Individuals will change and grow.
But have you ever accomplished something big without planning or trying? Most of us can easily say no to this! The power of positive thinking is great but it doesn’t get the job done, you need to move forward on the task at hand. For example, reading about brain training is not doing brain training. A parent’s responsibility is to set big audacious goals for their children and love them enough to bypass immediate distractions and keep working toward those big goals. A therapist’s job is to set many small goals and show the child and family how these small goals start to turn the lever of change.
Strategies for working with goals that will help get you and your child the outcomes you desire:
- Practice daily for short periods of time.
- Believe in your end goal and work consistently in a hierarchical fashion to achieve your goals.
- Know your child’s weaknesses but focus on the positive changes that are occurring - that is how confidence is built.
- Model persistence for your child.
- Celebrate effort and small steps.
- Use appropriate resources.
Many of you know that my big audacious goal has been to move my daughter Sally toward independence. She has surpassed our goals with reading, writing and math. Sally is a strong student –we wanted this goal to be met by high school and we did it. But, because people change and grow, as we cross each goal off our list two more goals magically appear! Sometimes, the goals just aren’t pretty. Our children don’t always have much motivation to accomplish goals set by their parents. My own big struggle with Sally right now is her learning to drive and to be safe about it. Sally has no interest in driving yet she wants to go places! With a mom who works full time and late afternoon hours after school, Sally being able to drive herself to her activities is a goal that needs to be pursued. Sally has tried to convince me that she doesn’t need to drive in college if she lives on campus, or even after graduation, because she desires to live in a big city with public transport. Sally also struggles with the many steps of driving and integrating these tasks so that her actual driving flows correctly.
I could give up on the goal, stopping the frustration and the endless list of verbal excuses not to drive; it’s too sunny, it’s raining, I have a headache, I’m tired, I don’t want to, can’t you just take me, traffic’s bad, etc… It is tempting to just let it go because it is expensive financially to have a teen driver, it creates stress between the two of us, and it is scary driving in the car with her - I fear for our lives. Yet, I know it will be in her best interest to develop the skills she needs to drive; judgment, alternating attention, visual integration of information, focus, timing, patience, directionality, and responsibility.
So our smaller steps to move forward on this big goal have been:
- More practice in parking lots.
- Practice with backing up and parallel parking to get the feel for how the car moves.
- Keep offering short practices and making familiar runs to build confidence.
- We attended a one day workshop in Concord called B.R.A.K.E.S. - Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe. I highly recommend this program for teens with their permits or licenses.
- In addition to the school driver’s education and practice sessions we have hired a private instructor. Feedback and training that comes from those other than parents is often received better and makes more of an impression. Plus, hearing a professional say the same things as their parents are saying gives us instant credibility with our children.
- And yes, we are out there driving on weekends getting in more and more practice.
Right now no one in our family is happy about this goal; it is laborious and stressful to work on a task that is hard and the child isn’t very motivated to do. However, knowing our outcome will be safe driving (and skill improvement!) allows us to hang in there. When our outcome is met then we will feel the joy and happiness that comes from victory over a challenging situation. Change and growth are constants, however your goals shape what kind and how much change and growth you achieve.
May 2015 be a year of change and growth for your family. May the challenges you face be overcome by your persistence and goals.