Cindy Richman at Parenting with Connection (Facebook Page) posted some EXCELLENT advice this morning and I had to pass it on. Hoping it helps!
Moderator Post: Lower the bar. If you are raising a child from a hard place, you have heard those dreaded comments from strangers and family. “She is so cute” they say, with a heart to encourage. From how well they have behaved, to how cute they are to who knows what, people look at the cover of the book, and assume that this child is just like every other child. Strangers do it, and so does family, but we do it too. We look at this 12-year-old body, with a 12-year-old …face and brain, and expect that this child should be able to do what other 12-year-olds do. We are wired to think that way, and so we do. The book should match the cover.
The truth is that most trauma children are emotionally delayed. That 12-year -old body might contain a 4-year-old heart and mind. We want them to function as they should and we forget too often that this child, no matter how tall, can’t manage 12-year-old responsibilities. They just can’t.
Connected parenting looks at the child through the eyes of who they are, not who they should be. When we recognize the emotional age of a child, we can hold them to realistic expectations. Furthermore, by dealing with the child’s reality, we can mitigate our own stress.
Lowering the bar is important. If a normal task for a 12-year-old is to clean their room, we might ask and expect the child to do so. A connected parent will look at the 12-year-old, recognize their emotional age, and change their expectations to match. Perhaps this child needs mom’s assistance. Instead of asking them to clean their room, we set up a time to clean their room together. Or maybe this child can’t put away all their toys, so we break up the task into segments. As we meet the child where they are, they find that they are able to successfully accomplish the tasks we ask them to do.
This does NOT mean that we will let them stay there. Lowering the bar does not mean forever. It means that while this 12-year-old is still 4, we will help them accomplish 4-year-old tasks. Slowly, and with our help, we will give them greater and greater challenges until the time that they can do these tasks on their own.
Having realistic expectations will create success for everyone. It will enable felt-safety to grow, and will minimize angry and destructive interactions that often flow out of unrealistic expectations. Lowering the bar is essential, especially in the beginnings of healing.