Monday, June 15, 2015

Parenthood: Week 105 - Reasonable Accommodations

When I removed the car seat from my car so I could take my lawnmower into the shop, I didn’t think it would almost cause a meltdown.

I brought the car seat into our living room and proceeding to start cooking dinner. Ollie wanted to play with the buckle on the car seat. I brought some toys into the kitchen and asked Ollie to play in the kitchen so I could keep an eye on him. He refused. He was really into the car seat. I grabbed his hand to try to lead him over to the kitchen, but then he start screaming.

I needed Ollie to be in the kitchen or at least in eyesight, but Ollie was not going to move away from that car seat with out a fight. Hmm. . . So I picked up the car seat, which caused Ollie to start screaming as I moved it into the entryway of the kitchen. He calmed down once he saw that he could get to the car seat that was now on the floor and Ollie quietly played with the buckle on the car seat while I cooked dinner.

This is what we call a “reasonable accommodation.” This is a term that is used in discussing students with special needs. A reasonable accommodation would be letting a student who processes symbols slower do just the even problems on a math assignment or let them have extra time to do a test. An unreasonable accommodation would be to give a student who has language processing issues the answer to a spelling test, while letting the students do the test verbally would be a reasonable accommodation.

Much like teachers, parents of toddlers have to constantly figure out what is a reasonable accommodation when raising their toddler. There are the accommodations that most parents agree on. If a kid wants to read a different book than the parent picked out, most parents will accommodate this request. However if a child doesn’t want to sit in the car seat during a car ride, that simply is not going to happen, no matter how much the child protests.

Those are the easy ones. The real challenge are the grey areas that some parents think are okay that others do not. For some parents a reasonable accommodation is letting their toddler eat dinner sitting on their lap if it means they eat better. For other parents this is not something they are willing to do. I let Ollie choose his clothing most of the time and I accommodate his request almost all of the time. There are parents who probably don’t agree with this.

It all boils down to these incredibly difficult questions: How much are we willing to compromise to make our child happy, but more honestly, prevent a meltdown? Which of these compromises may have long-term behavioral consequences that we will regret later?

This is a constant struggle, and I’d like to think I’m hitting the right balance most of the time, but I’m probably going to realize years from now, I shouldn’t have caved in on certain requests of Ollie while, other times when I held the line with Ollie, it really didn’t matter that much.

All I got to go on is trying to make sure that whatever choices I make don’t come from a power struggle. Holding the line should never be about establishing authority and compromising with your child should not feel like a loss of control. Like two parents, you are on the same team with your child. Nobody wins when the other person looses.

We as parents have authority, and its important that all the choices we make for our children help both the children and us as parents get to a better place in our relationships and our lives. If this means you cut your toddler off from dinner because he throws a fork or that you move a car seat around the house to keep your kid entertained, so be it, because in the long term if the accommodations are reasonable and for the benefit of all, you both win.

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