To my momma friends who are fiercely in love with and are parenting neurodiverse kids in the church, let’s chat. I’d like to talk about our outside-the-box kids who seem to struggle with so much.
- Our children who are constantly hearing from the world around them that they are not enough.
- The ones who will never live up to the expectations of the world or the church.
- Like the kid back in school who was considered a troublemaker (yep, he ended up exactly as expected by the adults around him)
- The “loser” with a life that went nowhere.
Does this resonate at all with your momma heart? It certainly does mine. Oh, Friend, I get it.
Parenting Neurodiverse Kids In The Church
Here’s the thing. So many of our neurodiverse kids grow up shrouded in a church and culture that believes that outward behavior is always willful. And that all outward behavior that is different is inherently wrong. Understandably, this mindset is quite dangerous.
When we have black and white thinking to what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, kids who don’t fit the mold end up suffering.
The Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
What is neurodiversity?
Let’s back up a bit. What in the world is neurodiversity and how do you know if you’re parenting a neurodiverse child?
The concept of neurodiversity is basically a viewpoint that says that all people are wired differently. For kids with ADHD, Autism, or any cognitive difference, this shift can be life changing.
This means that instead of viewing them as disordered people who need to be “fixed”, we embrace their differences as part of their wiring.
When we remove the “willful disobedience” mindset, we begin to see the whole child through the eyes of grace and of strength. Our responses to perceived infractions on expected behaviors lose their rough and often aggressive edge. We can then see our kids’ supposed weaknesses as actual strengths God intends to use for good.
Shame-Based Parenting Through the Generations
Whether or not we want to admit it, much of the traditional Christian parenting approaches are fueled by shame. Scripture clearly tells us that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and yet we’re saturated with a shame based parenting model that’s alive and well.
Moms Parenting Neurodiverse Kids Struggle With Their Own Shame
Think about how many of us as moms beat ourselves up over and over again when things go wrong. We’re always saying, “I should’ve known better.” Or, “I lost it on my kid again! What’s wrong with me?” Here’s one we can all relate to. “I’m so fat. I’m out of control and blew it again.”
Rarely, do we say to ourselves,
I’m just a person doing the best I can. God’s not surprised nor does He love me any less. I can only move forward knowing Jesus did it all perfectly for me because I can’t. He’s not mad nor disappointed. Tomorrow’s a new day.
Hurt People Hurt People- Often Unintentionally
How we speak to ourselves is often how we parent our kids. Shame is death. Pure and simple.
Psalm 34:5 tells us,
Those who look to the Lord are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame.
The Cycle of Shame For Neurodiverse Kids In The Church
We’ve got to stop the cycle of shame and marginalization that stems from expecting all kids to fit in the same box. This happens when we moms shift our parenting perspective to grace.
Our kids lose the shame and instead are able to see us as in their corner. When we do so, amazing things happen. We’re then free to parent with a level of grace that sees behind the behaviors to reach the heart of our kids.
And ultimately, we can offer them tools and strategies that will allow them to thrive into adulthood. (Even if those strategies look different from those of your pastor’s kids.) Diversity in who we are and how we are all designed.
Stop Trying To Control Kids
As moms begin parenting neurodiverse kids from this mindset, anxiety and fear is lessened. By recognizing our child’s ADHD or Autism as an inherent part of what makes them unique, we experience freedom.
Parenting our kids in this way allows us to focus on their strengths instead of trying to constantly fix these traits out of them. For more about neurodiversity, check out this article from Understood.org.
Destructive Cycle of Challenging Behavior
Culturally, when adults cannot control “challenging” behavior of a child with ADHD, the perception is that there is something wrong with the child. The idea that perhaps we are using the wrong approach with these kids rarely comes to mind.
Adults blame the child and continue with the same ineffective, life-sucking discipline strategies… and the behaviors increase as the child’s sense of self-worth decreases.
ADHD, Autism, Oppositional Or Just Exhausted Kids?
Albert Einstein is often credited as saying,
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
So… as we parent our own neurodiverse kids, what is our goal?
To force these fish to climb a tree, never allowing them to swim in the pond for which they were designed? Do we want them to believe there is something inherently wrong with them when they can NEVER meet our expectations?
ADHD & Autism: Kids set up for failure
So many of our kids are placed in no-win situations. They continuously fail to live up to the accepted expectations of the world around them. These expectations are often based upon an environment that they were never meant to thrive in.
Sadly, our outside-the-box kids are consistently living from a marginalized position. They are repeatedly corrected, punished, and shamed. These kids spend their formative years hearing about their faults.
Oftentimes these “faults” are simply differences in the way they receive and process the world around them.
What about the real world?
Some may argue that modifying how we educate and parent neurodiverse kids is not realistic because
“They have to learn sometime”.
Hello?!!! There are millions of people in this country who have suffered their entire lives because of this belief that its the kid who is broken.
It’s time to trust that maybe God actually fearfully and wonderfully made kids who don’t fit the mold. The kids who think and process the world differently. Just maybe that “stubborn-nature” is actually a perseverant person who’s going to change the world?
ADHD, Autism, Anxiety: Kids Under Fire
Momma Friend, I hear it every day.
- The school called. My kid flipped out and hit a little boy in class. Now he is suspended.
- My daughter clings to me at church because it is so loud and crazy in there. She started melting down in the middle of the foyer last Sunday.
- The teacher said that my child is off in lala land and that’s why she can’t learn to read.
- My son comes home from school every day and screams and has meltdowns. No one believes me because he is quiet at school.
- Getting my child to do her school work always ends up in tears and stress. She just screams that it’s too much to do.
- My child hates going to birthday parties, he just cries and avoids the other kids.
ADHD & Autism: Trying To Survive
These children struggle to please adults and even other kids around them by trying to suppress their responses to an environment they were never intended to live in. They receive the message loud and clear that they are inherently defective. Our neurodiverse kids are suffering. Their anxiety is through the roof. Doesn’t that only make sense?
Mental Illness Hamster Wheel For Neurodiverse Kids
These misunderstood children frequently end up trapped in a cycle of mental health issues that plague them for life. Rates of childhood anxiety, depression, cutting, and suicide are growing. We are raising children to one day be adults. These formative years are crucial.
Moms parenting neurodiverse kids differently
It’s time to be BRAVE for our uniquely-designed children.
- Sensory Processing Differences
- Learning Differences
These are not personality defects. These are inherent differences in wiring just as are introversion and extroversion.
- That struggle to take direction is not her being willfully stubborn but is her independence
- His hyperfocus on his latest “obsession” is not a disorder. It is a gift that has allowed some of the greatest inventors of our time to change the world.
- The boy who cannot sit still was made to move… he receives and processes information through movement.
- Is your daughter the day dreamer? The one who can’t focus? That is her incredible imagination taking her places that others will only experience when she becomes a published author.
Mothering Mindset Makes The Difference
We must begin to shift our perspective so that we can set these kids up for success. As a whole, we’ve got stop shaming those who don’t fit the mold. We need to stop clinging to this belief that our kids are WILLFULLY making a choice to disobey. It is time for us to be our child’s cheerleader and coach. Let us coach them well while we equip them to thrive as who they have been designed to be.
God Intentionally Chose You
Mom Friend, you know in your gut there must be another way for our kids with ADHD, Autism or whatever term works. Deep down, you know that God has created your child uniquely and that He must have a plan for your child. Yet, fear takes over.
- The world tells you that a child who is screaming in public deserves a good spanking.
- Aunt Edna tells you that you had better nip that bad behavior in the bud now.
- Your mother-in-law glares at your child when he begins jumping on the couch.
- That perfect mom stares in shock when your child begins shrieking uncontrollably at the fireworks display.
- The teacher at your child’s school told you that your child needs to learn to sit still now.
You don’t know what to do, but you know your child will never thrive knowing that he is a constant disappointment.
Parenting The Kids We’ve Been Given
We must be willing to parent our children who have been created differently. As a Christ follower, I believe with every bit of my being that God creates every child with gifts, passions and purpose. We must be willing to think outside-the-box with our outside-the-box kids.
Partner With Our Kids: ADHD, Autism
Let’s partner with our children so that through safe relationships, we can influence them. We want to equip our kids with tools and strategies so that they can live a life of confidence and purpose. Or we can continue to listen to the world and it’s rewards and punishment mentality. How is that working for our children?
Every child needs an adult who believes in them. We can be that for our kids.
Support For Moms Parentint Neurodiverse Kids
Mom Friend, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children. It’s time to be willing to allow other adults to disapprove of us in order to save the future lives of our children. Let’s allow our kids to dare to be exactly who they are.
For more support, sign up for the free 5 Day Devotional & Teaching Series all about how to equip our kids to thrive as exactly who they’ve been created to be.
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