Parenting can seem like such a mystery some day. No, scratch that. Parenting can seem like a mystery MOST days. And just when you think you’ve got a behavior, a routine, or a strategy figured out, you get whipped around by the hair and slung back to the starting line. It is not for the faint of heart that is for sure. I can remember one day in particular that brought me to my knees. Here are just a few baffling things that happened that left me completely mystified as to what I was doing wrong and what could possibly be going on with my kids.
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- For starters, my eight year old decided this weekend would be a great time to take his bat to all of the furniture in the back yard. And before you ask… no, he wasn’t angry at all. He just thought it was fun. Thanks for the destruction, little man.
- Then my three year old insisted on climbing my legs and my back every where I moved. I’m not talking about the “hey this is fun, mommy” acrobatic moves either. I’m talking about the “OW, you just hit my chin” moves. It didn’t end after the head butt, either.
- Next, my eleven year old insisted his room was clean. Yet, when I walked in there were piles of clothes everywhere and his clothes were piling out of his closet. “So, you think this is clean? You don’t see anything that need to be picked up?” Nope. Nothing. Nada. Clean as a whistle. Hmmm, I might describe it differently, but okay buddy.
- If that wasn’t enough, family dinner was a complete bust too. Despite it being taco night in the Dar-braham household, which is usually a home run any other night, dinner just didn’t taste good to my kids. Great. “Now, I can’t even make tacos”.
To say I felt defeated would be a huge understatement. It seems that every time I turned around the kids were wackidoodles (yep, that’s a word today). There must have been something in the air, I’m sure of it.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a fluke evening in our house. In fact, things always seemed to creep up that left me utterly speechless and turning to my husband wondering what we were doing wrong.
This was before I learned about something that was going to revolutionize the way I parent. In fact, I wish I had learned about it year ago when I was teacher, because honestly, it would have changed the way I taught and the way I interacted with my students.
I know it sounds overly dramatic to say that something could be so life changing, that it could come down to something that could be described in just two simple words. But its true. Even now, I still have weekends like I described above, yet now I am a little less baffled and I have a plan.
Enter… sensory processing.
How Sensory Processing Can Change the Way You Parent Today
Say what? You say… ” Isn’t that some disorder some kids have?” or “Oh I know a kid with “sensory issues”.” Stop, right there. Do not continue reading without hearing me and getting this point. The two words that changed my parenting (and honestly my relationships) were sensory processing, also known as the way EVERYONE receives and interprets information from their surroundings. Yes, everyone. You, me, your kids, my kids… everyone.
You might be wondering how sensory processing changed my parenting. So let me get to that.
You see, sensory processing is so much more than the 5 senses we learned about in kindergarten. I bet you can remember learning about the senses, right. You were probably taught:
- Everyone has 5 senses.
- We use our senses to learn about our world.
- You get to do fun tastes tests when you learn about your senses.
- Some people don’t have the sense of sight, hearing, or vision.
- That is all.
Only… that is NOT all. That is missing a whole slew of things. First things first… we have way more than 5 senses. We have 7 that we use every single day to help us on a daily basis (actually 8 but I will get to that another day). If you are good at math like I am, that is 2 extra senses that no one ever talks about. No one. Unless you know a child or know someone with a child that struggles with those other 2 senses, you might never even find out about their existence. And that my friend… is just wrong.
I feel so strongly about this because I found out the hard way about sensory processing. I found out about the difficulties when your child isn’t quite in sync with the world. I learned the ins and outs of how our senses are an integral part of our day through the eyes of my oldest child that struggled with things the rest of us take for granted.
I was exactly like you. First, I didn’t know what sensory processing was at all. Then I thought it was something only children with “special needs” struggled with. Boy, was I wrong.
You see, just as we all have different voices, hair colors, thoughts and opinions; each of us has our own unique sensory makeup too. Think about it, We all have our favorite smells, tastes, and activities that “fit” with our sensory systems. Some of us love busy crowds, some of us can’t stand loud places. Some of us chewed our pencils as kids. Some of us were even biters in preschool. Some of us love spicy foods, while others can’t stand the slightest tingle. Some of us loved to be tickled, while others wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy. This makes us who we are.
These are our “sensory preferences”.
To make things even more confusing, our sensory preferences can change depending on the time of day, our mood, how much we’ve had, if we’re sick, and for lots of other reasons.
Can you see how understanding these “sensory preferences” could change the way you parent? So the next time your child is banging on pots and pans and it starts to send you through the roof and all you want to do is scream… now you know why! They crave loud noises. Send them to a place where it OKAY to make those loud noises.
The next time your kid starts to smash and crash into everything, you don’t have to lose your temper and tell them to stop. Instead, you can recognize their sensory needs and suggest the trampoline or animal walks instead.
It changes your perspective. It opens your eyes and allows you to see what your child needs, what they are trying to get out of a behavior, and more than anything it helps you understand the WHY behind so many of those baffling behaviors.
I bet when you had your first born, you read all the parenting books you could. Heck, you probably even read the book all pregnant first-timers read. Now that your child is older, it is no different. Learning about sensory processing and how it relates to all children can truly be a game changer for you and your children.
Using a sensory-friendly approach to teaching and parenting isn’t just for kids who have special needs.
Can you imagine the empowerment you could give your child, if they could explain to you what they prefer and don’t prefer? What if they could tell you why they hate their socks? What if they could tell you why they can’t stand Aunt Suzie’s house? What if they could tell you why they can’t sit still?
I know it might sound far-fetched and radical, but this is the change that has taken place in our house since we began to all learn about sensory processing. My three year old daughter can be overheard saying, “I just need to move. Where can I go to move?” Just the other day, my middle son told me at the dinner table, “Mom, it really helps me focus when I can wiggle in my seat. Do you mind if I get the cushion?”
I can tell you that in the past, he would have wiggled. I would have told him to stop wiggling. He would have tried and failed. I would have gotten frustrated and then felt terrible for our interactions going so terribly wrong. Now, we talk. We communicate about what we need and life is just a tad bit easier. Note how I said, easier… not perfect.
All kids learn and play more successfully when their unique sensory needs are met. And all kids benefit from having access to knowledge about the way their bodies and sensory systems work.
Now, you can get your FREE printable survey to do with your child! This simple, one-page worksheet is a great way to get the conversation started between parents, kids, and teachers about our unique sensory preferences. It will open the door to learning more about each other and what makes each of us “tick”.