Temple Grandin was very clear when I heard her speak: Our professional and parental job is to support the next generation towards independence.
I am amazed how often we fail at that goal, and when I say ‘we’, I mean all parents but mostly parents of neurotypical kids. I remember talking to one lady whose daughter didn’t have a summer job because everything available to her was ‘boring’ (the daughter was a recent high school grad). I was shocked when I heard that her daughter turned out the exact job that paid our daughter worked to pay for her European holiday.
We are not helping our children when we lower our expectations of them. It is ONLY through difficulty that some character strengths and good habits are created.
If you want your child to become more independent, here are some goals and habits that can be practiced at home and are needed at work (working on this list was such a good reminder for me).
There is no substitute for hard work. ~Thomas A. Edison
The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today. ~Elbert Hubbard
Focus on one thing until completion: It is now common knowledge that multi-tasking doesn’t work. Want to get caught up on projects at home, school or work? Focus on completing one project before starting another.
Honesty/communication: Don’t say “I’ll get to it later” if there is a good chance of it not happening. Either say, “I’ll do it at 8:45 tonight BEFORE I watch my favourite program” (or the TV doesn’t go on) or say, “I don’t know if I will get to it. If it is important, have a back-up plan or go immediately to plan B.”
Learning from discomfort/failure: This is an ongoing one for me and has often shifted my perspective. When I am in a situation that I don’t like or something has not turned out as planned, I look at how I contributed to the situation and what I need to learn so it isn’t repeated. Fortunately for me (I say that tongue in cheek), the school of life repeats a lesson until I learn it. Best for me if I learn it early.
Politeness: This should go without saying but it needs to be said anyway. Be polite and expect politeness from family, friends and co-workers. We cannot change others if they are rude but we have the choice of what we say and do.
Punctuality: It is not only expected in the work place, it is also a sign of respect towards the other person.
Striving for excellence but not perfection: Perfection paralyzes. Excellence demands the best possible within constraints. There are always constraints of time, money, ability, and other resources. Excellence, as considered in this article, is a great habit and circumvents the fear of failure as it is more about the action taken than the end result. Have only 15 minutes and a kitchen that looks like it is halfway through a demolition project? Decide on what would make the most impact in 15 minutes and go for it. Can’t complete all of the homework before dinner? Tackle a smaller part of it.
Turn-taking (Temple was big on this one): It is easy to see when playing games whose turn it is. A more serious application of turn-taking is in a conversation. If one person dominates a conversation, then it really isn’t a conversation. Social skills are important in the workplace, often more important than skills. This one should be practiced at home, by both parent and child.
If work or school is stressful, build in a destressor transition time. Consider a spooner or a batboard for either a workout or a gentle rocking while enjoying music or a rhythmic silence.
Also, watch for me at DisruptHR Edmonton where I've been invited to speak about the workplace and people on the Autism Spectrum. The evening is now sold out but they are recording it. Name of my talk? "How to work with Sheldon Cooper. Happily". For those of you who aren't TV watchers, Sheldon Cooper is a lead character on The Big Bang Theory and is a brilliant scientist with definite spectrum tendencies. The talk will be fast and furious - 20 slides at 15 seconds/slide - a definite challenge to get so much info into such small bits of time.
Please remember to forward this issue if you know of anyone who would find the information helpful. Thanks.
Finally, a question: Which character traits and habits have you found important in the work world? Perhaps something you have admired in someone else, or something you have been intentionally working on. I would love to hear other ideas to add to the list.