When I was growing up and I asked my mom how she knew to do all “the things,” she would say with a bit of sarcasm, “It’s in the parent handbook. You’ll get it too if you have a child.” I was in my late teens when I realized there is no parent handbook! She really got me with that one!
It’s true, there is no parent handbook, and everyone is on this journey learning as they go. If your child got dressed on their own and walked out of the house wearing an avant-garde outfit with confidence and pride, give yourself a great big hug–they reached a new level of independence and you made space for that!
While there is no true handbook, I will share a golden nugget that is one of the most powerful and beneficial mindset shifts, and it is something that is talked about often in the Disability community–presuming competence. When we take on a role of presuming competence in a child, we are giving them a chance to share that they understand and are capable, even when they have a difficult time vocalizing their thoughts or reactions. In turn, the messaging we deliver relays a deep sense of inherent worth.
Actively presuming competence benefits all people. Below you will find some great ways to actively presume competence in children:
- Talk to your child in a dignified manner, avoid using baby talk when possible.
- Pay close attention to what your child is trying to communicate to you. Competence is not only demonstrated through spoken language.
- Provide opportunities for building independence such as clearing the table, putting away toys, or selecting items at the grocery store.
- Resist the urge to immediately jump in and ‘rescue’ your child from challenges. Rather, communicate that you are there to help if and when they need.
- Include affirmations in your vocabulary to indicate your belief in your child, “You are such a hard worker and I know you can do this.”
- Praise effort not outcome.
To learn more about Presuming Competence, here are some additional readings: