photo of young Penny wearing a pink hat, sitting on a bench outside, and reading a book

What Breaking a Record Has To Do With Responsive Parenting

I love stories that remind me of the power of building on strengths rather than focusing on deficits.

In disability circles, it’s really easy to pay attention to what our children aren’t doing, the milestones they’ve missed, and the opportunities they won’t have.

Honestly, in all human circles, it’s easy to get stuck in our awareness of flaws and lack and regret.

Many years ago, Peter and I learned about the concept of responsive parenting. We were encouraged to emphasize Penny’s strengths and interests rather than trying to force her to develop areas of weakness. She would learn and grow more if we focused on those areas. So for us, Penny’s love for reading was a way to help her develop fine motor skills (turning the pages of books), speech and language skills (reading out loud, playing word games), and, as she got older, a way to help her develop social skills by reading stories with realistic characters experiencing the trials and tribulations of school. 

I recently read a story of a boy with autism who broke the world record for solving a Rubik’s Cube. That’s cool in and of itself, but what I loved most was how his dad mentioned that they started working on the Rubik’s Cube in order to take something he would be interested in and develop his fine motor skills. Then, the story also notes:

Though the achievements have been notable, Schwan Park [dad] said speed cubing has helped his son learn to socialize, make friends and expand his horizons.”

One of the best things we can do for our kids is to notice what they already care about, to build on areas where they already experience some measure of competence, and to celebrate their passions and strengths. 

More with Amy Julia:

Responsive Parenting
The Dignity of Risk
FREE RESOURCE: Missing Out on Beautiful essays
Book: A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

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