This morning I yelled at my son. I mean, I really yelled at him.
My typical eight year-old wouldn’t change from shorts to pants, even though it was cold outside. I stood close to him and roared, “Aaaaahhhhhhhh!” right in his face. ”You’re driving me crazy. Go upstairs now,” I yelled. He stood motionless for a second and looked at me a little shocked. After a moment, he adjusted himself and stood still. He said in a zen way, “I am not motivated by anger.”
I said, a little less angrily, “Go upstairs now.” My son stood in his place, looked into my eyes, and said again, “I am not motivated by anger.” I took a breathe and said more calmly, “Please go upstairs now.” He went upstairs and changed into pants.
As soon as he was gone, I smiled and was so entertained by how he had handled my anger. A few minutes later, we ate breakfast while having a warm and friendly conversation. Oscar said he didn’t like that I was using anger to try to motivate him. I explained that I don’t like how it feels either to be mean to him. “However,” I added, “anger does work sometimes to get you to do stuff.” Oscar disagreed and said it doesn’t work. So we agreed to do an experiment this week. I said, I would do my best to ask my son to do things in a nice way. We agreed that I’ll keep track of how often he does what I ask him to do, when I ask him in a nice way, and not in an angry voice.
I know so much more about parenting well because Cal is autistic. I’ve found the best experts to help me with Cal, and as a side effect, my typical son has experienced awesome parenting. He has also had the most well-trained fun babysitters on the planet. (Everyone who plays with my autistic son, plays with my typical son.) So my eight year-old is able to express himself and communicate with me about emotions in a profound way. I learn so much from him! I would have been a good parent anyway, even if Cal wasn’t autistic. But I would not have known things like how to teach my kids about whether they want to use anger to motivate people.
I feel like I know stuff. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I feel confident and blessed. I often know what to do. I’ve learned so much about parenting. Because of Cal, I have access to really smart practical people who have helped me raise my sons.