Sometimes we fail, we fall down… and we get back up, dust ourselves off, and try again. Falling down is a significant way to learn and find meaning in our lives. So why don’t you let your loved one with a developmental disability fall down?
Your loved one might have vulnerabilities, and you do your best to protect them from harm’s way. BUT, the protection you provide might be leading to more harm than the natural consequences that you’re saving your loved one from experiencing.
In this video, you’ll learn the value of allowing your loved one with a disability to fall down and experience the natural consequences.
You need to let your loved one with a developmental disability fall down. Okay, now I don’t necessarily mean physically fall down to the ground, more so in a metaphorical sense. And so often, we are saving our loved one from falling down or catching them as they fall, not letting them fall down.
So let me tell you a story that will maybe help get at what I’m trying to share here with you. So, in 2018, my sister moved out of my parent’s house and in with me, and she lived with me for two years; she now has a home of her own. But I want to go back to that period when my sister and I lived together. And you know, in the first couple of months, my sister’s laundry would pile up. And what I noticed is that, you know, my mom would stop by, and she would say something like, Sarah, like, you don’t have any clean clothes right now is starting to become a more frequent conversation. And what would happen? My mom would take her laundry basket home. And by the end of the day, a hamper full of freshly cleaned and folded laundry would show up, and it would magically be put away in my sister’s closet. So what does this have to do with letting our loved one fall down? So my sister had learned that she didn’t need to be concerned about her laundry, right? So if she had dirty laundry, it would just pile up. And she learned that my mom would come in save her from not having any clean clothes. So it was starting to take away the opportunity for my sister to learn how to do her laundry because my mom was taking that opportunity away. And my sister wasn’t feeling the consequence, the falling down, or the scraping of her knee, right, metaphorically here, to prompt her to motivate her to learn to do her own laundry, right.
So, this is a story that I’m sharing with you that can be applied to many different things. It could be, you know, around many things at home in terms of maybe making meals or cleaning up or you know, keeping your room making your bed. And you know, it can trickle into things in the community or around employment. If we’re not letting our loved one fall down and scrape their knee, then we’re taking away some consequence that will provide a learning opportunity and maybe some motivation for our loved one to take action the next time around or to take action. So that consequence of in this example, not doing the laundry, means that I don’t have any clean clothes; what’s the action that I’m going to take now as a result of the decision of putting off doing laundry or not wanting to learn how to do laundry, right? So that stepping in, that saving, we tend to want to save or protect our loved one. And that’s resulting in learned helplessness. It’s manifesting on maybe what shows up as a lack of motivation. So the natural consequences are significant for us to feel from our decision because that helps us with decision making, that allows us to make a different decision, or maybe we continue to make the same decision.
I’ll give you another family example where my sister was upset with one of our supporters and would cancel her support. And then my mom would say, well, you can’t not have support. So my mom would come in and provide that support. Right. So my mom saved my sister from what she felt was a bad decision. But there was never any consequence of that. So my sister could just avoid working through any conflicts or challenges with supporters because my mom would just step in. So further enhancing, learned helplessness, and preventing that consequence of my sister falling down and scraping your knee.
Now, I will say that sometimes we want to catch our loved ones as they’re falling down. We want to soften that blow. The idea here is that we want to keep playing the game. We don’t want our loved one to fall down and not be able to get back up. So when you’re thinking about how to apply this idea of letting your loved one fall down and scrape their knee so that they can feel consequences, you want to think about the risk. What is the risk? And you want to manage that risk. Okay, so I will leave that to your discretion as you think about this.
Allowing the person to feel those natural consequences has positively impacted my family, sister, mom, and many of the other families I’ve worked with. So I hope this idea is helpful for you. I would love it if you scrolled down and left a comment or a message below. Let me know how this idea resonates with you or how you’re going to try it out how you have tried it out. Together, let’s take a small step forward this week.