Space To Breath – Stepping back to allow a PDA child to take a step forward.

Every child need space to grow, space to learn and space to succeed, what I have learned is a PDA child needs this more than most. Reward and incentives, deadlines and consequences can all fall under the umbrella of demands to a PDA child and yes even praise. As someone who wanted so much to be a parent, taking a step back and trusting my child to learn and grow and engage was one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do.

It’s all about trust

It sounds easy but believing a PDA child or any child not only wants to learn but will seek out learning opportunities is something that is largely not even considered in today’s society. Dr Ross Greene’s mantra of ‘a child will if they can’ is the one voice that breaks this trend. His belief that children want to do well, want to be a success and if given the right tools will do just that has been my guiding light through the process of dropping demands and trust that providing a safe nurturing environment would see my child put aside his struggles and allow him to shine. Forgetting the pressures of targets, expectations and percentile measurements and trusting that my child could and would reach his full potential in his own time and in his own way was and is a a little unsettling for me at times. Time and time again though my son has proved that he is more than willing to step forward when he time and conditions are right for him.

Promoting confidence

In today’s attitudes to child rearing we seem to feel that a child can only have self worth if we push them to achieve, if we measure their progress and offer rewards. The truth is however that, just as with adults, confidence is born out of being the master of your own destiny, in proving to yourself that you can do it and in pursuing those things you want to achieve and or are naturally good at. Being forced into doing things others think you should do does nothing for an adults mental health and confidence and however good you may be at something that doesn’t excite you it does not make you grow and flourish. It seems strange then that children are often pushed to do things they don’t like or are not good at either because that is what is expected of all children or because we see a talent or even it is something we as parents would like to have achieved.

Allowing a child to shine starts with seeing them

When we begin to see our child for who they are, no comparisons, none of societies expectations of who they are, none of our own hopes and dreams but the true them, the heart and soul beating within, we can provide a suitable environment for that person to flourish not just as the adult they become but as them now. By doing this we give them back their life and they will start living it, they will peruse their interests, they will work to their strengths and they are able to feel happy and fulfilled.

A period of adjustment

Of course this doesn’t happen over night, it takes us as parents and educators to learn to step back, to allow choice and it takes a PDA child time to adjust and begin to explore this new freedom and to express who they are. There have been times when I feel I have let go and then I find myself directing my son instead of just moving with him on his journey and being a facilitator. Acceptance of a person is about accepting the things they are not good at as well as those they are. I have found however when my son is allowed to fly in certain areas he is good at it has a knock on effect on the areas he is not so strong in, it is as if the confidence overflows. For instant I have allowed him to explore areas of interest up to GCSE level without pressure to record his learning because his dyslexia means writing holds him back however in his enthusiasm for a subject and the reading and searching involved, his spelling has improved and his willingness to write has increased.

A happy child is an engaged child

It really is as simple with a disengaged, anxious or unwilling child to just see them, listen to them and understand them today as they are and allow them to take the lead. There is nothing that grows happiness, self worth and cooperation as much as knowing you are valued for you unconditionally. There is so little choice, so much judgement and measurement of achievement in children’s lives today, it is no wonder their mental health suffers as a result. For me, nothing is more joyful than watching my son being able to step forward willingly every day. Rather than being relieved he is making his targets or worried he is not, I watch him unfolding as the person he is and it is as beautiful and as magical as watching a flower bloom.

For more on the work of Dr Ross Greene follow the link;

for more on Patholigical Demand Avoidance see the PDA Societies website by clicking the link below

8 thoughts on “Space To Breath – Stepping back to allow a PDA child to take a step forward.

  1. Brilliant outlook and advice. Thank you for writing ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting


  2. Another invaluable and insightful blog, thank you! I’ve always thought that the most successful sports people are those that make their craft look effortless. I suppose that confidence is born out of a magical mix of finding something you truly love doing and being allowed to submerse yourself in it fully. So why shouldn’t learning be more fluid to facilitate that journey of discovery😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Confidence I feel is born out of being trusted and believed in families r the person you are and then you can trust in and believe in yourself. I think this is particularly important for autistic and PDA children who may of been told or had it implied from an early age that there is something inherently wrong with the way they function.


  3. Amazing. I am living this and the first time it worked for me was like a thousand lightbulb moments, also the defining moment for me of true confirmation that my child does indeed have a full pda diagnosis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Am glad you found an approach that worked for your child. Well done you for stepping off the beaten path and doing what best supported your son or daughter. ❤️


  4. I’ve just tagged this on one of the support pages because it is such an important blog and one I can take for granted because this is second nature to me now. But it makes me feel very sad when I read new comments to PDA and still, the topic of punishment comes up. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is such a problem that PDA signs of distress are still so often confused with wilful behaviour. Thank you for spreading the word and educating other parents (and for sharing my post) x


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