Why Parenting a 2E Kid is SO HARD
First of all, what does 2E even mean? Well, it's an abbreviation for twice exceptional. What this means is that the person, often a child, has 2 exceptionalities. Typically is means giftedness + disability (often learning disability or disorder) but technically it can be any disability/disorder, not necessarily giftedness. What I'm talking about today is specifically giftedness + learning disability/disorder which affects their maturity (usually something related to executive function). My experience with myself and my child is ADHD, sensory issues, and anxiety, but this could also easily apply to children on the autism spectrum.

So, why is it so dang hard? The disconnect lies in the difference between their emotional maturity (or really immaturity) and their intellect. These kids are so incredibly smart, often functioning at a level 2+ years ahead of their biological age. However, their emotional maturity is often that of a child 2+ years younger than them. So at best there is a 4 year age gap between intellect and emotional maturity. For some reason we (I anyway) am drawn to focus on the intellect. I want to focus on the fact that he's so incredibly smart, and that he can comprehend such complex concepts, that I (incorrectly) expect that he should behave like a child 2+ years older than his biological age too, or at the very least a child who is his same biological age. But that's completely unrealistic because his brain isn't wired that way. His brain lacks that emotional maturity, it just hasn't developed as quickly as most kids his age, so it's really unfair to expect his brain to do something it can't, just because he's so smart.

In my experience, these unfounded expectations lead to a good portion of the conflicts in our house. When we expect him to function in a way that his brain is not yet ready to function, we set ourselves up for failure and heartache. I recently had this illuminated for me in a previously unseen area. As a homeschooling mom with a baby at home (a baby who often won't nap unless I'm lying next to him), there are times when our 9yo is on his own for an hour or so during the day. Lately we'd been catching him doing things he shouldn't be doing online. We caught him looking up Minecraft videos on YouTube kids on his computer, and then caught him "accidentally" watching a suggested video (Minecraft game play - shocking right?) on the tv in his room. I posted about this, asking for suggestions, in a moms group I'm in, and someone made the comment, "You need to stop giving him the opportunity to police himself because he's obviously not going to." It was like being hit in the head! Duh. Of course he's not going to. He's not even capable of that. Would you expect a 6 or 7 year old to police their own online activity? Of course not. You probably wouldn't even expect a neurotypical 9 year old (or 15 year old) to do it. Why was I giving him the opportunity to fail over and over, just because it was easier for me?

Have you ever read about the marshmallow experiment, where they put a marshmallow on a table and left a kid in the room for an hour and told them if they could wait to eat the marshmallow, they'd get 2 when the adult came back? You can probably guess what happened with ADHD impulsive kids. They didn't get the 2nd marshmallow. That's what this reminded me of. Just like those kids couldn't delay instant gratification in order to get the 2nd marshmallow, my poor kiddo was struggling to delay the instant gratification of watching Minecraft videos, his current obsession, just to please mom. It didn't matter that he knew the consequences, just like it didn't matter that these kids knew about the 2nd marshmallow. You can only expect your brain to do what it's capable of doing. And I was expecting too much.

If you, too, have been expecting too much of your kiddos, but just can't seem to help yourself, take heart. Come join our community and we can talk it out together. You are certainly not the only one who struggles with this, and two minds (or 200) are better at troubleshooting than just 1. A lot of times it's easier for others to see the solution (like the person who called me out) because they aren't as close to the situation as you are. It's called Clueless to Confident: Moms of Twice Exceptional Kids. There you'll find community, regular trainings, and even monthly giveaways! I can't wait to connect with you there!
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1 Comment

  1. Katie Musselwhite  07/30/2022 03:24 PM Central
    Great post Natalie! It is challenge to raise these kiddos and challenging to BE these kiddos. Seeing the disparity between their intelligence and emotional maturity is so challenging but incredibly important to parenting them.

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