Parent Coach Amanda Diekman on Low-Demand Parenting & Finding Connection with Your Child
About Amanda Diekman
Amanda Diekman is an autistic adult, parent coach, and author in the neurodiversity space. Amanda has become a leading voice in the movement for low demand parenting practices, with her book Low Demand Parenting to be published July 2023. Amanda runs a successful coaching practice for parents of neurodivergent children including online courses and a vibrant membership community. She lives with her husband Brian and three neurodivergent children in an intentional community in Durham, NC.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- What led Amanda to implement low-demand parenting in her family
- What low-demand parenting is, and why it’s often misconstrued as permissive
- The relationship between PDA and low-demand parenting
- Examples of big demands and tiny demands, and how shifting the focus can reduce stress for kids
- How Amanda helps parents in loosening their mindset about what they define as non-negotiables
- Ideas for practicing low-demand parenting in regard to our kids’ relationship with technology and screens
- How Amanda and her co-parenting partner came to work together using low-demand parenting
Resources mentioned for low-demand parenting
- Low-demand Parenting: Dropping Demands, Restoring Calm, and Finding Connection With Your Uniquely Wired Child by Amanda Diekman
- The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Dr. Ross Greene
- Akilah Richards on Raising Free People (Tilt Parenting Podcast)
- Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work by Akilah Richards
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Debbie Reber 00:00
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Amanda Diekman 00:25
If I think about kind of traditional parenting would be saying, up here, here’s the bar up high, and it’s my job to get you there. So I’m going to do everything possible to get you to do what I think you should be doing. And low demand is going to totally reverse that and say where you are is good enough. I’m gonna come right alongside you and support you right where you are, and make you safe enough and loved enough and seen enough and connected enough that you can stretch in the direction that you want to go and I’ll support you whatever that is.
Debbie Reber 01:00
Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. I’ve gotten to know today’s guest, Amanda Diekman over the past year after I participated in her low demand parenting Summit, which I know many of you attended. And more recently, I read her new book, Low Demand Parenting: Dropping Demands, Restoring Calm, and Finding Connection with Your Uniquely Wired Child. Because low demand parenting can be such an effective approach to supporting differently wired kids, especially kids who fall under the PDA profile of autism. I invited Amanda to join the show for a conversation about what this parenting approach actually looks like. An autistic adult parent coach and author in the neurodiversity space, Amanda has become a leading voice in the movement for low demand parenting practice. She runs a successful coaching practice for parents of neurodivergent children, including online courses and a vibrant membership community. During this episode, we talk about what low demand parenting is and why it’s different from what might be referred to as permissive parenting. Why it’s so effective for kids with PDA, and how she helps parents loosen up the mindset around what they might see as non negotiables. I can pretty much guarantee you will find this episode and Amanda’s low demand parenting approach, thought provoking, at the very least, and perhaps freeing and inspiring. Before I get to that if you’re newer to this journey of realizing your parenting a differently wired child and you’re looking to deepen your awareness and understanding about how to best show up for your kids. Check out my free resources at Tilt Parenting, you’ll find a roadmap for parenting a differently wired child which is a downloadable interactive PDF featuring a five step roadmap and resources, a 10 day video series called 10 things you have to know when raising a differently wired child. And of course, my differently wired a seven day challenge, a seven day video series which offers simple strategies that will have an immediate impact on how you experience your relationship with your child with the ultimate goal of creating more peace, joy and confidence in your daily life. All of these resources are completely free. And you can find them all on the tilt homepage at tiltparenting.com Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Amanda Diekman.
Debbie Reber 03:34
Hey, Amanda, welcome to the podcast.
Amanda Diekman 03:36
Hi, I’m so glad to be here.
Debbie Reber 03:39
I’m excited to bring you on to the show, to share your work with my listeners. And just that we’ve gotten to know each other over the past couple of months, since you invited me to be a part of your low demand parenting Summit, which I know a lot of members of the tilt community participated in. But what I would love to do to start this conversation is hear a little bit about your personal story. You have a new book out called low demand parenting, which I just read. It is wonderful. And you really share your own journey, both as a parent and as an individual in navigating and discovering neuro divergence. So could you just tell us a little bit about your story?
Amanda Diekman 04:20
Absolutely. Yes. I was a sensitive kid growing up in North Carolina in the 80s. Fast forward to lots of challenges and difficulty in arriving in adulthood with this self conception, that it was really important for me to stay in the bounds. I would establish boundaries everywhere. I set tons of rules for myself, in order to feel like I was safe, that I was okay. And oftentimes that looked like performing a certain kind of perfectionism and type A and I’m an ordained Presbyterian pastor is part of my journey. And I remember when I stepped down from pastoring because I was pregnant with my third child, and there was the celebration of me, and it was this chance for my community to hold up a mirror to me and say like, This is who you are, thank you for being this person. And I felt this really strong disconnect, that the person that everyone around me was saying I was, is not who I really was on the inside. And that sensation of being one person to the world, and being someone very, very different on the inside, is a defining feature of my life. So when I arrived in parenting, three very challenging little children, it felt like each one brought more and more layers of difficulty to our family environment. I went through postpartum depression, and anxiety settled in really heavily, I sought so many different treatments and therapies, and everything just felt like it was harder and harder. And if anything, it pressed these two versions of myself even further apart. And there came a day it synched up with my middle child, this one particular day where we were in the middle of the pandemic, so everything had fallen apart in terms of support services, and grandparents providing care and all the things were going on. And I was desperate to get this child into school, so I could put the pieces of myself back together. And I forced my kiddo into a kindergarten environment, physically carrying them to their teacher restraining all the things, and I walked away from that feeling like I was shattered inside that something in that moment of forcing my kid to do something that they were clearly telling me was not okay with them. It cued this, this breakdown for me, that I still haven’t, I’m using air quotes I’m still not recovered from. I think, in many ways, it was this rule following rigid perfectionist, who I was going to do the thing that everybody says I’m supposed to do, which is get my kid into school, whether they like it or not. And it just shattered into 1000 tiny pieces. And I thought I don’t want to put it back together again, I don’t want to be that person anymore. And it led me into a year long journey of self diagnosis, and then official diagnosis as being autistic. It led me into discovering my child’s autism and pathological demand avoidance, which is a crucial lens for understanding myself and them. And then eventually, this kind of a ripple of diagnoses and self identifications through our family until the parenting method that grew out of that kind of took us completely off the path, I love to say there’s a whole wide world off the path. And we’re out there way out in the woods, way off the path. And as someone who was so rigidly adhering to the path, it’s just amazing to me how much freedom I’ve found in being openly autistic. We’ll talk about this, but I share a lot of my life on the internet. And doing that without shame, without fear, being so transparent about what’s happening inside of our four walls with the whole wide world. It’s unbelievably freeing for me in particular.
Debbie Reber 08:25
So as you’re sharing that story, I’m just thinking that it probably didn’t feel like this happened quickly for you. But it seems like you made a radical change, and your family’s life has radically changed in not that long a period of time. So I’m just wondering, what do you think it was that enabled you to move through this? Because I mean, it’s not easy to stop caring about what other people think and to forge your own path and really, like throw out the rulebook. It took me years and years and years and years. And I’m sure you’re still doing it. I’m not suggesting that you don’t grapple with challenges anymore. But what was it that helped push you along? You think that got you to where you are now.
Amanda Diekman 09:09
I think it’s being autistic. And my particular, the way my brain works, that it’s very on brand for me to make a dramatic move and to be just fully all in that for me I am so so present to what’s happening in the present moment. Like I feel it like an electricity all over my body. And I am just right here in it. So for me when I saw my child go into burnout, which was the result of that, that one day where I forced him into school. Their burnout was severe; it lasted a year. It led to me being diagnosed with PTSD because of the way that their burnout symptoms showed up in our family environment. Partly it’s that our family’s experience was so dramatic. See that my response was equally dramatic. It’s like, Well, man, this child is telling me with their whole life that nothing about the way we were doing it before was working. And we need a radically new way. And in a way, I really think low demand parenting started when my child was six, eating two foods, not speaking to me, watching YouTube for 12 hours a day on their iPad in their room, because I had to decide if that was a failure, or if there was still beauty. And when I could look at them and say, This is exactly right. You’re doing what you need to do. I trust you even now, if they were good enough, right? They’re doing that, then maybe none of the things that I had put on as like, I’m a good parent, if my kid does this, this, this and this, or our lives are successful if we achieve these end goals. Like none of that stuff mattered anymore. All that mattered, was seeing them smile and knowing that they were awake and vibrantly alive. That’s all. That’s the only thing that mattered.
Debbie Reber 11:05
Gosh, it’s so beautiful. I got chills when you said that. Is this a failure? Or is this beauty? I think when you’re in this space, it can feel so powerful and freeing. And I know so many people that you work with and so many people that I work are struggling to find that freedom. I’m really excited to get into this concept of low demand parenting for that reason, I mentioned earlier that you had invited me to be part of your Summit. I really enjoyed that conversation. By the way, it was one of my favorite events that I’ve been in, in a long time. And I loved this idea of low demand parenting, I recognize that I’ve been doing it for years, I didn’t know it was a thing. And so I was like, oh, yeah, of course loads demand parenting, but can you just as a kind of a baseline define it as a concept for our listeners?
Amanda Diekman 11:51
Yeah, low demand parenting is dropping demands which I can talk about what I how I define it demand, aligning expectations around radical acceptance for your child. And typically, these children might be struggling, they might be experiencing challenges. And right there at the heart of the struggle, that is where you align with them. If I think about what kind of traditional parenting would be saying, up here, here’s the bar up high, and it’s my job to get you there. So I’m going to do everything possible to get you to do what I think you should be doing. And low demand is going to totally reverse that and say where you are, is good enough. I’m gonna come right alongside you and support you right where you are, and make you safe enough and loved enough and seen enough and connected enough that you can stretch in the direction that you want to go and all support you whatever that is.
Debbie Reber 12:47
That is a great definition. And I just want to share this quote that I pulled out from your book, low demand parenting means stepping off the established path and risking being called permissive or lax, people will judge people will misunderstand, but it is an act of radical love and acceptance. Low demands parenting is a movement of grace toward a suffering child. That to me is a very powerful statement. Suffering is a powerful word. And we know that so many of our kids are suffering because of the demands placed on them, not just by us, but by society. But this idea that people are going to judge people are going to misunderstand is a big deal for so many of us, right? We care about what other people think we want to look like we’re doing a good job. We don’t want to be judged by other people. And wondering how you address the feedback that you probably hear. I imagine that low demand parenting is permissive parenting, and it’s almost like a dirty word right permissive. How do you help parents recognize that this isn’t permissive? And it actually can be incredibly loving and effective.
Amanda Diekman 13:53
Yeah, I think permissive as an idea is not nearly as bad as we’ve all been fed to think that it is. I realized that I was doing all this work to differentiate from permissive. And then I was like, Well, do I think I need to question and interrogate that a little bit. I do think that there is a form of parenting that may look permissive, that can be really destructive for kids. But I think it’s actually more like inconsistent dissociative parenting, where parents are bouncing back and forth between rules and structure and control, and then checking out. And that makes total sense that that would be happening for parents, because oftentimes just saying, yes, you can do whatever you want is the easier path. And if you haven’t really done your deep work around why your kids are triggering you so much, you’ll just say yes to whatever so that they don’t blow up. And that’s very different from what we’re talking about doing. So dropping demands and aligning with your child is a very present wholehearted accommodation. It is mindfully done intent. emotionally in order to support your child right where they are, and it’s pretty consistent, like, if I say, Hey, we’re not going to have screen time limits, because I trust you to use your device without shame or limits, which is our family rule, no shame, no limits, then that’s going to be true no matter who comes over. It doesn’t mean that that’s easy to negotiate with other families or that it brings up challenges. But I’m not going to suddenly stand in front of another grown up and say, put your screen away, you know, that’s not good for your brain, when that’s very shaming to them. And they know that I’ve made the commitment not to shame them. So low demand is a commitment on the family’s part to like one of our other family mottos is I won’t force you to do things, no means no, including to me. And so that I will always respect their No. So my youngest child came to a point in their kindergarten school year, this year where they said, No, I’m not going anymore. And it was really important that we listened to that no, and said, Okay, then we’ll figure it out. That’s another part. One of the main things that I see is parents come to me and say, I’ve been doing low demand, but I feel so bad about it. I’m so ashamed of it. And they didn’t know what it was called, like you. They’re like, I didn’t know it was a thing. But they’ve been, they’ve been making these radical accommodations in secret, so that nobody knows that they’re giving popsicles before dinner, and you know, whatever it is that their kid needs in order to thrive. And I think that one of the really powerful things about making this a thing that creating an umbrella where parents can gather under and find other parents who are making these same kinds of accommodations, so that we can stand tall and be proud that this is an incredibly hard way to parent, it requires so much deep work. One of the things that I was reflecting on with my community lately is that there’s this whole thing that kids need boundaries, in order to feel safe. And that makes a lot of the people who come feel uncomfortable or uncertain about what to do with that idea. And I really think that kids need adults who do their work. That’s what makes them feel safe – is when we do our work. We can say yes or no, we can have boundaries, or we can have permission. Like that’s not really what matters. What matters is that we know ourselves that we’re showing up as regulated, connected, attached adults with a safe inner world. And as long as we do that, then we have all this freedom to like yeah, have a boundary or don’t have a boundary like it’s not that’s not what safety is anchored in safety is anchored in your healthy relationship to yourself.
Debbie Reber 17:43
We’ll be right back after a quick break. Every student is so different, but traditional schools treat them all the same. That’s why my teen attends Fusion Academy, the world’s most personalized school. Fusion is especially great for differently wired students. Their one to one classrooms match your student’s unique pace and preferences so they can learn better, dive deeper and never get left behind. Fusion has 80 convenient campus locations across the country for grades six through 12, along with a fully online campus, Fusion Global Academy. Fusion has been a game changer for my family. Why not experience the world’s most personalized school for yourself? Fusion is now enrolling for both summer catch up courses and full Fall Enrollment. Sign up for a free one to one trial session at fusionacademy.com/tilt That’s fusionacademy.com/tilt
Debbie Reber 18:36
So I just love what you just shared about showing up for your child. I also believe that it is just so important that we do our own deep inner work. It’s so powerful. I love how all these things are merging together. As you’re talking, I’m thinking about an interview I had with Kayla Richards on her book raising free people. I can see why it is scary for a lot of people to consider this approach. But there is so much freedom in it. I want to touch upon PDA. So you’ve mentioned that before. It’s in the label, we got low demand parenting and pervasive desire for autonomy or demand for autonomy. Can you talk about the connection between those two?
Amanda Diekman 19:17
Yeah, that’s where low demand parenting is necessary for PDA kids, they really cannot thrive under any other modality. I think that low demand is also really applicable even to all the way to like your easy kids, the ones that are kind of like, faking it for their long term thriving, but to stick with PDA errs for a minute, pathological demand avoidance or pervasive desire drive for autonomy, however, you name those three letters. The basic idea is that this is a profile of autism where the main survival drive for autonomy is so overpowering, significant in the brain system that demands register in their bodies as threats. And those demands can be as small seemingly as like a back and forth verbal conversation. It can be a request, like, do you want to go outside and play with me can register. And to say it’s a threat means that the brain itself is switching from the prefrontal cortex from the kind of like, aware of present decision making brain into a survival brain. So me saying something to my PDA kid, like, hey, what do you want for dinner? Makes them feel like they’re being attacked by a lion in the jungle. So naturally, they can’t think, what do I want to eat? When they’re being attacked, their body won’t let them and their brain won’t let them so it’s necessary for me to drop the demand of a question and answer. So I do that by a lot of nonverbal communication, we have a menu that I’ll flash with a question and face, and then I’ll give a lot of processing time and allow them to point or I’ll point to them and flash numbers with my fingers and allow them to flush numbers back, we do lots of communicating with animal noises, growling and barking and meowing are like fantastic ways to dodge the demand. Because that’s the other really lovely thing about PDA-ers is just how incredibly creative they are, in the ways that their brains are built, to kind of creatively get around this whole demand system, it’s really pretty amazing if you think about it, like they’re trying to survive this really responsive brain that they have. And so, you know, my child can respond to me as a baby puppy, in a way that they can’t as themselves. So we do lots of roleplay and imaginative worlds, which are very real for us. And the other really amazing thing about low demand for PDA errs is that when they’re in this kind of environment with true autonomy, full control, and radical acceptance and respect, they flourish, that these aggressive meltdowns that can look like they’re just the way it is to live with a PDA or, but those things can really, really go away. And we do live with meltdowns, I think of it as if my child had seizures. And we would do everything possible to prevent them. And we would also know that they’re going to come. And so then we have plans for in the moment what to do to keep everyone safe. That’s kind of how I feel about my child’s meltdowns. At the same time, this low demand approach that we’ve created helps us as a family to support my most disabled child in these really fundamental and radical ways. So they’re doing great.
Debbie Reber 22:48
That’s so helpful, I think, for so many listeners to hear, who feel just overwhelmed, and that there isn’t a way to navigate the meltdowns, the really tricky behavior. And I love that you talked about questions being a demand. And you include Linda Murphy and declarative language in there. And I love her work as well. And when I talked with her for the show, I also was like, Oh, my gosh, every question is a demand. It’s just changed the way I navigate conversations in my household, when we start to think about it demands really are everywhere. And in the book, you talk about big demands and tiny demands. So you just gave an example of what he went for dinner? Is that a big demand, a tiny demand? I guess it depends on the day or the child. But can you give us some examples of a big demand and a tiny demand?
Amanda Diekman 23:36
Yeah. First, let me define a demand. Demand is anything that is too hard in this present moment. So a crucial distinction is between hard and too hard. When something is hard. We show up, we do our best, we use our tools, we ask for help. When something is too hard, we let it go. And the only person who knows the difference between heart and to heart is the person who’s experiencing it. So that does require a lot of trust in our children, that we can believe them when they say this is too hard for me. When something is too hard, and that’s registering, it’s the parents job to back up and ask, Well, what was too hard. And to notice, sometimes it’s big, and I would say food is actually a pretty big demand because their demands aren’t only imposed, they’re also internal. So a child’s hungry body is making a demand on them. This is particularly true of PDA ears, but I think it’s probably true for a lot of kids. You know, we all know about getting hangry but it’s possible that the brain system is registering, man, this intense sensation is happening inside my body. I must eat and it’s making it hard to access other things. It’s a demand, it’s making other things too much. So whereas your kid might be able to put on their shoes just fine when they’re not hungry when they’re hungry. Even if they’re a teenager, it might be too much to even think about where they are in the house. As much less getting them on their feet, big demands are typically big categories. So like food, screens, medicine, school. And sometimes we can drop the whole thing, we can just be like, no more school, we’re gonna, you can stay home and do whatever you want, that can be possible. But most of the time, we’re dropping tiny demands, because there’s something about school that matters, and we want to hold on to it or medicine is essential. You need it to thrive, or, you know, sleep like we can’t live without sleep. So when I do tiny demands, it’s all the itty bitty little things like, how fast do you have to do it? Like, are we in a hurry to get this medicine down, or can it take an hour, and that a lot can be about the parents energy, what they’re bringing to the situation, I find that our kids are, especially our PDA kids are really attuned to parent energy. But I think neurodivergent kids as a whole are very sensitive to their parents’ energy. Recognizing that you might say the right words, you might use declarative language. And you might say it in exactly the kindest way. But if your energy doesn’t match, if you say, take all the time you need, but your energy says get this thing done, I’ve got a toddler to put to bed, it’s going to register as a demand. So the tiny demands can be really where the magic is. Because if you can drop all the things that are too hard about medicine, oftentimes kids can actually do the thing, they can swallow the medicine, it’s that they can’t do it at this particular time with that spoon with this, that and the other thing happening around them, they need to be alone, they need to be supported, they need to have their preferred parent, they need to have their preferred ice cream flavor to follow it up whatever it is. And so you drop all those things that are too hard and support them and doing what matters most.
Debbie Reber 26:49
Two things I wanted to speak to that you just mentioned, you talk about in your book to be aware of the fake drop. And I just loved that so much. Because as you said, our kids read our energy I talk about like fake being present and fake being calm, like we cannot fake anything for these kids. They know what’s going on. So I really loved that concept. And then you had this brilliant example, in the book all about what’s involved in putting on shoes, you broke down all the tiny demands within that one thing of putting on shoes so we can get out the door. And it really was eye opening. I just want to say I understand breaking down goals into lots of little steps. But there was something about reading, it was like a couple pages long of all the possible tiny demands in that one act. Just super, super interesting to read and to have a deeper understanding of, again, how demands are everywhere.
Amanda Diekman 27:44
Yes, I say we’re demand factories. Something that I’ve discovered as I get deeper into the low demand journey, is that we create a lot of these for ourselves. So I also think that the tiny demand process is really important for the way you know, we do laundry, for example, like we know what everything has to get washed. But if we think about like, what exactly is too hard about doing laundry, like precisely, is it the smell, or the feeling? And when you touch it, like can you just somehow dump all of those clothes into the washer without actually touching them, and then it’s doable. And when things are doable, then there’s flow and ease, and they actually happen. It’s kind of like, you know, Devin prices work. Laziness does not exist. I think that it really goes along with that idea that when things are too hard, it’s disabling to all of us, we all gets stuck, trying to force ourselves to do things that are too hard, and that it’s really powerful for every single person to give yourself the permission to say that’s too hard for me. I need us to find a way to drop it. Not I need to figure out a way to make myself better so that I can do it.
Debbie Reber 28:53
Yeah, no, I love that. And I also now know that you do not care for doing laundry. I don’t like doing laundry. But folding clothes to me is like Oh good. I can watch 20 minutes of Vanderpump Rules or whatever I need to watch. So I found a way to make it somewhat pleasant in that context. You talk about in the moment demand dropping in the book, it made me think of Dr. Ross screens Plan C, do you see those as being kind of the same thing or similar?
Amanda Diekman 29:20
Absolutely. Yeah, I owe a lot of my early development of these ideas, and really the effectiveness of how I’ve implemented it to reading the explosive child rereading. It was my second read when my kid went into burnout. And I found that most of the book was about collaborative problem solving, which was completely impossible since my child couldn’t even access basic words at that time. But that whole idea of Plan C was exactly where we were living. In the moment demand drops are necessary, because we can’t foresee all the things that will happen if you’re out there listening and you feel Like I’ve tried low demand, and it doesn’t work for me, my hunch is that you got stuck dropping demands in the moment. So, you think, Okay, I’m going to ask my child to put on their own shoes, and then they have a fit. And then you say, Okay, fine, I’ll get them. And it’s like that all day long. That is really not where the ease and the joy is. It’s in the proactive, which is exactly if you’ve read the explicit child like getting proactive with your plans see, is so so important. That basic idea is that I say you got to drop it durably wholeheartedly and proactively, so durably meaning that it will last. So ideally, what decision can you make today that will be true for the foreseeable future, wholeheartedly, meaning you do it on purpose, you do it with your full self, you’re all in and proactively, meaning you do it before the thing comes up. So you decide I’m not going to ask you to put your shoes on anymore, I’m going to have a basket by the door that I can toss shoes in so that it’s really easy for me to carry. So it’s not too hard for me, it’s not too hard for you, it’s doable, and we can get the shoes and we’re going to put them on when we arrive at our destination if they’re needed. And if they’re not, then you can go. We call them socks, shoes, because I’m prepared to advocate for my child in the grocery store. If somebody says your kid doesn’t have shoes on, like, oh, actually their feet are covered. And we call these socks shoes, because I would like you to describe for me what exactly makes these different from a shoe. I’m gonna go to bat for them. And that’s another part of low demand is that, like I was saying before, it’s not different when other people are around. Like I think that’s the other thing is like being ready to intersect with a high demand world and to advocate for our kids and what they need.
Debbie Reber 31:53
Yeah, and you have some good examples in the book of language to use in situations like that, which I really appreciate. Because I think that is where a lot of us get stuck. My hunch is the shoe thing, the sock thing in the grocery store that even with parents who are on board, likely they have things that they perceive as non-negotiables that are really negotiable. The things that come up for me are showers, brushing teeth, like that comes up all the time in my community was my child has to do this. And I’m always pushing. Is that really true? So how do you help people loosen their mindset around these things?
Amanda Diekman 32:30
Yeah, two ways. The first is that in the book, I walk through the six step process of low demand. And the second step before you get into any kind of proactive demand drop, even listening to your kid. It’s all about finding your deep why? What matters most to you right now. And if your kid is really struggling and suffering, then it’s probably something like connection, trust, thriving, stability, just having them not hit me. Sometimes we’re in survival, and I just want to be able to get through this day. And being really grounded in what matters most can be very freeing. When things pop up, you’re like, Wait, that doesn’t matter to me as much as the thing that matters most. And if I’m choosing between them, if I’m choosing between trust and a shower, I’m going to pick trust. The other thing is I give people permission to go worst case scenario like okay, what happens if your child goes six months without a shower? So like, well, if I let go of this today, they’re never going to do it again. That’s possible, that really might happen. So let’s think about it. What’s going to happen if six months from now your kid hasn’t showered? What can you put in place now so that you’re prepared? If that does happen, what would be too hard for you about that reality? Well, my parents might say something on the holidays because my kids smells or their hair doesn’t look clean. Okay, like, let’s put a plan in place for that. And finding alternatives, getting creative, getting curious, I really think we have more capacity than we think we do when we get locked in. And part of what my job is as like a public low demander is just a model that my kid did not bathe for six months, and we’re okay. Like the world actually doesn’t end. And some things are hard. And it was still worth it. Because dropping that demand meant that we survived. We are now thriving and they can bathe. That’s really a piece I would want to leave people with is that letting go of the demand isn’t giving up. It’s actually the best way to support them in the long run to do the thing that you want them to do. And the ironic part is if you’ve really done the work and you’ve durably and wholeheartedly let it go you don’t care as much by the time they’re doing the thing that You’re putting on their own shoes. They’re showering easily. They’re telling you what they want for dinner, all these things that you let go of. Now my child can do those things most of the time. And yet I’m fine. I’m totally fine. If they don’t. It’s not always fast. But it was the more durable path towards supporting them in the direction we want them to
Debbie Reber 35:19
Yeah, no, I love that. And it feels so much better. To be constantly be in conflict with our kids over these things is really hard on our relationship with them and the family dynamic. I do want to pivot as part of that to screen time. We don’t have to spend a lot of time here. But I know many parents will appreciate the fact that you do tackle screen time. In this book, actually, you have several chapters on it. I think we all know that screens are a huge part of our kids lives, certainly neurodivergent kids lives and it is one of the biggest pain points that I hear about. And you talked very openly about your approach to screen time. Why was it so important for you to include such a deep dive into screen time in your book?
Amanda Diekman 36:04
When we really want to radically shift our relationship to our kids, one of the key places to come alongside and align with them is around screens. Because for most of us, the way we were raised and the way our kids are growing up are so different. And it’s so important that we see the world that they live in the reality that they’re experiencing, and get on board with where they are. The fear and the stigma around screens is destroying so many relationships between parents and children. And as destructive as people believe screens are, I think that the relational dynamic of so many families is just eaten up by conflict over screens, and I think that that needs to be talked about more. It’s so powerful, to face my own inner demons, and my own fears, and to access my own freedom. And then to allow my kids to learn for themselves what’s enough? What else they want to do. When does this make them feel good? And when does it not? You know, these are things we’re still struggling to figure out as adults. And I feel like I’m giving my kids a rich gift. If they’re learning a healthy relationship to screens while they’re still young, and their brains are still developing, and I’m right here to support them, then that’s lifelong self knowledge. And my kids are getting it from early, like people have said, well, you know, your kids must be older. When I dropped screen limits, my youngest was three. And even my three now six year olds have learned so much about themselves, and what makes them feel good, and how to use screens to regulate and, and how to access other kinds of play and discovery. I think it’s really important for us to be upfront about what we’re doing around screens, too, because so many people that drop screen time limits do it really secretly and in shame. And that still leaves the collective conversation kind of afraid of what would happen if you did that. And I think it’s so important for those of us that are living it to say nothing bad happens. We just learn, we just keep on learning. And yeah, they see things there that we talk about, we say, Oh, wow, you didn’t like that, that didn’t feel good. That wasn’t meant for you. They try on language that’s annoying, and stem with all kinds of words I would rather not hear. And at the same time, like, it’s okay, we can learn through that. I wanted to address it, because I think it’s a place that if you read the book and walked away, without me addressing screens, it would leave this huge question of like, Yeah, but what about screens?
Debbie Reber 38:47
Makes total sense. And you do talk a lot about the concept of shame in that conversation. And again, something I appreciated so much, because it is very laden with all kinds of guilt and shame and worry about judgment. It is such a complicated topic. So I just really appreciated the way you unpack that for us. I also just want to say you talk about your relationship with your parenting partner as well. And I so appreciated that it wasn’t just like a little mention, it was like, here’s how we low demand co parent, and this is what this looks like. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to respect each other’s role in parenting and the way that you navigate this?
Amanda Diekman 39:31
Yeah. My partner has had a really different journey around low demand. I’m not even sure if he would say that he’s a low demand parent, and that’s okay. We still have a vibrant household dynamic with two different parents that practice different parenting techniques. I think what was crucial for me was letting go of the demand that he be the same as me. And even thinking that I was better than him for the way that I was doing. things, that judgment and shame that I might have heaped on him to try to get him where I am. Like, I know that doesn’t work. That’s what I don’t do to my kids, I don’t say, Hey, here’s where I want you to be. Now get here with me, I say, I’m going to radically align with you right where you are. And so I dropped all the things that were too hard for him, I let go of the expectation that he followed through on all of my proactive plans. And it was really healing for our dynamic to realize that we can connect, we can respect, we can even partner in really deep ways. And say, you know, the way you’re doing it is good, too. And I’m glad to be in this with you. And I feel deeply respected and my parenting choices, as well. But that came later, after I had done the hard work of dropping my demands for him.
Debbie Reber 40:53
Yeah, I appreciate that. And just your openness to say, you said thinking I was better than him. I’m like, Yeah, I had those very same feelings with my partner. And having this like increased desire to almost hoard all the control because I was doing it right. And we’ve worked through that we had to kind of figure that out. And so one of the things you say in the book that I love so much, he said, being on the same page was too restricting. Sometimes we each had our own story. And each story took up its own page, but we can share our stories side by side on our metaphorical couch.
Amanda Diekman 41:27
Yeah, that’s our main thing, we say to each other all the time, same team, same team. It’s like our code for like, we’re doing different things right now. But we’re still on the same team, and I see you doing it differently. And I’m okay with it. I’m still on your team. And instead of being like, I’m way over here, and he’s way over there. We just always try to sit side by side and look at the same situation and say, Okay, we’re gonna have different vantage points, we’re gonna have different ideas. And that’s good. It’s really true. Like, there’s been so many times where I’ve gotten stuck with my low demand approach, and I can’t figure out the next step. And he comes in with his different way. And we find the next step together.
Debbie Reber 42:07
It’s great. I want to know if it’s okay with you to just share the way you close the book, because I love it so much. You said by giving up adult power over children, and giving up on the prescribed socially acceptable dreams, I step into total freedom. As long as my kids and I are aligned and connected, the journey can take us where it will, it was just beautiful. I would love to just know before we say goodbye, what is something that you would want listeners to take away from this conversation? If they are sparked and intrigued by this idea, and they want to explore it? Or maybe they’re afraid of what it might mean for their life? What would you want them to know?
Amanda Diekman 42:46
There’s so much freedom out there to be had in the world. And that, following all the rules and staying on the path, I know what that feels like I did that to 150%. And I can say wholeheartedly that letting go of performance for other people. And instead saying what matters most to me, is the mother that I see. When my kids look at me, the woman I am to them is what matters more to me than what anyone else sees. And it’s so powerful to realize that it actually doesn’t matter. I’m out here really radically living this life. And you would think I’d be getting all this criticism. I’m not which is actually like, everybody knows there’s, I’m not getting trolled all over and you probably won’t either. But even if you do, even if people do come and criticize, it’s like it rolls right off. Because what matters most to me is that my kids are thriving, and that I’m fully alive and that I’m present. I’m here, I’m living the life that’s right for me. And so it truly doesn’t matter what anybody else says about it. The other thing is, it’s okay to be afraid. And you don’t have to jump into the deep end. I would say like if I was gonna give people one tiny step to take, it would be to ask what’s too hard for me today? Is there one thing I can let go of? That’s an expectation I’m placing on myself. Can I align with myself today? And what my capacity is, give yourself that gift and see how it feels and then imagine giving it to somebody else.
Debbie Reber 44:33
I love that so much. So listeners: The book is called Low Demand Parenting: Dropping Demands, Restoring Calm, and Finding Connection with Your Uniquely Wired Child. So I have links in the show notes. Where would you like listeners to go to learn more about you and your work?
Amanda Diekman 44:52
I would love for anybody who listened to this podcast to come and find me on Instagram. It’s my favorite place to hang out, I met low demand Amanda and it would be so meaningful if you sent me a direct message and just said, Hi, or do you want to build? And here’s what it made me think I always reply. So that’s a really great way to connect. I also created a quiz called Why is this all so hard? That offers some of the wisdom that I’ve gleaned from my own hard journey and from hundreds of people that I work with about some of the key places where things get really hard, and what’s the next step? What’s a way out using the low demand approach? So that’s kind of a free way to get some insight into why you’re particularly stuck. And that said, Amanda diqmond.com/quiz. So I’ll provide that for anybody who wants to check it out.
Debbie Reber 45:43
Awesome. Thank you so much, @amandalowdemand that works really well for Instagram. So I’ll check you out over there as well. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed the book and just this conversation today, so appreciate it.
Amanda Diekman 45:57
Debbie Reber 46:01
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