248: Successes Change Everything, No Matter How Small

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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In this episode of the Beautifully Complex podcast, I’m exploring the profound impact of successes on our neurodivergent kids (and all of us humans). I discuss how experiencing successes contributes to building confidence, motivation, and a positive mindset, all through the lens of brain science. I also offer practical ways for parents and educators to create opportunities for success and the importance of celebrating even the smallest victories. Join me as we explore the power of successes in shaping our children’s journey and the strategies to support them along the way.

3 Key Takeaways


Success breeds more success: Experiencing successes creates new neural pathways in the brain, promoting positivity and confidence. This leads to a cycle of success, positivity, and confidence.


Importance of creating opportunities for success: As parents and educators, it’s essential to provide opportunities for neurodivergent kids to experience success. Meeting them where they are, offering doable activities, and promoting their talents, interests, and passions are crucial in fostering success.


Celebrate all successes: Recognizing and celebrating both small and big successes is important. This acknowledgment helps register the successes in the child’s brain, leading to more confidence and motivation to strive further.

What You'll Learn

The importance of creating opportunities for success for kids, especially those with challenges

How to accommodate and change activities to ensure your child can succeed

The significance of noticing and celebrating even small successes in your child

How successes build confidence and can help children feel that they can do hard things


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Penny Williams [00:00:03]: That confidence, that knowing of doability is required to make effort and to be motivated to do something. That's true for every human being. We need to have some semblance of confidence that we can get through it. We can figure it out, and we want to try, and that willingness to try the unknown is the next outcome of experiencing successes. Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams [00:00:55]: Welcome back to the Beautifully Complex Podcast, I am really excited to have you here as always. And today, I'm talking about how important successes are to our kids and to so many aspects of getting things done, but also feeling good and being able to do good, which we talk so much about here on the podcast. Neuroplasticity is this very scientific term that is floating around these days. And what it basically talks about is that our brains are constantly changing. We are constantly making new neural connections in our brains, and we are constantly pruning those connections as well. And so what we know from the science is that positivity makes more neural pathways for more positive things. So successes, when we experience them, they create more neural pathways for more successes. So success means more success.

Penny Williams [00:02:20]: On the flip side, the same is true for the negative. If we have a lot of negative, if we focus a lot on the negative, it is going to breed more negative. It's just going to happen more often. So environmental feedback really influences that neuroplasticity. You may have heard the quote before, neurons that fire together wire together. And the more they connect, the more solid that connection is. So if we have neurons that are firing together, they're connecting now in maybe a success or a positive thought or focus, then the more that happens, the stronger that neurological connection for success is. So, you know, we talk about, like, you are what you eat.

Penny Williams [00:03:13]: You also experience more of what you focus on is your brain is wiring for that repetition. So we're wired to focus and create more of the same. Right? If we have a lot of negative, it's going to keep reading that negativity, But if we have a lot of positive, it's going to breed more positive outcomes, and that includes successes the more successes that your kid has, the more successes that you have, the more the brain is going to wire for more assesses, those neuropathways are being formed by repetition. They're getting stronger by repetition. Right? So when we create a positive mindset, either for ourselves or helping our kids to do that, it's promoting the neuroplasticity around those positive thoughts and events, and that allows the body to organize, remap, and grow into a more positive mindset. It's giving our brain the ability to, again, organize, remap, and grow a more positive mindset. Of course, we're gonna do better and feel better when we have a positive mindset. Plus, we have neurotransmitters.

Penny Williams [00:04:41]: Right? We talk about them a lot with ADHD, specifically, dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine. Right? Our body is generating some of those feel good chemicals like dopamine and releasing them when we are generating positive thoughts. And so if your body is generating this chemical and you're feeling great, of course, your biology, your neurology, your brain are going to want to make that happen again and again and again. Right? This is why we tend to get so connected to our digital devices because we're getting rewards when we do certain things on them, especially when we're playing games. And so our bodies want more of that. We seek it out. So it can be really helpful when we're talking about positive things and successes. We want to have them more and more and more, and it's kind of this, you know, catch 22 cycle.

Penny Williams [00:05:52]: You have to have successes to have those positive thoughts and beliefs around successes to breed more of that. If you get stuck in the negative, you're going to get stuck there because your brain is making neural connections in the negative still. So we want to help our kids to focus on the positive, focus on those successes. But just having the success, experiencing it will help to build these neuro connections for more success. So, again, successes are organizing, remapping, and growing more successes in our brains, our neural wiring and pathways. But what else does experiencing successes do for our kids? It's not just this aspect. Now we know, like, we're talking about science and the biology is doing this on its own. This is happening for us based on what is going on in our thoughts and our feelings and that sort of thing.

Penny Williams [00:06:57]: So when we experience the success, we know that we're getting those neural pathways, and that's breeding more success automatically, but they do more than just that. Success, that experience, helps our kids to know that they can do hard things. If they push through something that was nonpreferred, something that was super hard or took a long time, thinking about all of the different things that my own kid sort of put up a wall and railed against a lot of times. Right? Things that were perceived as hard or unknown, because if it's unknown, it could very well be a hard thing. Right? I don't know. So I'm gonna assume it's hard so I can protect myself. So when they're able to succeed at a hard thing, they are knowing that they can do hard things, right, in their cognitive thought, but also their brain is making those neural connections and saying, Hey. You can do hard things.

Penny Williams [00:08:02]: Don't resist them next time you've got this. Confidence is a real struggle for our kids because they are trying to make their way in a world that isn't built for them, in a school system that isn't built for their success. Right? So it really takes a toll on confidence. But when you have success, you're going to get more confident. Right? The more success you have, the more confident you will get. Same is true for our kids. And that confidence, that knowing of doability is required to make effort and to be motivated to do something, that's true for every human being. We need to have some semblance of confidence that we can get through it, we can figure it out, and we want to try, and that willingness to try the unknown is the next outcome of experiencing successes.

Penny Williams [00:09:08]: We want our kids to be willing to try things, and, you know, I have talked many times about the fact that my own neurodivergent kid, I call him a serial avoider, his instinct was always avoid first, avoid, avoid, avoid, and it was really tough, right, because there's things you need to do. But, also, I needed him to do things that were challenging so he could know that he could do them, so that he could build his confidence. Right? All of this stuff is very interconnected and woven together, And it's really, really important to recognize that when we are met with unwillingness with what we feel like is a lack of motivation or effort, it is because because it doesn't feel doable to that child. They don't feel like they can succeed at it, and so they don't want to try it. Because who wants to put in a lot of effort for something that they know is gonna go wrong or they feel certain is gonna go wrong. Right? And so we need these successes to help our kids feel like successes are doable, like, that is an outcome that is even possible for them at all. Because I can remember years years where my kid thought that he could not be successful at anything, especially before diagnosis when we had no idea what was going on, he never felt like he could succeed at anything. He was sad and down on himself all the time.

Penny Williams [00:10:41]: And so it's so, so important to experience success so that things feel doable, so our kids are willing to try to make effort, to be motivated, to wanna do hard things, they have to experience successes in order to put themselves out there and have these other great things happens so that they can have more successes. Right? So we're like, success breeds more success, breeds more success. And it's true biologically. It's true emotionally. It's true mentally. And so then we have to talk about how do we help our kids have successes. Right? Because, again, they're trying to navigate a neurotypical world as a neurodivergent individual. And it's really our job as the parents.

Penny Williams [00:11:31]: It's also the job of the educators to create opportunities for success for our kids. And a few different aspects go into this. One, is meeting our kids where they are. We have to understand what is doable for them and where they need support and what is just absolutely not doable yet. We have to meet them where they are for them to have any opportunity for success. We also have to provide opportunities. So we either have to make our expectations, or the activity or event, very doable. And, again, that comes back to meeting your kid where they are.

Penny Williams [00:12:18]: Or we have to offer things that they are successful in already so that they get more and more of that experience of the success. So it could be that your kid loves animals, and they volunteer at the animal shelter, and that gives them a sense of value, purpose, success. And every time they feel that, their brain is wiring for more of that. Right? So the passions, the interests, the talents you know, I call these tips. So talents, interests, and passions. We need to give our kids lots and lots and lots and lots of opportunities for these things, lots of opportunities. Because, again, the more they experience things that they are good at, that they succeed at, the more they're going to be willing to put in the effort, to be motivated, to try hard things, and to have more successes. Because, of course, all we want as parents and teachers is for our kids to have success.

Penny Williams [00:13:26]: That is our total big umbrella overarching goal. Right? Success. This is how we get there. We provide the opportunities because we develop or construct these activities, these events, these visitations to things, you know, anything that your kid is involved in, you need to look at, what do I need to do to support, to change, to accommodate for my kid to be successful at it? Because they need those successes to have more successes. So if you're going maybe out to a medieval festival, maybe your family is into medieval festivals, and your kid has a hard time with crowds, with noise, with not having structure, with not knowing what to expect, how do you prepare them to be successful at this festival. You can take headphones, maybe music, so that if it's too loud, there's a way to accommodate that. You can have a conversation ahead of time about what to expect, about the things they can look forward to. Maybe, you know, it's the 1 and only place every year where they get to eat a giant turkey leg, and they love to eat a giant turkey leg.

Penny Williams [00:14:47]: My kid loves turkey legs and chicken legs. Anyway, that's something to look forward to. That's something to talk about because that will help keep them excited and engaged. Maybe they can't do an all day festival, so you plan to do only 2 or 3 hours, or you plan that 1 parent is going to leave early with the kids who can only do a short amount of time, and another parent or family member or friend is gonna stay and help to be engaged in more of it for the longer term, for the kids who can do the all day festival. Right? That's what I'm talking about when I say set your kid up for success, provide the opportunity for success. Things that they love, that they're good at, that they're excited about, they're going to be much easier to have success with that already. So really giving them lots of opportunities for those things, those tips, talents, interests, passions, is super, super important to creating successes, and this stuff will permeate. You know? We're talking about creating successes outside of school, but it's gonna help with school.

Penny Williams [00:15:53]: It's going to help with doing things at home, getting things done, because it makes things feel more doable. They have more confidence that they can succeed, and that always equates to more effort and motivation. So think about how do you create successes for your kid? These can be teeny tiny wins, folks. I want you to understand that. If your child successfully puts their dirty pajamas in the hamper when they get dressed for school tomorrow morning, and they never do that without many, many reminders or you doing it for them, it's a success, and you need to notice it, and you need to celebrate it. Now I'm not talking about getting crazy, screaming, yelling, having a party, whatever, over something that feels that small, But you need to notice for your child that they succeeded at that and that they should feel really proud, you know, you need to call attention to that success so that it's registered in their brain, and it can breed more success. So you've got to notice the small things and the big things. I used to do when my kids were younger.

Penny Williams [00:17:16]: Sometimes I would just surprise them with pizza and ice cream sundaes for dinner, and they'd be like, oh, what's the occasion, why are we celebrating? And I would say, you know, you guys had a great week, and I'm really proud of you. I've seen that you were really trying with this or that, and I just wanted to celebrate you. And it makes our kids feels so good, so good. And all I did was probably add ice cream to a night where we might have already had pizza anyway. Right? Because Pizza is easy, and sometimes that's what we have to do. But I was making the effort to notice and call attention to the fact that I saw them, I saw their effort, and I was proud of them, and it makes a huge difference for our kids. So there's a few things that you can take action on here. Right? I want you to start making more opportunities for success.

Penny Williams [00:18:15]: I want you to start thinking about how you can accommodate and change things that you're already doing to make sure your child can succeed at them. And I want you to start noticing successes with your child, all of them, the small, the big, the medium, just celebrate your kids and their effort and what they love, and they will have more successes because the wiring in their brain is going to make it happen. If you have any questions about this, I always encourage you to reach out to me on the website parentingadhdinaautism.com, and I want to support you in any way that I can with this. The show notes for this episode will be at parentingadhdandautism.com/248 for episode 248. And I hope that you'll go there and connect with my resources and be able to learn more about helping your child and yourself to be able to feel better and do better. And I will see you on the next episode. Take good care. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast.

Penny Williams [00:19:33]: If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com and at thebehaviorrevolution.com.

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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About the show...

I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

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