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Seven Habits – A Shift in Perspective

by Mary Mazzoni on June 15, 2011

Ever read Stephen Covey’s classic  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?  It’s full of practical wisdom for living a life of purpose and meaning.

As we support our kids in preparing for life after IEPs, the 7 habits are a touchstone we can return to from time to time.

Covey suggests that habits play a powerful role in the quality of our lives.  Our habits develop over time in response to the choices we make, and our character is formed by our habits.

3 Elements

According to Covey, habits consist of three elements:

  • Knowledge – which allows us to make informed choices
  • Skill – which gives us the ability to do what we choose
  • Desire – which provides motivation to do what we choose (even when it’s difficult)


This site strives to increase your knowledge base so that you and your child can make informed decisions.  But you’ll need to discern what information is relevant for your unique circumstances at this particular time.  It’s not necessary (or possible) to learn everything all at once. Set priorities and pace yourself!


Life After IEPs also provides resources to help your child build important skills.  Again, discernment is needed.  What skills are the most important for your child to learn now?  In future posts, we’ll look at ways to prioritize skills, based on your child’s future goals and current skill levels.


A key element in planning for life after IEPs is desire. Preparing for the future requires effort.  It means taking time to research options and working hard to master skills.  It means keeping future goals in mind, even when day to day life distracts us.  Covey suggests that to stay motivated over the long haul, we need a clear, focused desire.

Does your child  have future goals that are deeply meaningful to him or her? Are those goals based on your child’s own passions, genuine experience and solid information about what those goals entail?  The deep desire to attain these goals will be needed to motivate both you and your child to persevere when the road gets tough – as it does for everyone.

3 Stages

The Seven Habits move us through three stages or paradigms:

  • Dependence – we all begin here – relying on others to care for us
  • Independence - we learn how to make our own decisions and increasingly care for our own needs
  • Interdependence – we learn to collaborate with others to achieve what cannot be achieved alone

Whatever our children’s disabilities may be, they can learn to have a voice in their own lives, meet some of their own needs, and contribute to (as well as benefit from) mutual relationships with others.

To be honest, this often requires a paradigm shift for us, as parents.

  1. Do we view our child as someone who depends on entitlements?
  2. Do we believe our child will become “independent?”

Either of these views can be dangerously limiting.  Why?

  • Entitlements under special education law (IDEA) will end when our child graduates
  • No one – with or without a disability – is completely independent
  • Supports for which our children may be eligible as adults won’t meet all their needs
  • We ourselves cannot meet all our children’s needs
  • Adults make their own choices and take action toward their own goals
  • Mutual relationships (giving and receiving) brings joy to our lives

Our Challenge:

Let’s help our kids grow, one step at a time, toward a more self-determined, interdependent future.  Let’s teach them to set their own goals and take action for themselves. Let’s support them as they contribute to and benefit from meaningful, mutual relationships with others. Let’s enjoy the journey – and encourage each other along the way.

7 Habits

We’ll look more closely at each of Covey’s seven habits in future posts.  And we’ll consider how we can nurture these habits in ourselves and our children.  For now, I’ll simply list them here:

  • Be Proactive
  • Begin with the End in Mind
  • First Things First
  • Think Win/Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Synergize (collaborate with others to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts)
  • Sharpen the Saw (care for ourselves, learn and grow and enjoy life along the way)

Until next time, consider:  How will you “sharpen your saw”?  How will you care for and nurture yourself today? This week?  This month?

What are your thoughts about independence and interdependence?  How does this affect your parenting and your relationship with your child?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments!

Photo credit:  Michelle Kwajafa at Stock.xchng

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