I saw this meme some weeks ago on one of my favorite FaceBook groups, The Mind Unleashed. But I was appalled when I read through the responses to it. How could these supposedly introspective, forward-thinking adults be so callous and thoughtless when it came to the most precious resource of our culture…our children…our very future?
But the cold hard truth is that as adults and as a society, we have two standards of behavior…one for us and much stricter one for our children.
We will not share our cell phones, tablets or laptops with a friend or sometimes even a partner, but we demand that our children share their toys, even favorites, with the kid they just met on the playground.
Because the cold hard fact is…we are more worried about what other people think of our parenting style than we are the mental health and happiness of our child. Don’t like it? Tough, you know I always speak the truth.
We will rant, rave and throw a right proper fit about our partner…our job…the line in the store. But the moment our four year old starts to fuss because we won’t buy them the toy they want, we spout ancient ‘wisdom’ like…
- I’ll give you something to cry about.
- You ain’t too old for your wants to hurt you.
- Life ain’t fair so get used to it.
Do you know WHY life is not fair? Do you realize why you don’t have the drive, ambition and courage to go after your dreams?
Because your parents did that to you. That does NOT make it right. We have benefit of a century of psychology and child development that shows us better, more enlightened ways of raising our children to be happier, better adjusted and ultimately more successful adults. Yet with all that knowledge we continue to focus on the negatives, the old ways, seeing the problems, the behaviors…and not the root causes of them.
Before I received the diagnosis of high-functioning autism for my beloved PanKwake, I read everything I could get my hands on, looking for my own answers (working your way through the NHS system for these things takes a long time…time that our children do not have…two precious years almost for us). One of the books was on a form of autism called Pathological Demand Avoidance. It changed everything about how I saw and dealt with my child.
One misconception about autism is that meltdowns are willful manipulations and temper tantrums to get their way. Yes, control is a major root issue with those on the spectrum. Heck, control is an issue for most of us. But this book made the point that meltdowns are not temper tantrums, because even if you give them what they want…it often does not stop the meltdown once it has begun. The book said that in fact meltdowns are more like panic attacks. That proverbial light bulb went off in my head.
I remembered a time three or four years before, after my miscarriage and during the worst of my depression. I had been summoned to mandatory back-to-work appointment, though at the time I could not really go more than a couple of blocks from our apartment without bursting into tears. After all my effort, the woman I was supposed to meet was a no show…without any explanation. It took all the courage I had to even approach the security guard and ask him to call her one more time before I left.
When I did finally leave, I burst into tears. I remember thinking, “No matter how hard I try to get better, no one wants to help me.” The tears turned to hiccuping sobs. My heart raced. I could not breath. I walked a mile and a half home because I could not stand to be in an enclosed bus with other people. People on the street stared at…or away from me.
I was forty-five years old. I held two college degrees…and more certificates than you could shake a stick at. I had been through Dialectal Behavior Therapy and had a whole tool box full of coping strategies. And I walked home crying with hundreds or thousands of strangers looking at me like I was crazy. That was the worst panic attack of my life.
And as I read those words I finally understood my child…if I could not control myself, why the fuck did I expect a six-year old little girl without any of those skills, education or self-awareness to do so? It instantly changed how I see her behaviors…and that is the key…her behaviors are not her. They are reactions to distress…lack of control…and fear. That is why shame, threats and even punishment will never work. They will only destroy her…her unique, beautiful and magnificent spirit and potential.
If you are a parent, I hope you will at least give what I said serious thought. Reconsider if your methods are building your child up…or tearing him down.
And if you are not a parent, if like most of those ignorant people, who responded to that meme, you are a spectator, a by-stander, remember the next time you see a child ‘misbehave’…it is non-ya…none of your fucking business.
You don’t know that child’s issues…you don’t know the stress of that parent either. Either turn away like those people on that street did to me, or if you truly are blessed of the goddess a calming and understanding smile and nod…could change that parent and child’s whole day.
That is the power of perspective…paradigm…and your gift alone to give a child in distress.