Monday, March 26, 2012

The Things People Say...

I used to imagine all the horrible things people thought about my parenting and my son when we had a rough time. He's sensitive, passionate, and intense. He has a hard time processing the world around him at times, and he works really hard to deal with what his body hands him. My husband and I have worked and continue to work really hard to decipher his needs and help him develop the skills needed to both deal with but hopefully also thrive in life. It hasn't been easy, but I know it's right. I know that listening to my child's needs, respecting him as a person, and working as a team with him is the best way for him to develop into his best self.

When I've shared before the stress of what other people might think of my child, my fears have been dismissed. Well, that just doesn't matter, screw them. Yes, I agree, screw them, but the fact is it can affect his and my life despite my best efforts. No one is going to think badly of you or him. You're doing a great job. Everyone understands. No, they actually don't.

We have not been having the difficulty that we were a few months back. We know some of the ways we can set him up for success. We know some of the tools that best help him calm down. And we are working hard on continuing to develop the necessary skills. But recently, I had the opportunity to really hear what someone else thinks about my kid.

It wasn't my kid exactly. This person didn't think they were talking about my child. In fact, they went to great lengths to say that this was nothing like my child, but they don't know my child's whole story. They might as well have been talking about my child.

Their words cut. No, no this is nothing like your son. There is something wrong with this child.... He was totally out of control. He even tried to kick me....Oh but you should see him. At one point he smiled. He knows. He's doing it on purpose.... Oh yea the mother, she just won't discipline. She lets him do whatever he wants....I'd be handling that situation very differently if it was me {Insert a motion to indicate hitting a child here}... There's no reason for it, he was fine just a bit ago, clearly he's just being stubborn now.

Let me assure you and anyone else who might be wondering. No person wants to feel like that. No child chooses to be that out of control. It's not fun for them. They are not manipulating anyone; they are crying out for help. They do not need more no's in their life. They do not need condescension or sarcasm. They need a partner. They need to know that everything will be okay. They need to know that they are loved no matter what they are doing, and they need to know they will get through this. They do not need to take on the weight of your problems. They don't need to hear how you can't handle this, you don't deserve this, or how you have other things you need to be doing. They don't need to feel like an inconvenience or a problem. They are scared and lost. They need you to be the adult, take a deep breath, and separate out your own issues.

And while I'm at it. I've seen this picture on Facebook and Pinterest and wherever else these things float around, and for a while, I just felt like I was missing something...

I mean I had to be missing something because pretty much every kid I know hears "no" far more often than they could ever need to. Saying no is not how you get a better child, nor is yelling, harshly disciplining, or God forbid hitting the way you make an out of control child's behavior more controlled.

We don't make better kids but saying no, by being more authoritarian, by hitting, by isolating, by speaking disdainfully of their behavior, or by being appalled by who they are. Better kids and a better planet are rooted in compassion and in empathy. Bullying, school shootings, and all the other awful things we lament, they are not going to be fixed by strict discipline and more NO. When we start treating each other with respect and focusing on relationship, our children will watch. They will feel it and see it. They will realize it's not just for certain people, people of a certain age or color or status, instead they will know that it's for everyone.

And I am so thankful for my son and his explosiveness, because I know he has dug deep inside me and nurtured a seed of empathy that might never have grown the way it has. My son has taught me what it means to let go of my crap and really, truly meet someone where they are. When I see a child hitting, kicking, or losing it, I want to cry because my heart hurts for that child. I know that there is so much beneath the surface. If not for my son, I might have judged. I might have focused in on my or some other adult's inconvenience (c'mon, I'm out to dinner - I don't want to hear this crap) and quickly thought about where to place blame (geez, if his mother would only be a stronger disciplinarian...). Instead, I am brought to my knees by the pain and fear I can see in that child. I am humbled by the intensity of their emotion and the struggle to communicate.

So when I hear someone else talking like I heard recently, my heart breaks for the child. My heart breaks for the parents who are being admonished whether they know it or not. And my heart breaks for my son because I know exactly how people would respond if he unfortunately got overwhelmed in the wrong setting and I know what people think of who he is, even if they don't know that's who he is.

Recommended Reading: 
The Explosive Child
Raising Your Spirited Child
Unconditional Parenting
Parent2ParentU on Facebook and website


  1. Just keep writing Jamie. You'll never know how much I need you to keep writing about this.

  2. I don't have any experience with children, but I certainly appreciate your honesty and truthfulness about what you make.

  3. Wow! What awesome insights into those behaviors. Time and time again, my husband and I comment that we were SO WRONG about so many things until we had kids of our own. Thanks for sharing and keep being such a fabulous mother!

  4. I feel like I have to read some of your older posts now...
    I've really been pondering some of these things myself lately. How far can I trust my gut instinct? I've been trying to find the "truth" of what my daughter really needs. Some of what I consider my gut feeling could also be my projection and trying to protect my daughter from the things that I was afraid of as a child. Or is it that she chose me because I would understand her fragility?
    I'm glad your son has you and your husband. He deserves you.

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  6. Jamie, sometimes your posts bring me to absolute tears. I learn from your blog and it makes me truly think about how I parent. I want to always be exactly what Richie needs and I horribly admit to the "no's" once in a while...and I know I need to fix it. I think some of the no's are for obvious things like, please don't swing that toy around almost hitting your brother" LOL but I know what kind of no's your referring to. I need to pay attention more to my own issues coming out, your right. It's not about me and I think sometimes, in my weakness or fatigue, I can see how we do make it about us when we should not. My son needs me to be focused on what he needs and address those needs.

    Ben is a wonderful little boy and he is so lucky to have you as a mama.
    Again, thanks for this post...


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