Are You Responsible?
For hurting the feelings of some parents? Daily, I listen to parents who share with me that they do not to take their child or children out in public due to fear of scrutiny from others. I find this utterly ridiculous and we should be ashamed of ourselves for making these parents feel as if they are imprisoned in their own homes due to our behavior(s) toward them because of their children’s behavior(s.) They report hearing public statements such as,
Then there are the dirty looks that convey the same feelings just with nonverbal communication and stares. Either people continue to gaze at them as they struggle with their children, or they focus their gawks strictly toward the children as if they want to discipline them on behalf of the parents. That attitude intentionally makes parents feel bad about their children. Parents love their children and want what is best for them, and making them feel troubled about their children can cause unnecessary pain and damage to their livelihoods. It is much better to focus on the positive qualities and achievements of children and parents, rather than dwelling on their shortcomings or mistakes. Besides,
This is a question that the parents want me to ask the public. Sometimes, more seasoned parents are quick to think that their way of dealing with children is the correct way for all families. They base this narcissism on how they raised their kids. As if someone died and made them "The God(s) of Parenting!" Further, who said you get to decide what another parent is doing incorrectly as they learn to handle their children. It is perfectly fine if what they decide does not align with your experiences. Society can be so busy scowling at these parents that they do not consider other factors that may contribute to these children’s, perceived, negative behaviors. For example,
• Educational disabilities
• Mental health impairments
• Neurodivergent “neurospicy” disorders
• Medical conditions
What if a child cannot help it? Ever consider that some of these children's behaviors may fall into one of the above categories, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? How about cutting these families some slack based upon your ignorance about their struggles? One thing you can do for them, however, is to help when you witness their public distress. In case you are wondering, yes, I have assisted parents in public places. I am that person who will ask a parent on an airplane, for example, if I can support them with holding their baby as they put another one to sleep. Even when I do not want to lend a helping hand to parents, (I work with children and their families daily), I make sure that I do NOT glare at them if their child is misbehaving, (i.e., temper tantrums) out in public. I remember a few elderly women on an airplane helped me with my oldest child when she was 3-months-old and sick as we flew back home. I pay it forward.
Guilty of Forgetting?
Some parents of adult children forget what it is like to have toddlers. They fail to recall the sleepless nights, picky eating, public temper tantrums, frustration, sweating, and uncertainty about their own competence and parenting skills. Neglecting to recall how hard it was to function as a working parent while feeling like a parental failure does not excuse you from bad behavior toward these parents. Parents of disruptive toddlers are anxious and constantly questioning themselves and their children with,
“Is this normal?”
When something stands out within their children that seems atypical, it is an awful feeling. To make matters worse, waiting lists for therapists, psychological testing, and special education evaluations take months to occur in order to find out if something is wrong with their child. Then, other people make them feel bad and stupid while downplaying their children's behaviors with statements such as,
The most common statement I am told is,
Did you even hear the parent's concerns? No, you did not because you were too busy ignoring their them. Before they can fully tell you about their child or children's symptoms, you were ready to tell them what you did that worked for your own children. You are not an active listener. You are not displaying empathy. You are not being a good role model. The sad part is that these parents can shut down and resort to denying symptoms about their children because you made them feel as if it was in their imagination. Some endure excessive worrying which can disrupt their lives, or they unsuccessfully try to fix the problems on their own. The children suffer. Why? Because they may not receive needed assistance in the early developmental period which may exacerbate their symptoms.
How Can We Help Distressed Parents?
It is simple. First, have some empathy! Remove your negative, automatic thoughts, and replace them with useful ones. Parenting can be a challenging task, especially when children are taxing. Here are some ways to assist, encourage, and guide parents struggling with problematic children:
• Provide Respite Care: Parents can use a break every now and then, and having a trusted friend or family member take care of their children for a few hours can be a much-needed respite.
• Offer practical help: Offer to help with household chores or errands to give the parents more time and energy to focus on their child. Offering to run errands for the family, such as picking up groceries or dropping off dry cleaning, can be a big help. Parents with young children often struggle to keep up with household chores. Offering to help with tasks like laundry, dishes, or vacuuming can be a big help.
• Bring over meals: Cooking can be time-consuming and exhausting, especially for parents with young children. Bringing over a home-cooked meal can be a thoughtful and practical gesture.
• Listen and offer support: Parenting can be overwhelming at times, and having someone to talk to can be a big relief. Simply listening and offering support can make a big difference.
• Offer to help with transportation: Parents with young children often have to juggle multiple schedules and appointments. Offering to help with transportation, such as driving children to school or extracurricular activities, can be a big help.
• Share resources: Sharing information about local parenting resources, such as parenting classes, playgroups, or support groups, can be a valuable resource for parents.
• Encourage the parents to seek professional help: Parents of aggressive children may benefit from the guidance of a mental health professional. Encourage them to seek counseling or therapy for themselves and their child.
• Offer to help with research: Researching and finding resources that may be helpful for the family can be time-consuming. Offer to help the parents research support groups, parenting classes, or other resources that may be available in their community.
• Provide a safe and calm environment: If possible, offer a calm and safe environment for the child to play in. This can give the parents a break and may help the child feel more comfortable.
• Listen and offer support: Parents of aggressive children may feel isolated or judged. Simply listening to their concerns and offering support can be helpful.
• Encourage self-care: Caring for an aggressive child can be exhausting and stressful. Encourage the parents to take care of themselves and to prioritize self-care, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with friends.
Give These Parents A Break
If you have never had a child with troublesome behaviors, consider yourself lucky. Supporting parents, especially those of challenging children, is not going to hurt you. It is not easy on these parents and it truly does "take a village" to raise a child. When encountering these families in public, remember, you do not know their story. Use your knowledge and insight while respecting their boundaries and feelings. Every child is different, and what worked for your child or children, may not work for another. Assist parents with finding out what works for their family and to stay positive and patient throughout the process. Even small acts of kindness can make a big difference in the lives of parents with young children.