Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Do Not Need Your Two Cents

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Throwing your two cents in when it comes to special needs parenting is less than helpful.  Even more so if it's coming from someone who has zero clue on what life with a child who has special needs is like.   Naturally most parents face a multitude of well-intentioned advice about parenting from let them cry it out to make sure they eat their veggies.

The list is really endless, however any ounce of typical parenting advice is thrown out the window if you have a child with special needs.  There is no parenting book for this, there is no right or wrong way, there is only doing the best you can do.   So when someone comes at us with "advice," more commonly known as parental criticisms,  we just want to spit and scream.

Noah is a very impatient person at times.  What does that look like exactly?  Well visualize that the line to get on the train at the zoo is really long.  But you know he must get on it or he'll have a meltdown, but also visualize that waiting more than two minutes for his turn will cause him to scream and have a big full blown meltdown, with arms and legs waiving wildly even being restrained in a five-point harness in his wheelchair. And you realize your wait time is closer to twenty minutes rather than the two minutes Noah allows.  The parent next you looks down at your child having this colossal fit and says, "he could use a little discipline.  Looks like he just can't wait his turn." 

Or you allow your child to watch too much television that's why he can't sit up on his own, or maybe he'd learn to eat solid foods if you actually fed him things that were tasty and not organic.  Noah wouldn't gag so much if you gave him more exposure to the world.  Or the best one yet... he'd learn to walk if you had stronger faith and believed in God, (without obviously knowing anything of my beliefs).

I've never had a desire to tell another parent how to go about parenting.  Ever.  Your kids - your decisions, plain and simple.   So, what causes people to throw in their two cents when it comes to a parent of a special needs child?  Outsiders somehow think that your child is fixable, or out of control and as the parent you're obviously doing something wrong.  You must be the root of the problem that your child is experiencing or exhibiting.

It's likely easier to pin the child's difficulties on the parent than it is to try to understand and accept that some things are beyond anyone's control.  When you criticize a parent of a special needs child you are simply minimizing their parenting efforts, all that they endure in a day, and are sending the signal that you have little respect for how truly hard they are trying. 

Ask yourself, what you can do instead?  What words could you chose that would be helpful and loving?

See a mom struggling with an upset child who is throwing a tantrum?  First don't let your assumption be the behavior that you are witnessing stems from a lack of good parenting.  Ask if there is something you could do to help.  Can you let them go ahead of you in line?  Could you celebrate that they found something that calmed their child - even if that sometimes meant hours of television?  Or commend them for the countless hours it takes them to spoon feed their child purees three times a day.   Or even tell them, it's okay that he doesn't walk now, but don't ever stop having hope, because every day holds the possibility of a miracle.


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.