Friday, November 7, 2014

Think before you speak.

I read on the news last night about a young woman (though at my age I'd equate her to a girl) who felt the need to approach a parent and tell her to calm her young child down. This child, from my understanding, was apparently in the midst of a temper tantrum. For her very out of line behavior, the interloper was rewarded with a punch in mouth. While I certainly don't condone the mother being violent with this young woman, I thought I would tackle this subject from the perspective of a mother who has had people speak about the behaviors of her child in public.

My blog has always been fairly jovial, and it borders on the absurd, so it might surprise some of you to know that my daughter has some issues of which she is currently being evaluated for. My daughter, C, is a very lively and sweet girl. She also never stands still, can't calm down, and becomes over stimulated, which results in meltdowns where she can't control her emotions. I've know for quite some time she was different, but there was a hope that she'd outgrow some of these behaviors. She hasn't.

I don't know what the child or parent's journey was before they walked into that Nordstrom store and got in a confrontation with another shopper. What I do know is that most young children have temper tantrums in their lives. Some outgrow it before or around two, and some take a bit longer to emotionally mature. That's really what a temper tantrum is- it's a lack of emotional maturity without the means to communicate frustration. A young child having a temper tantrum is completely normal.

Of course, you wouldn't know this from the various comments I've seen plastered on the web about the above situation. There was actually a woman who responded that if you "can't control your children" that you should get a babysitter. She wasn't talking about going to a fancy restaurant, or a movie theater either. She was talking about any situation where your child could possibly act poorly in public. She included, by the way, children with possible intellectual disabilities in her assessment. I won't even pretend that her comments didn't infuriate me, because they did.

No one can control the actions of another human being. As a parent, all you can do is work with your children and hope that the lessons you teach them stick. Children, much like full grown adults, act up. It is a wholeheartedly ridiculous standpoint to assume that a child would never act up in public. What you're seeing is a snap shot. A random temper tantrum in public doesn't mean that a child is a lost cause, or a parent is not doing their job because a child has a moment of frustration.

Of course, we're speaking of "normal" children. Some children have even less control of their emotions. I can tell you from personal experience that it's a crap shoot as to how a child with special needs will act in a public situation. As a parent of a child who is struggling, I have to walk out the door everyday prepared for anything. My daughter, C, has good days, and she has bad days. She tries really hard to control herself, but sometimes it's just too much for her.

Please understand, I'm not making excuses for my child. I don't go around announcing to the world that my daughter has obstacles, this particular situation notwithstanding. The truth is that I'm told that I'm very hard on my daughter. I do correct her, and I don't let her get by with poor behavior. That being said, as her mother, I have to make a judgement call each and every time she's having a hard time in public. Is this because she's overwhelmed, or is this because she's just being stubborn and obstinate? I have to make a decision based on how she's acting, what's she doing, where we are, how long we've been out, and even who we're around. Then, and only then, can I respond to her behavior, and act accordingly. Sometimes I take her out of the situation, sometimes I distract her, and sometimes I comfort her.

Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you this because my child doesn't have a sign around her neck saying, " I have sensory issues." or, "I have a hard time with large crowds... but only on certain days." She looks like every other child you'd see on the streets. In fact, on a good day, you might see her and never know that there is anything going on with her, which really is the meat of this whole situation.

As I wrote above, you're seeing but a moment in time. You don't know this child, and you don't know this parent. You have no way of knowing whether this is an isolated incident or not. Approaching a parent, who I promise you is just as upset as you are over their child having a tantrum, does nothing but escalate the situation. In fact, you're taking time away from the parent who is trying to deal with their child, to deal with you.

My daughter is only three, and in that short time, I've already had people act inappropriately in relation to my daughter's behavior. I had one woman who actually told me how to correct my daughter who was upset because her employee actually touched my child's arm. I had two set of parents talk about my child in front of me not knowing that she was my child. You're not helping my daughter by undermining her parents, or by talking about her in a public place. You're being rude and judgmental.

In closing, I'll tell you of a situation I had in a pharmacy that was done right. C, her father, and I were waiting on a prescription for C. On this particular day, C was fairly restless. We were doing all the things that we could to keep her under control. We were walking with her around the store, we were trying to distract her, we were carrying her around the store to calm her. Finally, she ended up standing at my side with me holding her hand. She started to get upset because she has a hard time standing still.

As I'm dealing with her frustration, a older man behind me asked how old she was...was she two, he asked? I replied that she was three, and I stood there literally waiting for judgment. Three year old children are supposed to be over tantrums, isn't that what everyone tells you?

There was no judgement from this man. He smiled in a knowing way, followed by a nod of understanding. How nice it was to be understood and not judged. How nice it was that my child wasn't assumed to be a brat, or her father and I were horrible parents. How kind of him to acknowledge, albeit silently, that we were doing the best we could.

Thank you, sir for your compassionate attitude, and thank you for thinking before you speak.

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