Pretty much every time I see a parent somewhere “in the public eye,” dealing with a child or with children that seem entirely unruly, I ask myself a simple, obvious question. Is this person, or are these people, “a bad parent,” or “bad parents?”
A lot of folks would hold this to be more ore less a “self-evident fact.” I have a different perspective—which I have to acknowledge has changed somewhat as a pretty direct result of having an Autistic child.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here, I have pretty much never assumed that one or more parents or other guardians were bad strictly on the basis of the behavior of their child or children. Even so though, having “ongoing dealings with” an Autistic child has only caused me to become stronger in my previous conviction to the effect this is not necessarily the case. Put another way I don’t start with the assumption that they’re inherently or by nature, bad parents.
The simple reality is, if you can look at the folks “running the asylum” and come to the conclusion they are honestly, earnestly trying to deal with those over whom they have charge, yet appearing to fail miserably, maybe it’s time to reconsider what’s going on.
To be fair, what they’re dealing with may be as simple as a child in need of a different kind of parenting—in point of fact I would, contend that this is almost always the case, for a variety of different reasons. That being said, those reasons, and the change on their part that will make the person in their care more “manageable,” may be far from a simple thing with which to deal.
In my case, my “most difficult” child, is moderately Autistic. Being fair, he’s a great kid who I love dearly. One of the interesting “traits” of Autism, I have addressed in past articles, to wit, Autism is “spectral” in nature (not a “single thing”), and the “nature of” that “spectrum” is that no two Autistic people “at the same place on the spectrum” are there as a result of the same “symptoms.”
What this means, at least in part, is that two Autistic children (even if their “level of Autism” is supposedly the same or very similar) will not exhibit the same behaviors. As such, you cannot “handle” all Autistic folks (nor even the ones that are in very similar places on the spectrum) in the same way and expect to achieve either the same or good results.
I’m going to go “out on a limb” here, and suggest that this is true for far more conditions than Autism. In fact, I would expect it to generally be the case whether those conditions were genetic or strictly behavioral in nature.
What makes all of this worse is, not all parents are even highly intelligent, much less—even among those who are relatively intelligent—specialists in the “handling and care of” those who would be considered “abnormal” by society at large (or the specific communities responsible for designating them so). This at least suggests that the folks dealing with such children, are going to spend a great deal of time puzzling over what approach(es) will work to help their children to have successful lives.
Now you might be tempted to think that the above statement, I.e. “puzzling over what approach(es) will work to help their children to have successful lives,” translates to, “making their children behave in socially acceptable and appropriate ways in public now.” If you do believe that, allow me to assure you that you’re mistaken.
I have long held the belief that, “When doing things properly, parents aren’t raising children, they’re raising adults.” That means that what all parents should be concerned about, is who their children turn out to be in the long run.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have both a need and a responsibility to keep our children “in check and out of trouble” as children, but that our ultimate goal ought to be to teach them what it means to be good and responsible adults.
It’s important to realize that this process may not look as expected—most particularly if the child is, say, Autistic.
By way of example, none of my older children were allowed large amounts of “screen time.” My youngest however, does get more than most would count acceptable or correct. Why? Well, because the youngest has major issues with “lingual delay” in various regards.
I’m not what one would consider a “super conversational” person to begin with; further, I’d be the first to acknowledge that I don’t tend to be conversant in a great deal of the “language of the day” (somewhat on purpose). I generally understand when people use it, but don’t tend to do so myself. As such, if I want my child to understand and know how to respond to others, I have to somewhat, “count on others” to help with that process.
You may think actual interactions to be better, but in reality, “screen time” works better, as I can somewhat control to what he is exposed, and talk to him about the parts that are problematic without upsetting folks.
What’s the point of all that I’ve said up to now? Well, it’s that a good many people would look at my “parenting style” and find me wanting based on what they see me to be doing and how my child behaves at present. In this, I’m sure I’m far from alone.
Sometimes the “problem” perceived is unconventional parenting, sometimes it’s that the parent or parents is or are struggling to figure out what methods to use when dealing with their “unconventional child or children.”
I wanted to take a moment to look at this from a “different angle,” too.
For those parents out there who are at their wit’s end dealing with “problem children,” you need to know that you are not (by necessity at least) “bad parents.”
A quick anecdote, and I’ll call this piece complete.
I was in one of my son’s favorite “play places” here in my local area. While there, I saw a child that displayed many hallmarks of mild to lightly moderate Autism (maybe even more “moderate” than was easily recognizable). I have become acutely aware of such children since dealing with my son. I watched him for a time, to be sure of what I was seeing.
After a time (more than half an hour, probably more than an hour), I politely inquired of the mother as to whether or not the young man (around two years of age) had been diagnosed Autistic.
His mother looked almost shocked, and said something I assume was intended to assuage my concern (I wasn’t concerned, just curious). I watched as she and—I assume—her husband worked to corral the young man I watched him do many of the things my own son had done at his age (and before I knew how to deal with him). And I came to realize, they probably were regular recipients of at least disapproving stares, based on the behavior of their son.
To them, I wanted to say, had I felt able, “You are not bad parents.”
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.