Friday, January 10, 2014

Is Your Child Just Bad?

     Many times as a parent, I contemplated this question.  Is my child just inherently bad?  The answer I came up with many times ranged from YES >NO>MAYBE> and then as I learned, I settled on NO.

     I have now parented for 8 years.  I was blessed with lovely twin boys whom when they came into this world I imagined picture perfect scenarios.  I had plenty of hands on experience along with a basic studied knowledge of child psychology. 

     As long as I survived babyhood, with it's sleepless nights, crying jags that lasted hours, never ending diaper rash and the fact that most of my time would be spent with two identities that could not carry on an adult conversation and could care less that I had the stomach flu, the rest should be a cakewalk.

     I don't mean to undermine the pains of parenting, but my experience had showed me that as my children grew, life would get a little easier.

     Exhibit A: Sensory Processing Disorder
     Exhibit B: High Strung Temperaments
     Exhibit C: Pandas
     Exhibit D: Two boys, same age, different needs, under the same roof.
     Exhibit E: A mom who thought she knew much and as it turned out, still had a lot to learn.

     The good news is, despite my many errors,  my kids are doing quite well.

     In order to achieve this though, I had to learn much.  In order to learn, I had to abandon paradigm's that I had ascribed to from some of the greatest psychologist's of our time. This was not easy, this was free falling. Nonetheless, my gut was telling me that the time-tested traditional parenting approaches were just not going to cut it here.

     So I ditched most of what I had learned, and started over.  With one exception: All children need to be loved.  All children have that inherent need. To be understood and accepted.  I don't think anybody would argue that point.  Figuring out how to do that for my children was the mystery.

     I have done that. Met the needs of my very needy children. Loved  them the way they needed to be loved.   It was not easy. I failed a lot. I doubted a lot.  Eventually though, I found success.  It did not happen overnight.  It was not linear. In fact, it often came with one step forward, two steps back. Sometimes three.  I pressed on.  I refused to give up.

     Having learned what I had to learn, I see children through a very different set of eyes than I did 8 years ago.  When I see a child whom is misbehaving in an over the top ridiculous way, I no longer think to myself, "That child should be punished", or "That child is just a spoiled brat".  I am more inclined to think, "What need does that child have that is not being met?".  Needs come in many shapes and sizes.  I had to learn that as well.

     I am in a profession that I come into a contact of a variety of people.  I am saddened and amazed when I hear a elementary teacher complain about a child whom he/she has deemed, "just plain bad".  Because, after learning all that I have learned, I no longer believe that children are "just plain bad". So I often find myself quoting Howard Glasser, "If a child could do well, they would".  I believe that. 

     I can easily see though why one wouldn't.  After all, I was forced to put on a different set of eyes.  Think a new way.  The world is just beginning to understand disorders like Sensory Processing Issues, ODD,  ADHD, High-strung Temperaments/and what is truly behind them. Pandas, a neuropsychiatric disorder is lending  great understanding to the connection between the auto-immune system and mood/movement disorders.

     So I challenge the parent, teacher, babysitter, baseball coach.....when you see a child who is acting consistently out of the norm...pretty much unable to achieve/maintain success, rather then label that child as bad, ask yourself the simple question, "If a child could do well, why wouldn't they?".