Socially unacceptable

When children aren’t socially accepted!

Lately, I have heard from a few friends that are struggling. They are struggling to be parents to a socially unacceptable child. People around them are often unsupportive and judgemental.

The friends that I know who are struggling are parents, sometimes single mothers doing the best they can while working and studying. They are good mothers; actually, they are great mothers. Who love their children and do all they can to provide for their children in every area. Some of these friends happen to have a child that doesn’t fit into the category of socially acceptable. That’s not to say that the child is awful or malicious, but struggles with social interactions with other children, or has anger issues, perhaps ADHD.

I feel strongly in this area, because being a mother of three, I have had one or more of these children. I have stood in the firing line of angry glares and negative judgement, because of my child’s behaviour. Those times did nothing to support me and nothing to help me as a mother. They didn’t help me learn any coping strategies or how to deal with my child’s behaviour any better. They just caused me to feel ashamed and isolated. I have spoken to friends who have had similar experiences with their children. They have expressed how they often don’t want to go out in public because of this societal reaction. 

Now, this causes me more than a little annoyance. I feel myself getting heated when on this topic. Then I want to share in some way a message that I think all people should know and adopt as their go-to when dealing with life.

It’s simple really, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.‘ Don’t judge a parent or a child by your first impression of them. By the first time, you see a child at a playground or in a gym class. Don’t judge the parents by the child’s behaviour and better still don’t be judgemental.

Support goes a lot further than our judgement. A young solo mother can learn a lot more, by someone who actually befriends her and uncritically offers advice and support. If you see a parent struggling with their child’s behaviour, why not approach them and spark up a conversation? Offer a smile, some understanding. If it’s your child that has been the supposed victim in the situation, then use the case as a teaching time. Empower your own child without being punitive towards the other child. Teach your child not to be a victim, but also to be able to be an understanding person. If the parent isn’t stepping in, perhaps they don’t know how to, or they’re embarrassed, it doesn’t make them a bad parent. It doesn’t make their kid a lousy kid. Sometimes children with ADHD, will continually get into trouble and demonstrate bullying behaviour. So why not offer compassion? It’s a lot harder to be the parent or the child who is continually learning things the hard way, then it is to come into occasional contact with the child who is manic and loud. There are always ways of dealing with the situation to be an advocate for your own child without pointing fingers and blaming. Like I said before this won’t help anybody. It’s much more effective to teach your own child how to stand up for themselves while being aware that others are different.

I speak from experience, having been the young mother who felt judged and shunned, because of her child’s behaviour and then who felt upset and angry at society’s reaction. It’s not like I can or should have to, go out with a placard that state’s all that I’ve done and am doing as a parent to counter socially unacceptable behaviour. Parenting books check I’ve read a ton of them, brainwave trust seminars, I was practically camped out at every talk. 

Behaviour help, special diet, reward charts, discipline measures, you name it I’d tried it. I worried that my child was different and that he wouldn’t learn the socially acceptable skills necessary to make friends. I worried that he would never be a naturally empathic person. Which I couldn’t understand, because I felt that I had tons of empathy.  I was young, and the more I felt judged, the harder it was for me to be understanding to my child. After being a mother to two more children, I realised that you have to role model these qualities, rather than assume your child has naturally got them.  Telling your child how to be compassionate doesn’t work. When people weren’t being understanding of me. I felt continually embarrassed and ashamed and sometimes resentful towards my child. I then felt internally guilty for resenting my child. None of this was helpful. The other side of this was seeing my child constantly suffer because he didn’t have friends. He didn’t have play dates or get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers.

Now my child has grown up and left home and guess what he’s an incredible human being with a wealth of understanding and empathy. Sometimes I worry that he is two considerate of other people’s feelings. One because I am naturally that way and two because he has a fear of rejection now. When he has friends, he doesn’t want to lose them and often tries to please. So now his journey is to learn boundaries and be able to stand up for himself. He’s great at standing up for others. He has a group of good friends now. He’s still learning, but who isn’t.

So, I wanted to write this article to appeal to people’s better nature. To be more understanding and tolerant of others. Because there isn’t such a thing as a bad kid, a rotten apple. Every person wants to feel liked, loved and accepted. It’s the lack of these things that causes bad behaviour and sometimes people that repeatedly do bad things can be created. The younger a person is the more chance there is to counter this behaviour.

Having had these experiences and having certain friends who have children that fit into a similar category, I have had the chance to do a social experiment. I can be the person that offers support and see firsthand how their child reacts to me. When I respond to them with firmness but with kindness. I can see how when a child feels liked, they in turn like you. So even if you are providing them with boundaries, which they may not like at the time, they still feel safe and happy in your company as you are not looking at them as a bad child. This makes a difference. My child would often behave worse when he felt unliked. I would be able to pick up on those who didn’t like him and guess what none of us acts well when we feel unliked. 

So, it makes a difference to be that person in a child’s life that is supportive. The child can relax and not be on the defensive the whole time. They get a chance to display their good qualities, and they shine when they receive a positive response to their behaviour. If they have a moment and don’t behave well, they’re a child, they are learning, Still like them the next day. This is how we teach compassion. This is how the parent is helped.

If you judge you are part of the problem and are helping to create the people that you have a problem with. It makes me sad to think of parents and children suffering. Parents are staying at home because they’re afraid of other’s reactions towards their child if their child misbehaves. Children who feel like they are in the wrong all the time, with no constructive guidance.

Perhaps I’ve been there too, the person that judged the parents who weren’t doing things the way I thought they should be done. When I wasn’t a parent, and I had so many ideas of how I would parent.

When I became a parent, I had to figure out that each child is their own person, and often they don’t conform to the ideals that you have. Or perhaps you have one easy child, and then you believe yourself to be a superior parent somehow. You got it right, and others are getting it wrong. If you never have another child, perhaps you will always believe this.

Suppose you have another child, and especially if they are close in age, you will see how, in that case, each child is different. It’s impossible to keep everybody happy all of the time. If you’re that parent that has angel children and seems to get everything right, that’s great but don’t be smug about it. Use the time you save from not having to manage behaviour to lend a hand to a friend who needs some support.

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