Kids Are Not Defiant Little Monsters

I am tired.  Not the I-have-young-children-and-differently-wired-children-who-don’t-sleep-so-I-can’t-remember-the-last-time-I-got-a-straight-8-hours-of-sleep tired.  Not even the parenting-is-hard-for-an-introverted-mom-who-just-wants-to-go-to-the-bathroom-without-an-audience drained kind of tired.

I am sad-tired.

I am sad-tired of having to fight so hard to build compassion and understanding and acceptance.

It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult.  It seems like in this day and age when we have virtual access to people from all different time zones and cultures and abilities that our compassion and understanding should be increased.

And yet, almost daily I encounter statements of judgment and intolerance.  Judgments have been running rampant in lots of different directions lately, but I’m speaking more specifically with regard to parenting judgments and intolerance of our differently wired children (or adults, for that matter).

A parent will post on a facebook special needs group that they don’t know how to deal with their child’s behavior.  Inevitably, at least one of the responses will be something along the lines of “he just needs more discipline.”

I will be managing my daughter’s meltdown in public and overhear someone say, “I’d never let my child get away with behaving like that.”

Teachers (special education teachers!) will send home reports of kids I work with labeling them as uncooperative, defiant, “didn’t want to listen”.

Parents will bring their children into the therapy office expecting that the child “be fixed”.

Even my own nagging impulses about children and behavior can get fixated on the thought that I just must not be setting firm enough boundaries, or I must be a bad mom because my daughter has more meltdowns and behaves more oppositionally in my presence.

And I do get it.  Previously, part of me would immediately presume lack of discipline contributed to a child’s misbehavior in public.  The thought that children are controllable pervaded these inner judgments.  I assumed there was ALWAYS something that could be done to stop a child’s behavior.  I assumed that children were being disobedient by choice or because they hadn’t been taught better.

When did we decide that children are always trying to “get away with something”?  When did we determine children want to be manipulative, obstinate, uncooperative?  When did we decide to think so little of our children?

What a sad commentary on society that we immediately jump to the conclusion that our children prefer to misbehave and are power-hungry, manipulative little monsters who simply need to be “disciplined”.

Children misbehave because they do not know a different way.  Kids actually want to do well.  And if they aren’t doing well, maybe us adults should see that as a sign that they need help.  Maybe it isn’t about discipline and exerting more power.  Maybe it isn’t about being a bad kid or having bad parents.  Maybe everyone’s doing the best they can and they need help to find a different way.

Maybe we can decide to respond with compassion first and try to reach an understanding of what lies underneath the behavior.  Maybe we can be problem solvers.  And, I’ll say it again, maybe we can respond with compassion.  Always compassion.