Saturday, January 30, 2016

Their Behaviors Are Not The Whole Picture

Everyday I am fortunate to smooth the way for kiddos who are just wired different and are labeled with behavior and emotional needs or autism. Being a parent who raised a son with behavior needs myself helps me realize the difficult road these student's parents walk. The truth is it is a daily hell not just from their children's actions but the exhaustion and judgement they endure from others.

It is so easy to judge other parents for not doing it right. But when you see a youngster melting down or tantruming in a grocery store you don't have a measuring stick to know if this is an improvement in behavior from tantrums that were more severe in the past. With nothing to compare it to, we tend to jump to the conclusion that these parents are allowing these behaviors and just don't care. The truth is these parents are mortified. Mortified with not being able to help their little ones live a calmer life. Mortified that others are witnessing and judging not only their kid but them as well.

Most parents get breaks from their kids when they go visit friends or as they get involved in activities and sports. Even work and daycare is a time we are away from each other for a few hours. But with kids who aren't in control of their behaviors and emotions parents don't get those breaks. Even if a child is invited over to someone's house or at school I used to dread the call that he was horrid again. The calls got so bad that I changed my ringer to the doom Beethoven ring as I called it. Dun, Dun, Dun, Dunnnnnn. Even extended family get burned out trying to support these families. Families break apart and loneliness sets in. Forget keeping babysitters that are willing to watch these kids.

Too often we get parents at the middle school who feel pounded and beat up by those of us in education. It can be challenging to work up the courage to come and sit through one more meeting listening to the gory details of our kids bad choices. These parents are doing the best they can with the tools and resources they possess. Partnering with them and supporting them is key. It got so bad for me with my own son that I, a special ed teacher myself, stopped attending IEP meetings when he got to middle school. This was not because I didn't care but because I felt helpless to change my son's behaviors and beat up by the negative judgements. This is not meant to beat up schools either. We do our best to work with parents and support them and their students. But this is a frustrating situation for everyone. Even with the best strategies some kids just struggle in life.

It is never hopeless. But it can sure feel hopeless and unending when parents are in the trenches trying to love their kids in spite of their behaviors. Looking at this as an empty nest mom I have so many regrets for things I would have handled differently but also so many smiles for the way my son loved in his own way. He may have been the biggest challenge in school and at home but he loved deeper than anyone I have ever known. I only wish I would have embraced his incredible gifts instead of focusing so much on his 'in your face' behaviors.

In Him,

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