Have you ever been in the grocery store and seen a child misbehaving? They could be a toddler, a school-aged child, or even a teen. We’ve all seen it–and maybe questioned it, too. Why is that child acting that way? Where did they learn that kind of behavior? What is wrong with their parents? You’ve probably judged a parent or two, as well. But is that really fair?
I am a parent of a child who is neurodivergent. My child probably doesn’t act like your child. He is impulsive and he is angry and he acts out on his emotions. Is he a bad child? No, he isn’t. Am I a bad parent? No, I’m not. And please, I beg of you, don’t cast aspersions on my ability to parent just because my child doesn’t always follow the societal norm of what we believe is a well-behaved child.
Some days are good, great even. We could go days, or even weeks without a problem. But just when things seem to go well, boom, the script flips and I find myself entangled in a war of words with my child. He will be blatantly disrespectful to me. He will argue with me; he may throw something across the room or kick a chair. This mostly happens at home, but it has happened in public too.
Like I said, he is neurodivergent. He has the diagnoses of ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). These are defined medical diagnosis. But the random stranger on the street doesn’t know that. When they see him yelling at me at Target because I wouldn’t get him the toy that he wanted, they don’t know that this is our daily life. No one understands the struggles that we go through. Yet, people will roll their eyes. They will stare. More often than not, they think that this is poor parenting. That is simply not the case.
I am a good mom. No, I am a great mom. I have nurtured my children and loved them and cared for them since the moment that they were born. My parenting for my children has been the same, until it couldn’t be. I have had to adapt for my child who is different from the others. I am not permissive with him, and I do not let him walk all over me. Instead, I have to employ techniques that have been taught to me by professionals. These are things that the average Joe won’t recognize or likely understand.
When I walk away from him when he is arguing, that isn’t lazy parenting. I haven’t given up. I am doing what is right for our situation. We have been educated and trained on how to react. You don’t know my struggle or anyone else’s. Parents don’t need to explain their choices and their parenting techniques to anyone. We shouldn’t have to feel the need to defend ourselves. Every mom and dad is doing the best they can with the cards they are dealt.
You never know when someone is truly struggling. Learn to give each other a little grace. Don’t judge. Put yourself in their shoes. Are you doing the best that you can to be a good parent? So are they. It’s just not what you are used to. Consider yourself lucky. The next time you see a parent who seems to be having a hard time, give them a smile. Offer a word of encouragement. Compliment them. Those kind words could make all the difference.