It never ceases to amaze me how many people take it upon themselves to offer you advice about how to raise or discipline your own child. It really is mind-boggling.
Like the time my next door neighbour told me as I was packing my child into our car out the front of our house, that she looked tired. Little did she know that my daughter had JUST woken up after a two hour nap.
Or that we really should have her toilet trained by now as it will make life so much easier.
Then there are the (well meaning) members of my own family who insist on telling me that smacking my child is an ‘ok’ form of discipline. They tell me I am not hard enough on her, she doesn’t think I am angry enough. A little smack will let her know that you mean business. I mean, really? What the hell do you know about my child? And are you really telling me that you want me to teach my child not to hit others, by giving her a little smack myself? Can you really hear how crazy that sounds?
It is almost like a rite of passage that people feel they have to offer you suggestions about how to best meet the needs of your child.
There are days when you really do need the advice of others, but why is it so difficult for others to understand, that if we want your advice, we will ask for it!
Sometimes, it really can be useful. More often than not though, it leaves us feeling hurt, disheartened and thinking that we are not doing a good enough job on our own.
So can I just say at this point, that for the last 12 years I have worked with challenging children of all types and their families. When I taught in London I would come home daily covered in bruises, as I yet again had to therapeutically restrain another child who was having a meltdown or displaying uncontrollable aggression.
I once had a chair thrown at me down a stairwell and it hit me right in the head. Then there was the time I stopped a 10 year old boy from committing suicide by jumping out of a three story building. I have taught and managed some of the most challenging and emotionally disturbed children, and sadly I have too many stories to tell.
Many of them had suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse. They were constantly neglected and had witnessed more violence and crime, than you or I could ever imagine to see in our entire lifetime. Those children have spat on me, kicked me, slapped and sworn in my face more times than I care to mention.
It goes without saying that over those 4 years I drank A LOT of wine!
More recently I have also worked with extremely challenging children, who come from very loving, caring and supportive family backgrounds. Ironically – the behaviours displayed are exactly the same.
The main difference I see is the heartache and pain on the parent’s faces, as they try to manage their child the best they can, with the skills and information that they have.
So many of the parents I see are broken: emotionally worn down and on the brink of despair. I have seen relationships fall apart, and people lose their jobs as they constantly have to take time away from work because of their child’s behaviour.
When I begin working with a child and family, I try not to go in with a preconceived idea about how they will present. Often these kids come with a file as long as a Harry Potter novel, and an extensive history of negative behaviours however; I like to give them the benefit of the doubt.
We start our relationship fresh and positive, and expectations begin, and remain, at the very highest level.
When I work with parents I tell them that they are the experts on their child. They know them better than anyone else. When I need to know anything, be assured that you will be the first people I will talk to.
So the next time, a well-meaning member of our society at your local supermarket, or even someone in your friendship circle or family tries to give you advice, please remember this:
- Nobody on this planet knows or understands your child better than YOU!
- Trust your relationship with your child – they will NOT stop loving you because you discipline them.
- It is your choice to discipline your child the way that you feel is best for them.
- It is ok to say to people “Thanks for your advice, but I really don’t want to speak about this anymore.” When the aforementioned well-meaning family member gave me toilet training advice, I politely responded with – “Thanks, but we will let you know when we think our daughter is ready”.
- Don’t spend even one second worrying about the lady at Coles who tells you that your child looks cold, or hungry, or in need of a good talking to!
- If you really do need advice, seek professional help. That’s what you pay them for.
- You can’t control what others will say and think, but you can control your own thoughts and emotions. Take in the information that particularly appeals to you or is useful and flush the rest out of your brain for good.
- And in the words of a very clever cat – how come he gets it when so many others do not?
Be who you are and say how you feel. For those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind – By Dr. Seuss
Do you ever find yourself receiving unsolicited advice from strangers or even people you know? Please SHARE your experience in the comments below.