Feb 10

There's more to 'naughty' than meets the eye

Comments (13) by Liz Dawes February 10, 2012 - 7:02 AM

From the moment my son could walk down a street, it was clear he had a total inability to understand personal safety.  He would run away, across roads or fields or playgrounds, out of sight and without looking where he was going. He did this no matter what I tried, but I persevered, hoping that vigilance and firmness would win.  It never did, and one day I lost him. For five sickening, endless minutes I searched for him, knowing how unsafe he, in particular, was.  From then, until he eventually learned how to walk safely, he wore reins. He was frequently annoyed by this and sometimes very vocal, but nothing else kept him out of harm's way.

On one occasion, as I insisted on the reins and he yelled back, I was berated in the street for restraining my son "like some kind of dog" whilst several other onlookers tutted and frowned and approved the general suggestion that I was a cruel parent harming an innocent boy. You can imagine how upsetting that was, and how frustrated I felt at not being able to explain.

The incident got me thinking. How many times have you judged a "badly behaved" child or "inappropriate" parenting? Before that experience, I made snap judgements plenty of times, and I feel ashamed when I think of them now.  If I'd been a little more considerate I may have noticed something more.

Maybe that baby screaming on the bus is teething? That toddler running round and round the cafe banging or shouting repetitively? Maybe he hasn't designed that game just to ruin your afternoon. It's just possible he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The child standing in the middle of the room covering his ears and crying loudly? That's not always a tantrum.  It might be a boy on the autistic spectrum, struggling to cope with a sensory overload.  If they are struggling with these issues, none of the parents are enjoying this challenging behaviour any more than you are.

Fortunately we are getting better at diagnosing childhood difficulties that manifest themselves in "bad" behaviour, and helping children and parents to cope. Long may that continue. ​ 

There will be some readers who will look at this list of syndromes and consider them an excuse for lazy parenting. Of course, not every show of bad behaviour belies a syndrome and not every parent is blameless. But next time you encounter "naughtiness" think for a moment. Do you know enough to judge? If you sat and talked with that parent, what might you learn?

Be nice out there people. Sometimes there's more to "naughty" than meets the eye.

by Liz Dawes February 10, 2012 - 7:02 AM

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Comments (13)

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  • Report Sat Feb 11, 2012 - 12:11 pm
    by  Michele
    Case #1: My (then)-3-yo threw many an epic tantrum and I got many a hairy eyeball ... until she was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and started occupational therapy. Now she's a very easy-going 4-yo who almost never tantrums. By just blaming the parents, we are also potentially keeping the kids from getting the help they might need with real problems. Case #2: Her older sister, my (now)-8-yo, was also a true terror when she was 1 and 2 - seriously, screaming, snatching, tantrums, the works. Absolutely none of my friends with kids her age went through anything remotely like it with their children. I was at my wit's end - but we kept doing all the "right" things that parents are supposed to do, and now she has not only outgrown all of those behaviors but she is the one her teacher pairs up with less socially skilled children because of her friendliness and kind spirit. So, maybe "those" parents ARE doing everything right, but this is a phase that the child is just going to go through, regardless.
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by Liz Dawes on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm
  • Report Sun Feb 12, 2012 - 10:04 pm
    by  Liz Dawes
    @Michele: You're absolutely right Michele. I always end up thinking that most parents would calm a child if they could. No one enjoys a tantrum, whatever it's cause.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Sat Feb 11, 2012 - 12:02 am
    Funnily enough, I was thinking earlier on today about the time I judged a woman for sitting in soft play and texting on her phone, whilst her child of around 3 played. My baby was around 5 months old then, I had no idea!!
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by Liz Dawes on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 12:15 am
  • Report Sat Feb 11, 2012 - 12:15 am
    by  Liz Dawes
    @motherwifeme: We live and learn!
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  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 8:46 pm
    We are too quick to judge other people. Great post.
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by Liz Dawes on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 10:34 pm
    by  Liz Dawes
    @Janie Emaus: Thanks Janie.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 10:21 pm
    by  Harriet
    Absolutely true and well put. But you don't go far enough: what if it is "just a" tantrum? Does the parent still not deserve sympathy rather than opprobrium? We've all been there after all. No one chooses to have a child act up in public and no one enjoys it when they do. And, for me at least, the more stressed and embarrassed I get, the more they misbehave. Maybe everyone's lives would be a bit easier if we all sympathised a bit more, and judged a bit less. Whatever the personal circumstances and needs of our families, are we all (or most of us) just trying to do our best?
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by Liz Dawes on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 10:34 pm
    by  Liz Dawes
    @Harriet: I'm sure you're right Harriet, for the most part a kid acting up should be ignored, with sympathetic smile to the parent. After all, the parent is not enjoying the tantrum, they'd stop it in its tracks if they could. So what point is there is glaring at the parent as though they are deliberately causing a scene?! I blame Queen Victoria.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 3:18 pm
    You're so right. Sometimes a child without any learning disorders will also 'act up' they might be poorly, have had a bad day or any number of reasons. My son was off school following a minor op, he was allowed outside but not to crowded places to keep away from infections. I took him to the woods for a bike ride. He was shouting and playing and I had an older woman look at him, shake her head and say loudly "shouldn't he be at school" . I didn't say anything, better for me to keep my cool I thought but it really grated. I think people need to learn to be more patient, that all children should be seen and heard and empathy and support goes a lot further than cross looks and glares!
    Reply Delete
  • 2 replies, Last reply by Abigail Crinion on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 3:45 pm
    by  Liz Dawes
    @Musings from a mum: Couldn't agree more. When did we get so judgemental? Why bother to comment if a child is happy and with a parent, even if they "should be at school". No harm being done, and none of her business! Good for you keeping your cool.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 8:15 pm
    by  Abigail Crinion
    @Liz Dawes: Oh so true.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 5:05 pm
    When I first read the tweet link, I thought "about 20 minutes" ago, although after reading the post I must explain why. As a teacher I am confronted with "inappropriate" behaviour quite often, and when I thoought about blaming the parents I was thinking of the children in my school I see lacking respect to cleaners for example. That, I think can often be expalined by parental example.
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by Liz Dawes on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm
  • Report Fri Feb 10, 2012 - 5:34 pm
    by  Liz Dawes
    @fab40foibles: Without a doubt that's true. I've lived next door to a family who had absolutely no respect for others around them, so nor did their kids. I've also seen families treat au pairs and nannys very badly, and so did their kids. I think what I'm getting at here is when you witness behaviour that you have no other knowledge about, and frown and tut at those people, without thinking why something might be happening. sometimes a sympathetic smile is much more helpful.
    Reply Delete

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