Advice. Suggestions. How to do it better. Critiques. Verbal attacks. Criticism.
Whether you have typically developing children or children with special needs, there are others who seem to have an answer for why your child is misbehaving, not talking or walking on time, or a myriad of other developmental or behavioral issues.….and they tend to be the ones who’ve not dealt with what you’re dealing with or don’t even take the time to hear more about what you’re actually dealing with at the exact moment or in that stage of life. Stay with me.
When our kids were little, many well meaning adults/other parents/family/friends would chime in with their suggestions. I suppose suggestions aren’t so bad, but when it happens as the child is going through something challenging, it can be hard to hear. Here are a few that come to my mind (with what my thinking and experience was in parenthesis) without even taking a trip too far down our 40-year memory lane!
- One elderly person told me when Joey was about 5 that, “Joey would be fine if he could just talk.” (Joey was delayed in his verbal skills, but he also couldn’t walk, pick up things, couldn’t balance well, needed assistance eating and drinking and other things long before most children, wasn’t yet potty trained, and still at age 40 has some areas he needs help. An example is that we have him hold our shoulder as we walk because he is easily distracted and might miss a curb or trip over even a little uneven cement. They clearly weren’t seeing the whole picture.)
- The women who told me as I helped Joey (teenager) off the church shuttle by holding on to his hand, that, “You know, he could do that himself.” (Joey did and still has balance issues and he doesn’t pay attention. By me holding his hand, I could guide him and not have him fall; falling would embarrass him, he would get mad, and if he skinned his knee, he’d like cry, hit me, and then be “all about” the knee for the next 2 weeks; not to mention holding up the line of people wanting to get on the shuttle. This person never watched or cared for Joey or really knew us to make that ridiculous comment. It was hard for me to be kind, but I do remember smiling and I think – and hope I said “thank you.”)
- The numerous people who’ve said (over 40 years worth), “Have you tried _______ with him?” (Trust me, in 40+ years….we probably have.)
ALL ALONG THE WAY we tried to employ a few simple words and thoughts that helped us get through those “suggestions”:
- We listened. No one has to know if we agreed or not with them, but we tried to listen because sometimes people do have things that will help. It was hard sometimes to discern one’s true concerns versus bossiness or know-it-all attitudes.
- We thanked them by saying, “Thank you for that.” We didn’t have to be mean to them or try to quiet them; and who knows….maybe in a quieter more thoughtful setting their words would come back to teach us. Not always; but we wanted to explore that.
- We contemplated between the two of us if what was said was something we should consider. Sometimes we did pick up wisdom and well-meaning thoughts from those who were kind and caring. Those who are judgmental don’t usually leave others feeling loved or cared about.
- We decided if it was a fit for us or not. (We are the parents; still are.)
- We employed things we thought would work and tossed the rest! That felt good! They didn’t have to know if we used their thoughts for us or not. BUT we could at least let them know that we “thanked them for that.”
It’s not easy to hear people correct our parenting, criticize our children or us, give us unsolicited advice, or make suggestions when they don’t have any idea the challenges we are facing, but if we can drum up the right attitude to say, “Thank you for that,” we can sort it all out together later.
Either way, November and Thanksgiving is a great time to try this. It can’t hurt. (And hopefully you’ll be able to say, “Thanks for that!”
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
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