When parents feel desperate or encounter new territory with their children, they often lose sight of their original goal or parenting plan.
Basic, daily concerns are put on the back burner while the seemingly more important issue takes the forefront.
Emotional and behavioral health may seem to be an urgent priority when it comes to our kids, but it is important to remember that keeping your normal everyday life in tact is vital to the health and healing of your child, as well as the rest of the family.
In order to find a perspective that allows us to maintain balance in these circumstances as well as keep or re-establish parental authority in our households, we first need to look at what pushes us as parents into this cycle of chasing answers and exhausting our resources until we’re compelled to read articles like these, and the countless others we’ve read, to figure out where we lost control of the situation.
The first place we should look is the American school system.
Not to undermine the importance of our schools and educators as an absolutely essential and critical part of our society, but an overhaul is certainly overdue. While we might primarily want to point to social media as a first line of unrealistic parenting norms, it is the school system that puts the initial pressure on parent as they begin to filter our children through the official and acceptable education standards in each child’s age group.
Letters and forms start coming home that break our children down into categories of performance and expected performance and by the time they are eight years old, their educational path has been determined based upon standards that don’t account for the vast amount of variables that affect every child’s growth and development.
Our schools are on a one track path to a pre-determined end and if your child looks as if they may not be headed for that expected end, or as if he may be on another track to the expected end, they are automatically labeled and an intervention is in order.
Step one, the “IEP” (Individualized Education Plan) begins.
The subtle hints of ADHD and “evaluation” are dropped in the parent teacher meeting. It reminds me of a book I once read called “The Giver” where everyone’s path was predetermined, and no variations were acceptable. Maybe that’s an extreme comparison but hey, it never starts out with the end result!
Secondly, we rely on our physicians to guide us in our children’s health and overall well-being. While most pediatricians are pretty good about remaining in their lane regarding physical health, even this comes with standards that can spark concern over “norms”. The percentiles and milestones scale begins with your newborn and follows them throughout their pediatric stages of life. This adds another scale of performance and expected performance that may or may not measure-up over the years (pun intended).
The first time you’re told that your child is in the 20th percentile for height and weight and their head is in the 12th percentile, there is a natural desire to try and “fatten them up” or work with them in some way that stimulates the percentile that seems most desirable (whatever that actually is).
If your baby was born at 37 weeks instead of 40 weeks, your newborn is likely to start out behind on the scale.
If we are looking at development of a 4-month-old and your child was nearly one month pre-mature, there is a disadvantage not being accounted for.
These small variables begin to work themselves out as time goes on, but what about lifestyle?
- Breastfed vs bottle fed?
- Children who eat a very processed and hormone laden diet vs a child whose mother feeds them only organic, unprocessed and hormone-free meats and dairy, if any at all?
Where is the control group for which the scale is devised?
Who determined the normal standard?
I’m not suggesting that some great science and medical foresight has not gone into these expected milestones, but I also think we have sensationalized the standards! I think there is more grey area that is acceptable for our children and by not labeling them and allowing them to experience life without knowledge of falling short of some societal norms, they might still find their way.
Survival of the fittest seems to transcend much of our scientific intervention in the majority of cases. At the end of the day, maybe your kid is short and stocky with a small head! I’ll bet they can still change the world for the better!
The third factor that affects our perspective when determining if our children are on the “right” track developmentally is most certainly society. In the past, parents didn’t have access to the amount of information that we have today.
If all of this information is supposed to help, why are we exhausting ourselves with books, videos, doctors and programs while still coming out unhealed or unsatisfied with the results? At some point we begin having these unrealistic expectations of our children based upon the circumstances surrounding someone else’s children, and we lose sight of the reality in our own lives.
“My child isn’t doing what so and so’s child is doing.” Or, “my child isn’t doing what this book says he should do.”
We start to mold our expectations of our own children based upon unrealistic standards of other people’s children or opinions. Of course, this is what the schools and society appear to expect. We even begin to communicate about our children to one another based upon these terms and standards.
The ultimate outcome is that our children hear us evaluating them and start to see themselves as abnormal. This exacerbates the behaviors in question and leads to further emotional and behavioral confusion. The worst thing we can do as parents is to discuss standards that are based on comparisons in front of our children. I understand the desire to involve children in the process so they feel some sense of responsibility. However, there is a fine line that can result in either self-empowerment or self-rejection, which can cause an identity crisis.
Now that we’ve looked at factors that can skew our perspective and misdirects our parenting paths, what can we do about it?
What is the “right” perspective?
The proper perspective is to look at the reality of your own situation. Weigh all of the issues and pick the one that really needs the most attention, then set a realistic expectation.
Your child may never sit completely still and quiet in class. This behavior does not necessarily signify a dysfunction. It may in fact be something that results in the entrepreneurial spirit of someone who isn’t afraid to take risks and knows how to involve other people in their vision. The most beneficial concerns we can have for our children should be centered around their health, safety and a positive “can do” attitude.
When we bombard kids with a myriad of standards that they need to meet or suggest ones they are not meeting, they will eventually throw in the towel. If they are presented with things that don’t measure up, a failure in one area can easily look like complete failure to your child. Make the main thing the main thing and don’t change your entire life to accommodate the issues you face with your children.
Parent your child and not their problems.
When your child isn’t measuring up in school, carry on with everyday life and don’t make that the focus of the family.
If your child is experiencing depression, keep your routine and maintain daily expectations. You may approach them differently but don’t change the expectation of responsibility.
If your child has anxiety, help them develop a plan to accomplish the things that are expected of them at home and school but don’t stop giving them responsibilities.
If your child is lashing out, you may modify your tone, but respect should never be optional.
Finally, ADHD is not synonymous with disrespect and the expectation and consequences should be concrete!
The detrimental expectations referred to previously have less to do with your child’s development as a person and more to do with their development as a student of our current society.
Get your authority back, both as a parent and a citizen to whom the education system owes respect.
The fact that you took the time to read this article or check out our program is evidence that you are a well-meaning parent with only the best intentions for your child. Let that speak for itself and give yourself a break. You’ll never perfect this! Your child is who he or she is and you have to learn to be ok with things not going as planned.
You’ll get through this, and one day the responsibility for your child becomes their own.
Learn to be ok with yourself as a parent now so that you don’t carry unnecessary guilt with you later.
Enjoy your children and their imperfections!