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From a Child's Perspective

June 24, 2013 - Colleen Carpenter
Before I had a child, I was the best parent on the planet. I had all the answers and could tell you how to solve any parenting problem you were experiencing. In fact, I even taught parenting classes through my work. I'm sure I'm not the only person to look back on my pre-mom years with slight embarrassment of my lack of humility and a smattering of laughter at my my naivete. Fast-forward 7 years. I would like to openly admit that while I've figured out how to deal with some things with my own child, and I may even be able to share that wisdom, I am overwhelmingly without solutions to most things. Parenting, my friends, is trial by fire.

Today, while playing outside with the three neighbor kids, my conversation with the oldest was jarringly interrupted by the scream of the 3 year old little girl. I turned around to see Lucas at the top of the slide and the little girl on the ground crying with the lollipop in her hand now covered in dirt. Now, I know I'm supposed to give my attention to the sad little grassy lollipop holding girl, but simultaneously, I want my child off the swing set and in time out without one more second of play time. One of her brothers tended to her while I interrogated my own child. His response was, "I didn't want her up here." He had pushed her off the top of the slide. It is true that kids on the spectrum struggle with cause and effect and also have difficulty emotionally connecting to how someone else might feel because of their actions. But guess what? In that moment, none of it mattered. Because I will not let my child be a bully. The autism does play a part in many of his actions, but first and foremost, he's a child. And children can learn. ALL children can learn.

Lucas came down from the swing set as told and he stood in front of me. That's when I made sure the little girl really was okay. She was mostly devastated that her lollipop was no longer consumable. I had my husband, who had just pulled in the driveway, wash it off and get it back to her. Meanwhile, Lucas and I went inside. I told him no computer or television and to go to his room. You would have thought this child was 14, not 7. STOMP STOMP STOMP, ::door slam:: "You don't love me!" Parent dilemma. I ignored it. After a few minutes, I had him come down.

In the kitchen, I decided to do something nobody had ever suggested, nothing I had ever read. I said, "When you behave like that, people will think I'm a bad mom. They way you act determined whether people think you have good parents or not." The folded arms and anger immediately transformed into tears welling in his eyes. "Mom, why would anyone say that about you?" Sob sob sob. I explained again that when children bully kids and yell at their parents and don't behave, people think their parents let them do those things and don't teach them to be good citizens. I get a hug and tears wiped on my shirt with an actual, sincere apology. He immediately wanted to go back outside and give the little girl a hug and show them that I am a good mom and he is a good citizen.

I'll take it however I can get it. The fact remains, parenting is an exercise in intelligence, perseverance, and looking toward the long-term. There are lessons I want him to learn. His dad and I are just going to have to teach them a little differently.

 
 

Article Comments

(2)

CCarpenter

Jun-27-13 7:07 PM

It did feel a little dirty, but we did talk about being a good citizen and being a good person in general. We talked about how people view him, not just us. It can be hard for kids on the spectrum to look through the eyes of other people, especially socially. It's definitely not a tactic I plan to employ frequently. But, I think it's a message he needs to think about along with the other lessons of being a good person.

Jun-27-13 10:48 AM

I have used that tactic, but I always feel like I played a dirty trick when I do. It can be effective, but it skirts the issue of being a good citizen for the sake of goodness not because you're ashamed or guilty or want to please your parents. Also, I don't want Emma to think she has that much power over us. What if someday, she decides not to care if others think we're bad parents? What if she chooses to hurt us by acting out? Then we're really in trouble -- all of us. Thoughts?

 
 

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