We got out of the car at a dog park, walked into the fenced area, let the dog off leash, and not twenty seconds went by before someone was telling my daughter “You can’t run in a dog park, it’s not safe.” When my daughter broke down into tears, the woman looks to me and says, “I didn’t mean to make her cry.”
I’m not sure what she thought would happen.
My daughter is six and she runs in open spaces. Go figure. While I understand that dogs like to chase running children, we have a dog, we have running children, and we know that. We risk that because with two running children, a dog, and not enough financial resources to fence in the yard, the dog park keeps us happy.
Wait. Why am I explaining?
The woman didn’t know us. She doesn’t know my child. She doesn’t know that she has Autism, or ADHD, or that asking her to stop running in an open field is akin to asking her to defy gravity. You don’t know any of that, so why are you addressing her and correcting her behavior?
Why is my son being scolded, by a stranger, for not moving fast enough. I’m sorry, what just happened here? I am lost, perhaps you could have started by explaining your needs to me?
Over the past several years, I’ve had to accept that there is a generation difference with how many of us are raising our kids. As a child, I was expected to listen to any and every adult. That expectation, however, also came with unsafe levels of obedience and devastating consequences. It is not how many of us are choosing to raise our children. Yet, when visiting my mother at the nursing home, I understand that pretty much every resident feels entitled to reprimand my children, for doing radical things that children do, such as stand on a luggage rack. You know… wheels.
I took to the internet to do a little research on my current source of rage and found, well, not a lot. This from PopSugar is about three years old but touches on the critical points. Here’s my general thoughts:
- Have you been invited to? We have dear friends that we literally have said, “please, freely address and correct them, our parenting styles are in sync and it’s fine. It works beautifully, and I cherish that.
- Do you know the child? Special needs are not always clear, and if you don’t know the child, look for a parent or caregiver. You may trigger the child even with the best of intentions.
- Is a caregiver present? If a caregiver is right there, defer to them. Unless you’re the coach at practice or game time, I cannot imagine a scenario when you should correct a child in front of their parent/caregiver while that person watches. Not cool.
- Is the caregiver addressing the behavior? If the caregiver is present and not addressing it, ask them to, but truly only if it affects your child. If my child is climbing on something you don’t support, unless it’s on top of your child or in a facility you are charged with running, please let it be or talk to me.
- Is there a safety issue? I saw a child wrestling with my son with no intervention from a parent, and I cringed. At first, I called my son over. Second, I said out loud to my son, but in earshot of the other child and caregiver, how I’d like him to play. Third, I asked the caregiver to address it. Fourth, we left. My son was disappointed, but in that situation I’m not sure addressing the child would have added value anyway.
- Always intervene if it’s lifesaving. This one goes without saying, right? If little Sally is about to jump off a bridge, save a life.
We are all doing their best, and we may likely even have a strategy behind our involvement, or silence. Trust us, or ask us questions if you’re confused or affected, but please don’t rush to parent on my behalf. I know I’m not alone here. What strategies and tips have you used with other kids or would you like other adults to use with yours?