Don’t take it so personally

Don’t take my picture!

During the holiday school festivities I had a chance to chat with Charlie’s para (an aide who helps him negotiate the school day). She’s a lovely lady, with kids of her own, but the part of our conversation I’ve found it hardest to forget was when she said, “Oh, I know when a kid’s an only child. They’re the spoiled ones.”

As any parent knows, a negative statement about your kid, or about your parenting style, feels very personal. It was if she’d punched me and then said, “You suck.”

After I could breathe again, I asked what she meant by spoiled. (I have definite ideas about what that means!) It seems she didn’t mean he was having trouble sharing or taking turns; he was being “resentful” of her help, saying “I can do that!” or “I don’t need your help.”

We’ve been working on that rude tone of voice for a few weeks now. He picked it up suddenly, right after school started. It especially comes out when he wants to do something independently but doesn’t realize his skills aren’t there yet. He gets frustrated and reacts by blaming the nearest person without thinking things through.

Taking a cue from our ADHD research (he needs to have social cues spelled out for him; not considering consequences is part of his wiring) and from the techniques we’ve learned in a parenting skills class for disruptive behavior, we point out the problem behavior, ask him to re-do it correctly and praise him when he gets it right. Especially when he gets it right without prompting.

So yes, the para is right. The rude voice is annoying. It needs to be addressed. But treating him as “spoiled” is not treating him in the right context.

My son’s neurological make-up causes him to be over-reactive. The positive side of this trait is that he’s very energetic, enthusiastic and curious. The negative is that he can also be very angry, frustrated or sad. His high emotions can carry him away. Meltdowns are common in our house—and sometimes in public—even though we’ve found ways to make them shorter and less frequent.

Getting angry, yelling and punishing him actually make his disruptive behavior worse. Stricter is not better. Being too relaxed or inconsistent, even with things like free play or bedtime, make the disruptive behavior worse, too. Lack of structure is not our family’s friend. It’s a thin line to walk, especially when very few parenting books address how differently a parent must handle an ADHD child.

We work hard. He works so, so hard. It’s very dispiriting to have all that hard work dismissed.

But I’ve come to realize that just as there will always be people who believe that if he just “tries harder” he’ll do better, there will always be people who think his disruptive behavior is caused by bad parenting. There will always be people who say we’re too strict, or not strict enough, that we “let” him scream and cry, that a “good” kid wouldn’t act that way.

These people are wrong. And I intend to keep on parenting the kid I have–not the kid they wish I had.

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6 Responses to “Don’t take it so personally”


  1. 1 www.sirjohn.us January 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Good for you. Stay firm, and plot your own way, no one has more interest than you, and you have to make the right decisions

  2. 3 Shoshanna Evers (@ShoshannaEvers) January 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    It sounds like you’re doing what’s best for your son. My son is also an only child, and I also get worried about “spoiling” him – but we as mothers know our kids best, not the schools. Not the aides. I get dirty looks when my son throws a tantrum in public and I just say, “I know, you’re upset. It’s hard,” and leave it at that. You’d think everyone at the grocery store wants me to start yelling at him or something, like that would solve anything. *SMH*

    • 4 Stacy Boyd January 8, 2013 at 8:43 am

      Thanks, Shoshanna. Those times at the grocery store–or the subway!–are the hardest. Yelling definitely doesn’t solve the problem, especially in an enclosed space. And if you yelled, people would probably be upset about that, too. People without kids, or people who have not raised a kid in today’s environment, are much too quick to judge.

  3. 5 Guy LeCharles Gonzalez January 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    “Defiant” is another word that gets thrown around by people who don’t understand how to deal with kids who are wired differently. I’d expect a bit more nuance from a para, though. 😦

    • 6 Stacy Boyd January 8, 2013 at 8:46 am

      The para has dealt with kids with other “wiring” issues, so I’m hoping knowing more about his diagnosis will help. I’ve heard defiant too, though that was more last year at our old school. This year, no surprise to me, the structure and routine have “miraculously” gotten rid of most of those defiant behaviors.


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