This is a repost from my life coaching blog. I wanted to share this here because the chances are VERY high that you’ve experienced this at some point. What I share below has made such a difference for me and I am hoping that it can also help you! Thanks for reading! Margaret
I have found that dealing with people staring and offering “advice” to be one of the biggest challenges parents of children with special needs face, especially when they get brave and take their child out into the unpredictable world. It can create the perfect storm of judgement.
Take child out in public…to the store, to a restaurant, to the library, wherever there may be other people.
Something sets child off.
- They don’t get their way.
- They become overstimulated.
- They are hungry or thirsty.
- They are tired.
- They pick up on nervous or negative energy of the people around them – including the parent! (This was HUGE for me to realize and made such a difference because I used to get really nervous about how he would act before we even got there! He could sense this energy and responded as though there was something to be nervous about. Interesting how this works!).
The child has a tantrum (or meltdown).
The parent gets nervous or upset because their child is not behaving the way they’d like. This activates self judgement which usually consists of limiting thoughts like, “I should be able to control my child.” “I should have just given them what they wanted.” “I should have never taken them out of the house.” “A good mom would know what to do right now to make this stop.”
It also causes judgement that you may not like to hear (I know I didn’t like it at first but realized it was very true), but it is “parent judging child.” I’ve done it, still do it at times and am working to do it less and less. “Why is he doing this to me?” “Why can’t he just behave himself?” “Why can’t he just be like those other kids?” “Why can’t he just pull it together?”
The perfect storm has begun, only to get fueled by some outside sources getting involved in business they have no business getting involved in!
The parent notices the people around them who are looking at the upset child. People sense the parent’s frustration and try to offer “helpful suggestions” which comes out as unsolicited advice which fuels a parent’s feeling of inadequacy – “parent feels judged by others.” These people may or may not be judging us and our child but that’s their business (more about this below).
The parent might snap back with some response if they can speak without crying or yelling – “parent judging others.” Trust me, I have been there! I can remember a specific grocery store incident in June of 2008 when my son, who was terrified of bugs, freaked out when a piece of paper floated off of a shelf and he thought it was a bug. A woman approached us, looked at him and said, “What’s wrong with you? You’re too big to be carrying on like that!” I walked away from her after snapping, “I am doing the best I can!”, paid for the dog food that I could not leave without (poor hungry dog at home) and bawled my eyes out once we got into the car. What kind of b*#$h would do that to me?!? What was wrong with her!? I began judging her. I was wrapped up in all sorts of self judgement, judgement of my son, and judgement that other people should know how to behave.
What I’ve come to realize is that when other people stare or give advice, they believe they are trying to be helpful or don’t have any way to understand AT ALL what we have been or are going through.
If this is something you can relate to, let me share with you that it does NOT have to stay this way. I am living proof and get practice with this all of the time!
What can YOU do when you are in this situation to avoid this perfect storm of judgement?
Personally, I have found Byron Katie’s three kinds of business to be critical in times like this.
- My business
- Your business
- God’s business
My Business During A Tantrum
In the situation of a tantrum-ing child, the most important thing I can do is to stay in my own business. That means to take care of myself and what I need. That usually looks like breathing, noticing the thoughts that creep into my head about what I am making his tantrum mean and choosing to believe them or not. What I need to do most to help us all is to keep myself and my energy calm regardless of what he is doing.
I think of myself as the captain of a ship. When something unexpected happens, like a storm, how would it serve those on board for me to get involved in everyone else’s business, running around trying to make sure everyone is feeling okay. I need to stay calm in order to stay in a position to problem solve to keep the ship safe. People might be freaking out or questioning my abilities but none of that would be helpful for me to focus on. I try to remember what this would look and feel like when I am in the midst of my own unexpected storms with my son, tantrums included. Try it! Put on your captain’s hat the next time things seem chaotic and it’ll make a huge difference!
Other People’s (Your) Business During A Tantrum
This kind of business involves the other people around me. I cannot control what other people do or say. Believing that I can causes pain.
My Child’s Business
I cannot control my son’s tantrum, I can try to manage it, give him choices, distractions or remove him but essentially, what he does and how he acts is completely his business.
I used to get all tangled up in his tantrums and this always left me feeling angry, inadequate and sad – not to mention very sweaty! It was as though I felt like I just needed to work harder to prove to everyone around me that I was trying to do something to stop him so they wouldn’t think I was a horrible mom. I would expend so much energy – physically, mentally and energetically- and still have an upset child. Once I realized that this was not working and learned some life coaching strategies to care for myself in order to care for others by breathing, staying calm and noticing what I was making his behavior mean, things became so much better.
Other People’s Business
I cannot control the words or behaviors of the people around me. Believing that they should have any idea of what I’m going through, should be able to empathize and be compassionate about what he’s experiencing or should know that we just need to be left alone, is only going to cause pain because they probably won’t do any of those things. Instead, when I see looks or hear the unsolicited advice, I take a deep breath and shake it off (sometimes quite literally like an dog that shakes when it gets startled. It doesn’t have to be obnoxious, just shake like you got the chills and you’ll get rid of some of the negative energy in your body caused by your own honest, startled reaction to the other people.). People cannot know what they don’t know and while I wish they would think before they speak, roll their eyes or stare, they often don’t and that is something I cannot control. Realizing this all makes me feel like a more confident leader of myself because I CAN control my thoughts about what is going on.
This is the stuff that no one can influence and to believe that I have any control over this causes pain.
What can you do the next time you are in a situation like this?
- Breathe! Deep belly breaths followed by exhaling all of the way. This is the best way to calm your body and your energy.
- Mind your own business. Caring for yourself so that you can care for your child IS a reflection of you and your parenting skills.
- Do what you can to help your child but also know that what they are doing is their business and is NOT a reflection of you or your parenting skills.
- Do not focus on what other people around you are doing or saying in response to your situation. You have no responsibility to listen or respond to them. How they behave or react is their business and is NOT a reflection of you or your parenting skills.