Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parental Denial

We all have difficulty embracing hidden or dark truths about ourselves.  As we mature, we try to become more comfortable in our own skin by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on ourselves.  However, when it comes to our children there is a type of denial if not kept in check can be very blinding.

We know the cliched example - Sally does something awful. Parent is confronted. Parent denies it and is offended at the assertion.  Time passes and the parent begins to wonder could Sally do that?  Is it possible?  What if she did do it?  What should I do now?  Have I waited too long?

What a waste of time!  Just as we know ourselves, we also know our child's inclinations.  We know what our child has the potential to do.  When confronted we know full well that it is possible that Sally is guilty of the crime.  Maybe we are embarrassed and think that Sally's behavior is a reflection of our parenting.  Maybe we are mad (oooo yes - I said mad - we are human yes?) that our child's behavior caused a conflict between ourselves and the class supermom.  The reality is our children will participate in behavior we are not proud of.  Especially when they are outside of our influence.  There isn't a parent on earth that has not had this happen to them.  You are not unique.

The faster you rebound from the initial confrontation the better.  That parent who is taking the risk to speak with you regarding Sally, should feel at the end that you heard her.  She doesn't need to know what you will or won't do.  Just simply that you heard her.

Your ability to quickly rebound will give you time to plan "next steps" regarding your child's behavior. I am a real proponent of "sooner rather than later."  But you know your families pacing and should work accordingly.  However, you may not want Sally to think that she has gotten away with something.  

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a mother from my daughters school.  My daughter and hers were classmates.  Recently her daughter had felt harassed by my daughter .  My daughter, every single time this young girl scratched her head, would tell her, "I think you have head lice."  This went on for a few days.  I felt terrible.  This young girl was new to our city and new to our school. And I knew that my daughter was fond of her.  But, boy did I know that was parent was telling me was true.  My daughter had struggled with head lice last year, due to another child in her class that went untreated.  The last thing my daughter ever wanted to face was another treatment for lice.

Immediately, I apologized to the mother.  I assured her, that I would handle this and should it happen again - she should let me know immediately.  As the mother put her daughter on the bus for the day, she deserved the peace of mind that she had been heard.  She didn't need to add a mothers hesitance or resistance on top of the child's feelings.  At the end, I got all the information I needed and she got the assurances that she needed.  

This type of confrontation is not just reserved for parents.  It can also occur with your child's teacher.  Maybe it was a social interaction in class or poor test performance or an uncovered learning disability.  In this instance rebounding needs to be immediate.  Your time is best spent asking questions and learning all you can.  You may not necessarily agree, but understanding all you can about your teachers assessment will help you decide what to do next.  As you wrap your discussion with the teacher,  you don't have to be in agreement.  All the teacher needs to know is that you will look into this further.  Then later you can do your own research and reflection to determine what actions are necessary.  

Regardless of how hard we try, we cannot know every single facet of our children.  The opportunity to learn whether at the hands of a teacher or another adult is a gift.  We all know that our children act differently when they are outside of our care.  This is when they make independent decisions and we can can see in those decisions, who they are and what they value.  

As parents we are always putting parts of our lives on hold for our children.  We work so hard to raise good and smart children.  When we get feedback like this, we feel a sense of failure.  By, putting our pride aside to approach our children with an open mind is much better than pretending Sally is a perfect flawless child. Eve Ensler puts in rightly, "I think the greatest illusion we have is that denial protects us. It's actually the biggest distortion and lie. In fact staying asleep is what's killing us."   

Now for those of you who are concerned about the annoying mom who always has an opinion, a critique. Well you  know who they are, and what you should do with them.


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